No one said being vegan is easy, but it’s not quite as hard as many non-vegan dieters make it out to be. The benefits of eating plant-based foods are aplenty—it’s good for the environment, good for animals and good for you.
Isabelle Steichen, founder of the blog The Plantiful, has adopted a plant-based diet and provides a lot of great insight on nutrition, food and lifestyle on her site. We talked to the certified health coach about all things vegan—and asked if there are any truths to those common vegan myths.
What led you to becoming vegan?
Becoming vegan was a step-by-step process for me, as I think it is for a lot of people. I grew up in Europe and part of my family is French so cheese was definitely a big part of our culinary traditions, and so were other animal products. I honestly never liked meat a lot so I simply stopped eating it when I first moved out to go to university at age 19 and started cooking for myself. Then, when I studied abroad in the U.S., I started reading more about meat and fish production and cut out fish as well. During my yoga teacher training, I began thinking about the moral, as well as the health aspect, of eating animals and animal products, and that made me become vegan for good.
I am basically both an ethical vegan and I eat plant-based for health reasons. By the way, I love it and never miss any animal products.
We’d love for you to dispel a few common myths surrounding veganism.
Is it true it’s hard to get the nutrients the body needs if you’re vegan?
That’s actually a great question and a myth that is really easy to debunk: animal flesh contains protein and fat but not much other stuff whereas plants, such as veggies, fruit, legumes, mushrooms, grains, nuts and seeds contain all macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) as well as a ton of micronutrients such as all kinds of vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function and be healthy.
Plants are super diverse and rich in nutrients—which their colorful appearance gives away. The fat and protein that you find in plants is also better than animal based fat and protein, which is scientifically proven to lead to a plethora of chronic diseases…
How do you stay full if your diet is restricted to plant-based foods?
Plant-based foods are actually very filling. In order to make us full, a food has to be unprocessed so that your body can spend time to break it down. It should hence be high in nutrients, which plant-based foods are naturally. Carbs, which unfortunately have a bad reputation, are great for that and can be found abundantly in grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes and fruits. As long as they come directly from an unprocessed food, they are super healthy and will keep you full for a long time—avoid all processed carbs though, as their sugar rapidly goes into our bloodstream and provokes an energy roller coaster.
It’s also about eating enough food: a lot of people switch to a plant-based diet and don’t really think about substitutes for the meat or other animal products that they ate before. Make sure to balance your diet with different veggies, fruit, grains and legumes and feel free to eat bigger portions of veggies and grains than before and you’ll be full all the time.
Is it possible to get the energy you need throughout the day by eating a vegan diet?
This goes back to what I discussed earlier when talking about nutrients. Foods rich in nutrients also provide you with a lot of energy, and the plant world is full of them. Here are some tips for some extra energy:
- Don’t skip breakfast and start your day with some overnight oats or a rich smoothie with fruit, veggies and some nut butter
- Load up on sweet potatoes and quinoa for lunch and dinner, and snack on dry roasted unsalted nuts
- Hummus is also a great energy-rich snack, that keeps you going for a long time, and it’s so easy to make yourself.
- Get fresh air every day and drink enough water to balance your energy levels
It can be challenging to eat out or while traveling and be strictly vegan—what is your trick to finding the right foods?
You know, the key for eating out or traveling when following a plant-based diet is being prepared. I definitely think, though, that some cuisines are more vegan friendly than others: it’s super easy to eat vegan at a Thai, Japanese (go with veggie sushi) or an Indian restaurant (just ask the waiter to skip adding ghee to your dish). Asia has traditionally large vegetarian or even vegan populations so these cuisines are great. Rice, tofu and veggies are prominent in these countries and when I recently traveled to Indonesia, I was literally in a vegan paradise. Italian is easy too, just go with pasta or pizza and skip the meat and cheese. And even at a diner or BBQ place you can find a nice veggie salad.
If I am in doubt, I usually call the restaurant before hand. When I am on the road, I just pack food and snacks. Fresh fruit and cut up veggies are easy to transport—so are homemade granola and health bars. You can easily prepare a healthy sandwich with whole wheat bread, veggies and some avocado to stay full on the road. Same goes with salads that can easily be transported in containers or jars and make for a healthy plant-based meal. The options are endless, just take a little bit of time before you leave for a trip so you are prepared, and don’t hesitate to check out menus online before you go out to restaurants.
What inspires your recipes?
My recipes are inspired by a lot of sources: I love to transform non-vegan dishes into vegan ones because I think you can pretty much veganize everything. I also get very inspired when I travel and I always try to recreate my favorite dishes. Eating at the wonderful vegan places that I’ve been to all over the U.S., Europe and Asia is a great source of inspiration too.
Honestly, I am so glad I am vegan in the 21st century because the plant-based culinary scene has come so far and it’s so rich and creative—it’s a real joy!
Can you share a recipe with us?
My greenpea falafel recipe is great and just so yummy, providing you with plenty of energy too! Instead of making traditional falafel, I created a version with green peas. I love it because it’s colorful, flavorful and easy to make—all you need is a food processor. You can have the falafel as a snack, add them on top of a salad or just have them in a pita pocket with some harissa and tahini—yummy!!!
Want more advice and inspiration for a plant-based diet? Check out Isabelle’s blog: http://theplantiful.com/.
Interested in the delectable dessert shown at the top? That’s Isabelle’s Balinese Coconut Crepes. Get the recipe here.