Enjoying a fresh and healthy vegan diet usually means spending some time in your kitchen; and however much you really love eating all these fresh and beautiful vegetables, it’s common to feel less than enthusiastic about all that shopping, washing, peeling and chopping!
Not limited just to veganism, increased kitchen time is necessary whenever anyone changes over from a processed to a more home-cooked and natural diet. By making a few mental shifts, and physically setting up a pantry and kitchen that works effectively, kitchen time can become a pleasant part of your healthy routine.
Get your pantry well-stocked
Stocking a vegan family kitchen with the vegan basics is a great starting point. Having a variety of legumes, grains, pastas, sauces and condiments will allow you to quickly put together delicious and nutritious vegan meals.
Keep the focus on fruits and vegetables
Once you have the basics in your pantry, it is important to remember that at the center of a healthy diet is a fresh fruits and vegetables. A healthy vegan diet is called plant-based for a reason! Your meals should be planned with plants as the center stars so stock up and make sure you don’t let your supplies run too low.
Variety is the key here. One trick I ask my clients to follow when food shopping is to choose the produce item that is to the right of the one they usually choose. For instance, if you usually choose green apples and see that red pears are to the right of those, give the pears a try one week. This way you will find new likes and bring much more variety (and therefore, health) to your diet.
Plan your food in advance
Making a meal plan in advance, even just a day or two, can make the difference between groceries getting eaten while still fresh versus being thrown out rotten and unused.
Unless you have a lot of time for cooking, keep your meals simple and fast. Save the more complicated recipes for leisurely weekend meals. Making your meal plan before you head to the grocery store will help make sure you buy the ingredients you will need and not a lot of extras.
Prepare now and save time later on
Getting in the habit of washing vegetables when you first get them home and storing them wrapped in towels or paper bags can make it a lot easier to actually eat them. Every morning while I am in the kitchen packing lunches, I also make a large vegetable salad and I chop and clean a bunch of fruit. That way, when the day gets busy and I find I don’t have the time I thought I would, the salad and the fruit is already ready to eat. I thank myself regularly for this simple habit!
Improve the aesthetics of your kitchen
Having a clean, organized and functional kitchen is crucial to enjoying the time spent in it. You don’t need to have tons of gadgets and appliances, but things like a good blender, a food processor, and quality set of pots and pans all make cooking easier.
Cleaning up as you cook enables you to have more time to relax and enjoy the meal without worrying about a giant mess in the kitchen. Leaving the kitchen clean and tidy before you go to bed at night allows you to start the next day from a fresh and ready start.
Keep your eating goals in mind
If you are trying to lose weight or improve your health and are tempted by junk food, don’t even bring it into the house! I like my house to be my “safe place” – the one spot in this food-filled world where I don’t have to fight my cravings and struggle to control my desires. If there are no vegan cookies or chips IN my house then I am not wasting energy on resisting them.
I am often asked about family members who want to have their junk food supply. In my opinion, if something isn’t good for me, then why would I give it to the ones I love? If my kids or spouse want a “treat” they are free to go out, buy it, and enjoy it without any judgment. But here at home, we strive to enjoy healthy food and not fill our bodies with low nutrient, processed products.
My motto is that healthy bodies are built in the kitchen. As the main cook in this family, both my health and the health of those I love depends on the food I prepare! That is a pretty awesome and wonderful responsibility.
In the book One Peaceful World, Michio Kushi speaks of expanding peace on a larger scale beginning in kitchens and pantries and gardens where our food is grown and prepared. The energies of nature and the infinite universe are absorbed through the foods we eat and are transmuted into our thoughts and actions. From individual hearts and homes, peace radiates out to friends and neighbors, communities and nations. His philosophy suggests that brown rice, miso soup, whole grain bread, fresh vegetables and other whole unprocessed foods are our “weapons” to turn around the entire world.
Thinking about their mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen, many people might use ‘love’ as the first word to describe it. Try to approach your own kitchen, shopping and cooking in this way, with that same love, and the results will be inspired!