It’s January. We all know what that means. Resolutions! Eating healthier! Joining the gym! Getting reeeeealllly psyched up and spending a fortune at the health food store in a frantic attempt to completely overhaul your kitchen.
Believe me, I understand.
In the past I used to create complicated resolution-inspired meal plans for myself that involved buying tons of ingredients and wearing myself out making all kinds of fancy meals and searching out exotic ingredients. Not that there’s anything wrong with learning new ways to cook, mastering a new dish, and trying out new foods… of course those are wonderful goals. After a busy day, however (and after the sparkle of New Year resolutions wear off) the thought of following a complicated recipe is just about enough to have anyone reaching for the take-out menu.
This kick-start, healthy eating plan is so stress-free, it is barely a plan. It’s an idea really, and one I want you to run with. Make it your own. There’s no measuring. No counting calories. No complicated recipes. Do it for a week, 3 days, even just 24 hours if you just need a mini re-boot. Maybe you’re going plant-based for the new year or adopting a vegan lifestyle (or even just trying it out for Veganuary). This plan will inspire you to ease into a new way of eating that is both fun, and super nutritious.
Here’s why I love the idea of easing into (or back into) healthy eating after the holidays with Smoothies, Salads, and Soups: you can pack a LOT of nutrition into these three categories. By their very nature, smoothies, salads, and soups are filling and satisfying (and basically MADE OF plant foods). They’re also highly versatile.
Smoothies can keep you satisfied until lunch, by including several of the ingredients below:
- fresh greens
- neutral veggies like zucchini
- frozen banana slices
- fresh or frozen fruit
- nut butters
- soaked buckwheat groats or rolled oats
- plant-based protein powder
- chia seeds or flax seeds
Salads can be extra satisfying by including:
- plenty of greens, like romaine, swiss chard, spinach, arugula or kale
- a good amount of beans, either cooked and cooled or rinsed canned beans – garbanzos are my favorite for salad
- a small handful of nuts and seeds
- lots of crunchy veggies – the skies the limit, pile ’em on!
- fruit – I love apples, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and raspberries in salads
- a simple, homemade oil-free dressing: try mixing a large spoonful of tahini with the juice of half a lemon, a pinch of salt and pepper, a smidge of maple syrup and little water to thin it out to your desired consistency
- You’re going for a “big salad” here – Elaine Benis style
Soups and Stews can be loaded up with
- beans, lentils, split peas, tofu or tempeh
- tons of veggies
- warming and flavorful spices
- Grains, like quinoa, rice, or whole grain pasta (to make them even more satiating)
- I also love to top my chili’s and spicy stews with sliced avocado, it’s so delcious!
As I mentioned above, this is a great way to get started on a plant-based diet. These are some of the easiest plant-based foods to prepare, even with a busy schedule. You can make a big pot of soup one night, and have dinner ready to go for at least a few days. Prepping your fruits and veggies ahead of time, or buying pre-chopped produce, for salads and smoothies will also save time. You can even bag up greens and fruits and freeze them as little smoothie packs that are ready to be dropped into your blender with the liquid of your choice each morning.
I did this “3-S” eating plan for about 4 days, and I felt like that was just right for getting myself back on track after the holiday season. I want to stress that this is not a “cabbage soup” diet where I was hoping to lose 10 lbs in 3 days or other such nonsense. First of all, thin, watery soups aren’t going to cut it for me. Second of all, I had realistic goals: to get back to filling my plate with veggies (not cookies) and simple, wholesome, from-the-earth foods.
When it comes to my morning smoothie, my go-to is a combination of plant-based milk, 2 big handfuls of baby spinach, a frozen banana, flax seeds, almond butter, and one or two medjool dates. Sometimes I switch it up and use half plant-based milk and half water for the liquid, a handful of spinach, frozen chopped zucchini, frozen banana, orange segments, and a 1/4 of an avocado. For more smoothie inspiration, check out some of the links I’ve included at the end of this post.
I basically stuck to the following salad formula each day; a couple big handfuls of spinach or other greens, any veggies I had in the fridge – chopped (on this day it was carrots, celery, and beets), plus a small apple, 1/2 a grapefruit, chickpeas, and a handful of walnuts and sunflower seeds. I topped it off with the homemade tahini dressing described several paragraphs above. It takes just minutes to whip up this salad, and you can use whatever you have on hand.
The “Soup” part of this plan should really be “Stews” because I enjoyed thick, hearty, vegetable and bean vegan concoctions, such as:
Think stick-to-your-ribs stews, chili, and soups with plenty of veggies and ideally some protein and fiber-rich beans, tempeh, or tofu. If beans don’t agree with you, try lentils, split peas, or mung beans, as these are often easier to digest and also cook faster (especially red lentils). You can add a scoop of cooked quinoa or brown rice to your soup, too. A good tip to remember when adding a lot of fiber to your diet, is to drink plenty of water throughout the day (which is a good idea anyway), that will help keep all that fiber moving through your system.
There’s secretly one more S to this plan and that of course is “Sweets!” I have a pretty big sweet tooth, which is probably fairly obvious if you take a look through my recipe archives. Part of my plan was to reset my habits so that a small treat was satisfying again.
I steered clear of any large batch desserts for awhile (too tempting) and went for one of my favorite healthy but satisfying sweet treats; a big juicy medjool date filled with peanut butter and topped with a few cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips. Perfect! (A square or two of high quality dark chocolate – check the labels to make sure it’s vegan – has also been a just-right treat lately).
If you have a major sweet-tooth, and your goal this year is to tame your sugar cravings, you may want to check out this post – Ten Tips for Giving Up Sugar.
After several days, you can start to swap in other meals, one at a time for the smoothie, salad, and soup. If you’re new to plant-based eating or just starting out on a whole foods diet, try doing this for a few days, which will give you time to plan some other easy meals you’d like to start including in your day.
That may mean after your little kick-start, you decide to swap your morning smoothie with oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and nut butter for breakfast, and then have your big salad for lunch and hearty stew for dinner. Eventually you’ll find other easy meals to replace salad and soup, or maybe you’ll decide to always keep one or two of the three S’s. Right now I’m on a smoothie and soup kick, so it seems those are always a part of my menu. Not only will this easy plan give you some time to jot down some ideas for other meals, you’ll also feel great eating this way! And it’s a start. That is the most important thing, just to start. Sometimes that step can be so hard.
Starting a new way of eating, or even just getting back on track after the holidays can be a challenge, especially when you have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow a lot of time to prepare meals. I have always had a big appetite, and a persistent sweet tooth, so I can understand and appreciate how the parties and gatherings of the last two months could unravel healthy habits. I hope this little plan can inspire you too, and help you fall back in love with foods that love you back. Below are links to some of my favorite smoothies, salads, and soups to get you started!
Find more smoothie inspiration from some of my favorite blogs:
Other great salads:
50 Vegan High Protein Salads from the Stingy Vegan
27 Salads to Feed Your Mind from Delightful Vegans
Winter Brown Rice and Kale Salad from Pickles and Honey
Soups and Stews
Other great soups to try:
All of the soups from Oh She Glows (cookbooks too!)
Red Lentil Coconut Soup from Scaling Back (it’s so yummy and easy to make)
Minestrone Soup from Vegan Heaven
Healthy Sweet Treats
Also see: 10 Tips for Giving up Sugar
Other great blogs for healthy sweet treats:
Other Helpful Resources
If you’re looking for a great app to keep you on track, I highly recommend Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, which provides a checklist of his top favorite foods to keep you healthy for life. I find it so much more helpful (and healthful) to check off my servings of veggies, beans, and fruits than to record calories.
How do you get your eating habits back on track after the holidays? What are some of your favorite sources and recipes??
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. This information is meant to inspire and motivate, and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your health.