For seven years I've eaten primarily plants. Now, sticking to ANY healthy habit for seven years is a major accomplishment (heck, sticking to any healthy habit for seven days, or even seven HOURS can be a major accomplishment!), but sticking to a healthy habit that's centered around food is not always a piece of dairy-free, gluten-free cake. Because of temptations! And inconveniences! And dang ice cream cravings. But it's true, I've eaten almost exclusively fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds without meat or dairy for over half a half-decade and I haven't become a "health nut hermit," a total social outcast, a pain-in-the-butt restaurant patron or desperately deprived. How? By doing these seven things:
1. Never straying too far from my blender.
A day without a smoothie isn't much of a day at all. Smoothies are my time to sneak in super nutrition, give my digestive system some R&R and drink something so delicious that I still can't comprehend is healthy! My smoothie essentials? Plant-Based protein powder to make the drink actually FILLING (not just blood-sugar spiking), 1/2 a frozen banana to turn a smoothie into a milkshake doppleganger and a handful of greens which can't be detected by tastebuds.
2. Making the produce aisle my second home.
Since fresh produce has a much shorter self life than quinoa and chia, I'm always making short-but-frequent stops to my second home: the produce aisle. Since I know the plant-part of the grocery store like the back of my hand, it's incredibly quick, easy and stress-free to pop in to pick up a bunch of kale, a single lemon or a handful of avocados instead of ordering unhealthy delivery when I'm lacking ingredients and not-lacking hunger.
3. Perfecting "eating out of a big bowl."
"Eating out of a big bowl," or what I affectionally refer to as "bowlin'" is plant-based perfection and it's how I eat my meals most of the time. It's essentially the process of strategically throwing a bunch of plants together in a big bowl and winding up with a wonderfully balanced meal. The key is to keep the 5 components in mind: protein, moisture, texture, fresh produce and fun flavor. Example of a breakfast bowl: quinoa (protein), almond milk (moisture), chopped walnuts (texture), blueberries (produce), cinnamon (fun flavor). Example of a dinner bowl: chopped veggie burger (protein), pesto (moisture), pumpkin seeds (texture), sweet potato and cherry tomatoes (produce), hot sauce (fun flavor).
4. Predicting the future (ie. planning ahead).
I owe of my ability to stick to my plant-based diet to planning. Sounds oh-not-sexy, but is oh-so-essential. Keeping my pantry stocked on a regular basis, previewing a restaurant menu prior to dining, packing snacks for travels, bringing dishes to friends' dinner parties; these are the daily actions I take to ensure that I control my food circumstances rather than let circumstances control my food.
5. Prioritizing protein.
Just because the "where do you get your protein" question is cliche, doesn't mean it's irrelevant. Is asking: "so, how did you two meet?" to a cute couple irrelevant? Is "what do you want to be when you grow up?" irrelevant to an adolescent kid? Cliche, maybe, but definitely not irrelevant. Getting enough protein is the opposite of irrelevant. It's essential - for feeling strong, staying fit and preventing "hanger." You don't need to agonize over your protein intake; throwing some protein powder into your smoothie, nut butter on your apple, beans in your salad, quinoa in your stir fry is all you have to do. Just make sure you actually DO IT.
6. Relying on staples and totally memorizing how to make them.
Many of the recipes I make aren't fancy; they're not gourmet dishes or creative culinary masterpieces. They're simple healthy staples that I've learned how to make on autopilot, which means I can mindlessly massages a kale salad, roast sweet potatoes or blend up a smoothie bowl without evening thinking, stressing or taking my attention away from Netflix after a long, exhausting day. Which also means that I actually make and eat these things on a daily basis, rather than eating equally as easy but not-nearly-as-healthy delivery, take out or freezer meals.
7. Talking to myself.
Before eating, me myself and I always have a lovely little conversation with one another. We talk about whether eating the thing we might be about to it will be worth how it'll make us feel. We remember our ultimate goal: to feel and look our absolute best, and question whether eating this potential food will bring us closer or father from that best self. We sometimes bargain and decide that one taste of this so-called unhealthy food is fine. One bite ain't gonna kill us. Though sometimes, we decide one bit of this particular thing tends to lead to two or three or a pint, so we skip even that one dangerous bit. Having these mini-pow-wows with myself prior to eating, even for just a few seconds regularly saves me from putting unhealthy food into my body and reaching for the healthy plants instead. Self-dialogue might not be a food trick or tactic, but it's arguably the most effective one on this list.