OK, But First Hummus!

shutterstock_1012313125.jpg

To be honest, my decision to start living a more plant-based lifestyle was definitely not an intentional one. It’s now been over 3-years that I’ve eliminated all meat, chicken and fish from my diet. In fact, it began when I decided to cleanse my body for 21-days post a very long summer holiday-as such, I decided to cut out all gluten, dairy, animal products and sugar for 3-weeks.

I came out of those weeks feeling the best I’ve ever felt about food and that’s when I decided to continue leading a vegan diet; it felt great for the first 5-6 months, but the reality is that I started getting anxious. The stress of eating out, a lack of vegan options at the time, not having time to prepare my meals as and when I wanted them created anxiety that accompanied this lifestyle. It led me to also start re-introducing more cheese and eggs into my meals, especially considering that I was and still am not a huge fan of pulses, lentils, beans and so on (except for hummus!)

shutterstock_1336582067.jpg

People decide to become vegan or vegetarian for many motives- from health, ethical and religious reasons. Like any meal plan, following a plant-based diet will always have its pros and cons. For instance;

Pros:

  • May reduce risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes & cholesterol

  • May help with weight loss, if the meal plans are balanced & wholesome

  • More sustainable for the environment 

  • May help support your gut health

Cons:

  • If not structured properly, going more plant-based may lack certain nutrients such as iron and B12

  • Depending on where you are, eating out may be a bit of a challenge

  • Social functions, family obligations and events may be more difficult, especially when the options aren’t always readily available

Following a plant-based diet means including more pulses and legumes, whole grain products, a rainbow of vegetables and fruits to your meals as well as nuts and seeds. As a vegetarian, it might be surprising to learn that I am not a huge fan of certain pulses and legumes as they make me feel bloated! My biggest struggle is to ensure I am getting the right amount of protein during each meal- at times, I find that I am limited with options (since I don’t include eggs and dairy on a daily basis). However, I was fortunate to find some great alternatives that worked wonders for me:

  • Tofu & Tempeh

  • Nutritional Yeast

  • 100% Natural Vegan Protein (that I mainly add to my smoothies)

  • Spirulina

  • Quinoa

  • Nuts & Seeds (my favorite are walnuts and pumpkin seeds)

  • All-Natural Nut Butters (I am an addict to Peanut Butter!)

  • Dhal, Edamame & Chickpeas (I can live on hummus, all day every day!)

shutterstock_1086788489.jpg

Actually, as I continue on with my food journey, I started to notice changes in the healthy eating trends around the UAE as well - it was becoming a norm! Slowly and steadily, I started to find some great vegan/vegetarian places in Dubai to eat-out of and some of them soon became favorites;

Stu by Nabz & G – their green mallow (mulukhiyah) with brown rice

Bareburger – the Vegan Beyond Burger (with vegan cheese in a multi-grain bun) or their Classic Beyond Burger (on brioche bun)

Poke & Co – I enjoy ordering their Build Your Own Poke Bowl (with tofu, avocado, portobello mushrooms)

Little Erth – a must-have is their Spring Wraps, Buddha Burger and Vegan Knefeh

The Surf Café – their Veggie Poke

Under 500 – their Spicy Lentil Ragu with Asparagus or their BYO made with Vegan Chili, Avocado, Spiced Rice and Wild Mushrooms

Freshii – their BYO Soup made with rice noodles and lots of veggies such as edamame, tomato and tofu

Poke Poke – their Build Your Own Bowl (made with mixed greens, tofu, edamame and lots of other goodness!)

shutterstock_1239647563.jpg

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits all. Everybody is unique- what works for me may not work for you and it’s important to know that is okay. Don’t be afraid to find variations that truly suit you and your nutritional needs- your body will tell you what works!

p.s It’s Nadine (the vegetarian) - Maria, on the other hand enjoys all food!