Many of my non-vegan weight lifting friends constantly ask me and show curiosity about what I eat now that I no longer include meat, fish, eggs or dairy in my diet. After all, what else is there right? (sic) Most traditional bodybuilder’s diets consist of egg whites, tilapia (yuck), chicken and non fat cottage cheese and/or Greek Yogurt, and not much else. I’m not trying to make fun, I was once that person, and had 4-5 portions of the same exact, bland meal in my bag every day, trying to convince myself that this really was a diet worth keeping. While it may have given me a six pack for a short while, I completely lost my creativity in the kitchen, and as a chef and food lover, I found the lack of interest to be inventive to be quite depressing. Food was just something that needed to “happen”, every 2-3 hours, to keep the “metabolism going” (another unfortunate wives’ tale), a necessary evil, if you will. You hold your breath for 12 weeks or however long it takes you to get into stage shape, and then you celebrate post-show with any crappy, processed foods you could think of. What a nice cycle, right?
After I turned to a vegan diet, I realized there are no good or bad food groups – I have plenty to choose from in protein and carbohydrates and I even get to include fats in a variety of forms (oils, nuts, seeds and fruits)! As a result of eating whole, unprocessed foods with a big emphasis on fresh vegetables, my taste buds have exploded and I find myself with less and less cravings of any particular foods, especially sweets. Every meal is nutritious AND delicious, just like the commercial 🙂 The revelation that I don’t have to “suffer” to eat bland foods but I can spice it up, add new fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes I’ve not tried before, every single day without my waistline expanding – is amazing! Don’t get me wrong, I still calculate my macro nutrients to make sure I stay within my range for what my goals are (and the diet will be different depending on what I’m trying to achieve) but the parameters seem much wider and more importantly: I have gotten the desire back to cook and experiment!
Vegans are perhaps some of the most creative cooks I’ve come across ever, I am constantly baffled by recipes and the depth of flavor I get from them when I try them out. I wanted to share a recipe for a protein packed, amazingly tasty Moroccan-spiced lentil and sweet potato stew that I made last night… I added some extra vegetables in for added nutrients… Try this out and your tummy and entire body will thank you!
MOROCCAN-SPICED LENTIL AND SWEET POTATO STEW (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup dry green or red lentils, rinsed, and picked over
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1 Vidalia (sweet) onion, chopped finely
24 oz organic Vegetable Broth
1 tbsp sweet curry
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp cinnamon
1 x 2 inch fresh ginger knob, peeled and minced
1 x 15 oz organic can chopped tomatoes
2 cups coconut milk
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed, shredded
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Nutritional yeast (optional)
In a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat and saute the onions, ginger and garlic for a few minutes, until softened. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots along with the spices, stir well and cook for 1 minutes or so to allow for the spices to infuse. Season with salt. Add the lentils to the pot, stir, then add the vegetable broth, chopped tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to a light boil, quickly turn it down and let the stew simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add in the chopped kale and the sherry vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and nutritional yeast (optional). Makes enough for several meals and you can also freeze this – enjoy!!