How To Make Food That Has Nutrients, Plus Protein, But Not Too Much

As a long-time vegan and an early proponent of the Paleo diet, I learned early on that there are many places on the food pyramid that the majority of plant-based diets do not include these vital nutrients.

The first day into my first primal diet in August, my stomach was so empty and achy that I decided if I did not eat today, my first meal of the day would be tomorrow. Then another gut-wrenching day when I had to eat a whole-wheat scramble with some sweet potatoes and a cup of kale. It’s been like that for weeks now, and today I finally made it out of Primal. What’s my secret? “I like to get the last few veggies and legumes from the fridge,” says a paleo-vegan and blogger called Vegan Yack Attack. “My body is built for digestion and I like to balance things out.”

On the plus side, she says that you don’t need to avoid most of the plant-based staples that are included in the paleo diet (milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds and seeds, meat, poultry, and fish): “You may not need them all, but they will certainly help.”

This article in the Guardian is also good: “If you have a long-standing, strong stomach and your stomach is still complaining on a paleo diet, it is worth having a look at what foods you could eat instead; even something like a smoothie, with coconut milk and bananas (or a smoothie and a glass of plain water) that you can keep in your fridge and have for lunch or a snack.”

As for what you can eat to fill up on non-starchy veggies and legumes, this is what I’m going with:

Sweet potatoes: This is one of the best sources of beta-carotene for vegans (as well as a source of calcium) and I add some to my soup, salads and even my cooking liquid (see this post by The Happy Herbivore for great ideas).

Lentils: I’ll often pair with black beans. My husband even asks to be served one when we go out, although I tend to opt for the plain one. In other words, I eat legumes when they make me feel full because, you know, I like meat. Sometimes I want to be healthy, and sometimes I just want something nice to eat.

Beans (kidney, soy-free and gluten-free): You’ll find beans in almost everything and it’s a great source of healthy iron, calcium, vitamin B12.

Garlic: My husband enjoys garlic roasted, and I like to make my own “cheese soup” with it and the veggies in the pot. I’m pretty sure the flavorings add some amazing flavor, though if you’re concerned about that, you can always use a blend of herbs and spices for the seasoning.

Chia seeds: My favorite “nut butter” of all time, which I eat at least one serving of at the end of every day when I want my “nut butter” in my pudding.

Nut or seed butters (like flaxseed or walnut): There are a ton of nut butters and nuts out there that are easy to buy and easy to store (and they’re packed with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids). The best option is probably flaxnut, as it has more omega-3s than flaxseed does (and it can be used in cooking, like so: this recipe with chia seeds is a great one)

Kale: I love kale because it’s one of the only leafy greens that won’t make you feel sad about yourself when you walk out the door and into traffic. Kale has a good balance of nutrients and is probably the richest vegetable you can eat without making anything worse, such as becoming a food truck. Kale is also loaded with fiber, which you’ll find helps you feel full.