A lot of people are concerned when transition to a plant based diet about feeling sluggish, tired and just not energized. We have this cultural construct in our head that only meat can provide you with energy and that you need it to grow big and be strong.
First and foremost, let’s be real: we are omnivores not carnivores. When we see a cow grazing on some grass we don’t picture ourselves attacking it, hunting it down and eating it’s flesh from the bones. We also don’t start salivating looking at a bunny rabbit. And our digestion system is built in a way to be really good at digesting plants. What I am trying to say is that we don’t need meat and that craving it is due to our addiction to its taste, which is mainly fat. Our body is actually built in a way that enables us to eat a plant based diet and be healthy and energized, while reducing the risk of chronic diseases dramatically.
Now the key is to eat enough of the good stuff. We tend to overeat in general but when it comes to veggies and other plants I often hear people say: it’s just too big of a salad! How can I ever finish that? Veggies, fruit,grains, legumes and starches take a lot of space in our stomach but we can also eat tons of them without harming our bodies.
In practice, energy comes when you have the right mix of nutrients. So focus on fiber first as it makes you full and helps to clean the digestive system. Plant based protein such as legumes, tofu and tempeh come second and finally add a little bit (1-2 tablespoons) of fat to all your meals. Ideally as little processes as possible in the form of nuts and seeds or go with some olive oil or tahini in your dressing.
Eat slowly, chew and enjoy your meal with all your senses and your body will tell you after about 20 min that you are full. You should aim at 80% fullness as that will make you feel energized and not weighted down as you want to be active after a meal and not just spend all your energy on digestion.
If you eat that way, you are pretty much guaranteed to have good energy levels. Don’t be scared of good carbs and good fat and don’t hesitate to eat healthy snacks in the afternoon when you get a low. Drink enough water so your body accurately tells you when it’s hungry and not just when its dehydrated.
My top energy dishes are Buddha Bowls with fresh greens, roasted veggies, some brown rice and a tahini dressing or an oven baked sweet potato topped with some beans, greens and cashew cream. Bananas are also a great energy provider and you can roast them with some vanilla and cinnamon in winter to mix it up.