I seem to be a “Meat and Potatoes” type of vegan!
I want to talk about a concept that is emerging in my own universe lately. The concept is “concentrated foods.” By that I mean, foods that are extremely nutrient dense and packed with a large amount of macronutrients in a relatively small portion. (Macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats)
I bring this up because despite eating very healthfully for nearly forty years—mostly vegan but a few of those years not so much—I have always struggled with my weight. It was because of this that as a young girl I began seeking to understand how the body works and what foods were best for it. I have written many times about those journeys so I won’t do that again here.
Suffice it to say that I learned a lot, became much more healthy as years went by, strengthened my immune system, found out how to use foods as medicine and overall became much more in control of things.
But darn it! It is still so very easy for me to put on too much weight! I know many people who do not eat a Standard American Diet and who try their best to choose healthier more nutritious foods and even some who are vegetarians, vegans or macrobiotic who, like me, still struggle with this problem.
So I started looking at the broad sketch of how I have approached food and spotted something very interesting. No matter what I was eating, what program I was following, or dietary lifestyle I was living including all the years I was macrobiotic I have always gone for the dense, concentrated foods and eaten too much of them. That worked fine when I was a young, busy nursing mother with two other toddlers to chase after but that’s the only time that worked for me.
Mochi (Photo credit: Nikki_Bees)
There are gradients of how concentrated foods can be. It’s just common sense. For example:
- Peanut butter – concentrated fat and some protein. Easy to slather a heap of this stuff onto each cracker, rice cake or slice of bread.
- “Healthy” breads. Not knocking them, No Sireee. But have you weighed some of these lately? They can be concentrated, condensed slices, can’t they? A vegan Triple-Decker Club sandwich made with this bread could sink a ship!
- Brown rice mochi – very concentrated whole grains (sticky, sweet brown rice mashed down into a concentrated form and then often fried.) But how many of those do you need at one time? Especially in an Udon Noodle Soup with Tofu Broth?
- Almonds. Innocent, wonderful Almonds. A great snack! But you’re not running a marathon or working the farm each day, exactly how many of those do you need for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up?
- Rice and beans – probably about in the middle of the scale. But the whole-grains-and-beans thing can indeed be overdone if it isn’t balanced with veggies and other necessary dietary components.
- Vegetables – mostly light. But watch this—do you head for the winter squashes, potatoes and the heavier vegetables more than the leafy greens?
- Oils – yup, they’re concentrated aren’t they? How many olives does it take to make a tablespoon of olive oil, I wonder? (Estimates are 20-40 olives depending on their type and size.) How many sesame seeds to make that teaspoon of toasted sesame oil that I love to cook my mochi in?
- Fruits – mostly pretty light but what’s the difference between say a banana and an apple or between grapes and dried fruit? Dried fruit is concentrated and pack a lot in a small portion. That’s why it is so easy to overeat them.
- Some of those avocado-based mousses I’ve been making—Do I eat the same size slice of that as I would an apple pie? Hmmmm, I think not!
Please, please, please! I am not saying any of these foods are bad or shouldn’t be eaten.
My point is simply this: Even if virtually all the food you eat is organic, plant-based very nutritious and good for you, you can still eat too much of the concentrated foods and too little of the lighter ones. That’s all I’m saying. That is what I’m looking at.
Why do you think the bloggers posting all the casseroles, rich desserts and thick hearty soups and stews are so popular? Because that’s what we like and that’s what we probably all overindulge in if we’re honest with ourselves. Okay, I’ll cut you a break. I’ll say, “If I’m honest with myself!” I love these recipes and try out many of them at home. But if they use dense or nutrient-concentrated foods, it is so easy for me to over do it.
When I’m not paying attention, I go for the concentrated food and skimp on the lighter ones. I can so easily fall into being the “meat and potatoes” type in the world of vegan food.
It all has to do with the question of balance. I learned how to eat a balanced diet but it seems that over the years with changes in my body and my age and other things, I’ve lost my balance and now I know I need to find it again.
I don’t know why this is exactly—this indulgence in concentrated foods. I have heard and read many explanations that I don’t find all that helpful or workable. Do we really have to be semi-experts in hormones? I don’t think so. I could just as well say it’s “The American Way” as an explanation. I just know that I’ve spotted for myself a major underlying concept about how I have chosen to eat all my life no matter what the cuisine was.
This is a concept I can work with. This is a good beginning.
So for now, my own decision has been to eat at least 50-60% vegetables daily. That is a guideline I have set up for myself and I’m not saying that is what you need or what you should do.
And, I’m going to follow up with many more posts showing recipes and how-to’s for vegetables. Let’s see what I come up with!!!
In the meantime I would really love to know what your experiences are with this. I’d like to know:
1) What do you see as being an ideal way for you—as an individual—to eat and is it easy for you to be that? (i.e. be vegetarian, be vegan, be omnivorous, etc.)
2) Do you follow some kind of diet or weight-loss plan or do you “wing it?”
3) Are you successful with what you do?
4) What exactly are your successful actions?
5) If you have a “downfall,” what is it?
6) Do you encounter a similar problem of overindulging in the more dense, concentrated foods and skimping on the lighter ones?
7) What would you like to know or learn most about including a bigger percentage of actual vegetables in your daily diet?
8) What vegetables would you like to have more recipes or preparation ideas for?