Two and a half weeks into my book tour, things are finally becoming routine.
I’ve mastered the last-minute hotel search, figured out how to eat healthily while traveling, and gotten used to answering many of the same questions over and over in interviews and Q&A sessions.
One of the most common questions: What exactly do you eat during a typical day?
Several people have expressed surprise that I didn’t include this in my book. The reason? Mainly, I didn’t include my typical day’s diet because the book is not about me. There are so many ways to “do” a plant-based diet; my way is just one of them. The book provides a framework and my favorite recipes, but there’s plenty of flexibility for the reader to swing towards raw or oil-free or even a vegetarian-but-non-vegan diet. I think of No Meat Athlete as a “gateway book” that gives people the tools to try out a healthy, practical plant-based diet, so that once they’re on board, they can take it in the direction that works for them.
But since people are curious, I’m happy to share here what I eat most days (when I’m at home, not on the road).
My Typical Day’s Diet
I eat according to a few simple guidelines (e.g., until I feel mostly full), and of course my meals and snacks vary, day to day. My focus is on practicality and health, and one of the amazing things I’ve found since going vegetarian and then vegan is that as I get further and further away from the processed-food world, my palate has adjusted so that those two aims coincide amazingly well with the goal we all have of eating food that tastes good.
7am — Just about every day, I start with a smoothie. The Perfect Smoothie Formula is the template I use, but not super-strictly. My smoothie starts with a tablespoon or so each of chia seeds, flax seeds, raw walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, and usually includes frozen berries, frozen broccoli, spinach or baby kale leaves, a banana, ice, and water.
I used to add flax or coconut oil and hemp protein powder to my smoothie, but this year I’ve shifted heavily towards whole foods and I’ve found that I do just fine without any of those supplements. I make the smoothie in my Blendtec, which does a good job of grinding all the nuts and seeds at once with everything else (if you don’t have a Vitamix or Blendtec, you can grind the nuts and seeds into a powder in a coffee grinder, then add that powder to your smoothie).
8am – An Ezekiel sprouted whole-grain English muffin, usually cinnamon-raisin, spread with a tablespoon or two of raw, homemade almond butter. With this, I drink one 10-ounce cup of coffee, usually Counter Culture, ground in a hand-crank grinder and prepared as a pour over. I go through phases where I switch to green tea, and I think this is healthier than coffee, but I like coffee and always find myself coming back to it, even after weeks or months without.
10am – Fruit, usually an orange but occasionally an apple, a banana, or berries. Often I’ll have a few handfuls of raw-nut trail mix (“Strider’s Snack” from Whole Foods).
12pm – With few exceptions, my lunch is leftover from previous night’s dinner, reheated in a pan or steamer depending on what type of food it is (we ditched the microwave last year). See the 6pm meal for examples of what typical dinner/lunch might be.
I don’t know where my wife and I would ever find the time to actually cook lunch from scratch, so we always make a double recipe for dinner to make sure there’s enough for lunch the next day.
3pm – Along with the morning smoothie, an afternoon salad is pretty much a constant in my diet. I blend baby kale, spinach, spring mix, arugula or whatever else we have around and top with some combination of fresh tomato (when it’s in season), avocado, green onion, celery, carrot, hemp hearts, and sunflower seeds. Sometimes I add chickpeas or black beans, but not always. For dressing I used to always use a little bit of olive oil with apple cider or balsamic vinegar, but recently I tend toward oil-free dressings based on tahini or nuts (often using one of the recipes in Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity).
If I’m not in the mood for salad in the mid-afternoon, I eat homemade hummus with either a whole-grain pita or some broccoli or other raw vegetable that we have on hand, and save the salad for right before dinner — and sometimes, the salad is the dinner!
4pm – I usually run in the late afternoons, and depending on how I’m feeling, I eat some fruit, drink some fruit juice, or pop a few fresh dates for a quick boost of energy a few minutes before I head out the door. If the run is less than an hour, as most are, I don’t eat anything during it. When I get back, I eat more fruit or perhaps some hummus as a quick-post workout snack.
6pm – Dinnertime. We like to try new recipes as often as we have the time for, and mostly we cook from Thrive Foods, Appetite for Reduction, Clean Food, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, and Let Them Eat Vegan. (See this list of my favorite cookbooks.)
We choose meals that are fairly quick, based on whole foods, and kid-friendly. Dinner could be lentils and rice, a hearty soup, a pasta dish with beans and greens added to the sauce, tempeh or tofu stir-fried with vegetables, black bean tacos or burritos, or a simple Indian or Thai dish. Some nights when we’re short on time, dinner is just a huge salad with beans (usually crisped in a pan). Our son won’t eat salad yet, so on these nights we heat up a few Gardein tenders for him or give him a sandwich of almond butter or hummus on Ezekiel bread. (You can find recipes like these and many more on my recipes page — some are from the early days so they don’t necessarily represent how I eat now.)
Side note: Though I try to eat most meals with my wife and kids, dinner is the one time when we always eat together. We’ve also been doing the whole “go around the table and everybody say what they’re grateful for” thing before we eat, which is fun with our toddler, and a good thing for us grown-ups too.
7pm – A beer or glass of wine. Almost always just one, and when it’s beer, I try to keep it low ABV. That’s not always easy, because the beers I tend to like are usually 6-7% alcohol.
Although we as a country are fond of sharing articles that say alcohol is good for us, I don’t believe it. I think alcohol is the most unhealthy part of my diet, but it’s a small indulgence and I don’t think the harm from one drink a night is much. Barnivore is what I use to determine if a beer is vegan.
9pm – Dark chocolate. Just a small piece, usually 85 or 90 percent cacao. You’ve got to check to make sure it’s vegan, but most brands of chocolate this dark are.
Also check out a post I wrote a few months ago called 10 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day for a few other small things that I try to include each day, like Brazil nuts and a B12 supplement.
The Key to Lasting Change
If you’re new to a plant-based diet, or just trying to make yours even healthier, then I hope this is helpful! Coming up on five years as a vegetarian and three as a vegan, my diet is still evolving, and looks drastically different than it did when I started. The key for me has been extremely slow, gradual change. Rather than trying to suddenly cut out a bunch of bad foods and add a bunch of healthy ones all at once — which so often results in failure — make just one tiny change at a time (assuming your health situation isn’t dire, of course), and you’ll be surprised at how quickly these tiny changes stack on top of each other to move you toward whatever “ideal” is for you.
Being on the road has changed my routine, for sure, but not by all that much. I’m working on a post about how I’m managing (and honestly, eating more raw food than I even do at home!), so look for that soon.
PS — If you’ve had a chance to read the No Meat Athlete book, I’d really appreciate it if you would leave a review on Amazon. Thanks so much!