One of the most important things that I learned when going vegan is that cooking at home is super important. There are SO many reasons why preparing your own meals is beneficial, but one of the biggest reasons, at least for me, is that it makes the vegan lifestyle more sustainable.
Let me explain why…
A Vegan Diet is NEAT
If you want to make a change, especially in regards to diet, it’s imperative to make it sustainable.
What does that mean? For me, this means that it’s NEAT:
N Nutrient-dense – the food is healthy and supports my physical body
E Easy – the food is relatively easy to find/prepare
A Affordable – the food is accessible within my budget
T Taste – the food is delicious and pleasurable to eat
By meal planning and cooking at home, you have the ability to sustain a NEAT vegan diet. Here’s how…
A common complaint I hear from people about going vegan is that it will take more time to prepare meals. In actuality, it doesn’t take longer to cook vegan food. The key is to plan ahead.
When you have a plan…
You will always know what’s for dinner. Meaning you won’t get home from work after a hard day and still have to figure out what to make.
You can consolidate food preparation. For example, if you’re using quinoa in more than one recipe this week, cook it all at once. That saves at least 20 minutes of prep time! If you know you will be making cashew cheese or tempeh bacon, you can soak the cashews and marinate the tempeh a day ahead so it’s ready when you want to use it.
You can make meals ahead of time, making it super easy to bring with you on the go and have already prepared dinners waiting for you after a long day at work.
You will know how much food to make. Making enough so that you have leftovers can mean that you have super easy lunches and dinners on days that you are busy or don’t feel like cooking. Knowing how much to make also decreases the amount of waste from food going bad or not getting eaten.
Eating meals prepared at home is healthier than at restaurants, even when you’re vegan. Restaurants pour huge amounts of oils, salt and sugar, which packs their meals with way more calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, etc. The same goes for packaged foods – it’s still possible to be a junk food vegan!
When you’re preparing food at home, you see everything that’s going into your food. You have the ability to ditch the oil, use less sugar and choose low-sodium versions of ingredients.
I also encourage basing your diet on whole, plant foods. That’s because these are packed with nutrients. It’s easier to eat a whole-food diet without any unnecessary added ingredients when you’re preparing meals yourself.
Planning your meals and cooking at home with save you money because you will not be paying the extra premium that restaurants charge for service. By purchasing whole foods (in bulk, when possible), you will avoid paying for the cost of packaging and advertising that goes into branded packaged products in the store.
Have a plan will also help you purchase only what you actually need. No more throwing away food that has gone bad before you had a chance to cook it. No more disposing of moldy leftovers that never got eaten.
Enjoy your food
I’ve dined at many restaurants and tried many vegan packaged offerings with varying degrees of satisfaction. Don’t let restaurants and products control your experience of what it means to eat a vegan diet!
Cooking at home gives you the opportunity to make the foods exactly the way you like. You can customize recipes exactly to your tastes.
Now I’m not saying that you should never eat out again or purchase prepared food of any kind. I love eating out on occasion and I always have a few of my favorite “vegan junk food” products in the pantry (pizza flavored mac n cheese anyone?)
My point is, that eating a healthy vegan diet is generally more sustainable when you’re preparing food for yourself at home. And meal planning is the key to making your own food while on a budget and a schedule.
Your health is important to you – so taking some time to plan and prep your meals should not be too big of a sacrifice.