My Holistic Eating Guide — Wellness Goals for 2022
3 simple steps to achieve any healthy eating goals.
Are you new to the holistic health world? You might have already started following many health coaches who advise you to experiment with your diet to optimize health. So did I in summer 2019, when I discovered that my health issues are reversible with diet and lifestyle changes.
What they offered looked like a vegan diet high in fruit and vegetables and limiting highly inflammatory foods, such as gluten, soy, dairy etc. Step by step, implementing this lifestyle was a process, not a quick jump. Slowly, I discovered my trigger foods and started to eat preservative-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free and egg-free for my healing journey. In this blog post, I want to share all the steps I took to implement this lifestyle while enjoying tasty alternatives to my favourite processed foods.
Please note that your healing journey might look completely different depending on your food sensitivities and genetics, as well as your eating history.
1. First step — replace
These tips are easy swaps that do not require much effort. Most of the alternatives are available in your local food store. Therefore, you will not feel a big difference in your usual diet when you find a replacement for these products.
Dairy and eggs
I used to drink a lot of milkshakes before changing my eating habits — but, luckily, I found that replacing milk with plant-based alternatives is very easy. My favourites are coconut milk and rice milk which are preservative-free and have low-sugar content. When I stopped drinking milk, I noticed an immediate improvement in my allergies — it was the first lifestyle change that really made me believe in ‘food as medicine’.
I used eggs a lot in cooking. I have found that vegan egg replacement with lupin flour works so great that it can even be added to prepare a vegan omelette, shrimp tempura and, of course, pancakes and all kinds of cakes. However, there is one more alternative known as chia egg that also can replace eggs for baking pancakes.
Soy and nuts
I also chose to give up on soy completely, which was initially very difficult because I loved to cook with soy sauce so much. Fortunately, I read about coconut aminos, a fermented coconut blossom nectar with that salty and savoury flavour. Another great discovery was lupin tempeh in one of my favourite local vegan stores. Lupin is a bean used as a substitute for soy and can be less allergic to many people.
Many recipes required nuts, such as pesto or vegan cashew ‘cheese-cakes’. What to do now? I concluded that seeds are the closest substitutes in these recipes, so I used a lot of tahini or replaced nuts with pumpkin seeds and sunflowers seeds. I even managed to discover my own crunchy roasted pumpkin seed ‘Nutella’, as well as tahini cupcakes and sunflower seed ‘cheese’.
Finally, I started buying pasta in small organic food stores, such as buckwheat, rice, lentil, bean and beetroot pasta. It is a bit more expensive than the traditional ones, but still quite a great replacement. However, I would love to make my version of pasta one day.
For me, going gluten-free is still challenging at times. I like to buy ready-made products, yet they often have some preservatives, so I rarely eat bread or buy pizza bases. If I have some extra time on weekends, I enjoy baking my buckwheat bread and making a cauliflower pizza base. There are many options out there — one simply has to get creative. I have discovered even gluten-free dumpling recipes online, so it all comes down to the willingness to experiment in the kitchen. This investment in yourself is worth it!
Healthy cooking alternatives
Another challenge was refined sugar — it is an ingredient in most sauces and other products available in the store. I found out about many natural alternatives, such as dates, honey, maple syrup and agave syrup that are much more healthy than refined sugar.
I also did a switch in regards to baking oils. I baked most of my food in grape seed oil, but now I have switched to coconut oil and avocado oil because of the higher temperature threshold for heat oxidation.
The next step was to pick black rice instead of white rice, but if you can find wild rice — even better! Also, brown rice is a better alternative because it contains more fibre than the traditional one.
2. Second step — reinvent
I realized that I had to invent my versions of famous dishes by looking up food blogs and recipes online.
I started to eat at home and chose the restaurant and pre-made food very rarely. For instance, I thought to myself — how to make a gluten-free kebab — and I ‘googled’ the recipe. As a result, I have found a substitute for practically any recipe I could think about making.
Guilt-free dips and sauces
Finding a vegan mayonnaise that would suit my needs was a real struggle. Initially, I tried to buy ready-made ones, but they did not satisfy my taste buds and contained certain preservatives that I did not want to include in my diet, such as guar gum. Finally, I tried to make my own from chickpea water known as aquafaba. There is a very specific technique that ensures the thickness of an aqauafaba mayonnaise, such as adding a bit of maple syrup and pouring oil very slowly on the blender blades. I followed this source for additional guidance.
Similarly, I made other sauces, such as ketchup, mango salsa, avocado mayonnaise and many others. The nice thing about making your dips is that you can completely control how much sugar and salt you want to add — if any at all!
Have you tried making your chocolate bar? Well, I have, and it turned out quite good — the necessary ingredients were cacao butter and cacao powder and a natural sweetener of your choice. Likewise, I have started to make the famous ‘bliss balls’ with blended seeds, shredded coconut, coconut oil or tahini, dried berries and a bit of lemon peel. Soon you will discover that it is possible to make a lot of refined sugar-free treats that taste even better than anything you can buy in a supermarket.
Making a ‘seed cheese’
Yes, you heard me right! Vegan cheeses are very trendy and not just from cashews. You can prepare vegan cheese by adding probiotics or nutritional yeast, choosing what you tolerate better. I do not do very well with fermented foods, but if your tolerance is higher, you can surely enjoy more variations. I have found this recipe to be an excellent resource for beginners. Similarly, you can also make roasted sunflower seed butter.
3. Third step — repeat
It is the million-dollar question of how to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your diet. The goal is to reach at least 50% intake of total calories per day. Here I want to share some of the habits I have developed to increase this number.
I start my day with fruit juices — apple, orange, lemon or pineapple with ginger. This way, I quickly obtain calories while not burdening my body with fat early in the morning. I have found that eating a fruit breakfast makes me feel less sluggish, and I can focus on work better. In all seasons, I love to eat kiwis, mangos, pears and berries that are seasonally available (cranberries, strawberries, raspberries and many more). I also make smoothie bowls during the summer season with frozen berries that tastes almost like ice cream.
Eat the rainbow
It was a difficult step because back in my old days, eating vegetables meant a small portion of salad and potatoes for lunch, not that 50% of my daily food intake would be from fruit and vegetables. But everything is possible if you realize how to hack your habits and behaviour.
One of the sure ways to get more veggies into the diet is learning how to master the art of making the salad. For me, it was a discovery that you can add to the salad more than just the base ingredients, such as tomatoes, salad, onions, cucumber, radish, cabbage. You can spice up the salad by adding fruit and berries, mango, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, and seeds, such as roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds or edible chestnuts. I also learned that dried fruit, such as plums, goji berries and figs, are great ways to level-up any salad. And then comes the dressing part — with honey, tahini, lime, coconut aminos, mustard and any other fun ingredient that comes to your mind!
The second fun option is making spring rolls with colourful vegetables included — this includes carrots, tomatoes, purple cabbage, cucumber, avocados, paprika and many more. Alternatively, you can also make nori wraps with hummus dipping — they are just as tasty!
I have been practising this lifestyle for over a year now, and I must admit that I have celebrated many different big and small health victories. For me, this is the most optimal way of eating that ensures that my body slowly but surely heals. If you feel called to experiment and find what works best for you, I hope that these tips will be helpful and inspiring for you as well.