A local pasta maker recently posted a meme on her Facebook wall. It was a quote from George Miller that said, “The trouble with eating an Italian meal is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.” The joke, of course, is that there are some cuisines known for being filling, while others supposedly leave you hungry an hour later.
One cuisine that many would categorize as the latter would be a vegan meal. And in a way, who can blame them? When even considering veganism, many people imagine their dinner plates and then start erasing entrees one by one like Marty McFly disappearing from view in a photograph. Maybe they’ve seen their vegan co-worker cobbling together a meal at a business lunch of spinach salad with oil and a meager plate of fries. It doesn’t exactly exemplify filling. Or maybe they’ve even tried going vegan, but after a breakfast of dry toast and tomato soup at lunch, they were ravenous by the time they sat down to a meal of grilled vegetables and not much else.
If you’ve ever heard or uttered the words, “I tried going vegan, but I was always hungry,” here are 6 tips that work for me to stay full on a vegan diet.
Set yourself up for success.
Hunger is the worst when you are far past hungry, rifling through the pantry and refrigerator and unable to find anything easy to prepare. Think about what you like to grab quickly to eat and consider a vegan alternative. We don’t always want to think of something new or pull out a cookbook when we’re tired with growling stomachs.
Need some ideas? Here are 10 vegan meals you already know how to make.
Figure out what is satiating to you.
Before I went vegan, I would often have single pack cheese sticks or trail mix on hand. That hit of protein and fat made me feel full. Now at meal and snack times, I like to include nuts, baked tofu, beans, or seitan.
For my husband, David, something carb heavy is satiating. His meals include sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, crackers, or bread. I plan meals with both of us in mind, so that we’ll each feel satiated.
Don’t go too long without eating.
I prefer to eat smaller meals every 3 or 4 hours. It usually comes out to 3 meals and one snack. If I get too hungry, I don’t make the best choices, and I have a hard time concentrating.
(Want to see what an ordinary day of eating looks like? Check out this post.)
Be prepared with snacks.
There’s not always time or inclination for a full meal, and sometimes you just need a little something to tide you over. Some of my favorite snacks include: popcorn, dolmas, fruit, a smoothie, nuts, hummus & crudite, chips and salsa, or non-dairy cheese with crackers and pickles.
David always keeps trail mix and pretzels at his desk, and coconut milk yogurt in his mini fridge.
Slow down and appreciate your food.
I find that a meal is much more pleasurable and satisfying if I turn off the TV, put away the computer, and really focus on what’s in front of me. After taking time to prepare a tasty dish, it only makes sense to give it my full attention and enjoy all of the colors and flavors.
By eating slowly and paying attention to my hunger cues, I also stop when I’m full, because I’m not distracted by other things.
Shift your paradigm.
You know that almost sick feeling that you get after eating way too much on Thanksgiving? I don’t really experience that anymore. I find that in general plant foods are lighter. They leave me feeling full, but not nauseously so. Meals leave me energized, not tired.
It may take some time to get used to just feeling comfortably satiated, and not so stuffed that you need to follow up lunch with a nap. Sure, there are occasions when I enjoy a meal of nachos or fried food, and those meals are richer and heavier. But in general, plant foods tend to be lower in calories, meaning that I burn through them quicker. For me, that lighter feeling is not a flaw in plant-based eating. It’s a benefit.