Vegan Runner: Six Go To Meals and Snacks
by Holly Manigan
I was 9 years old. I decided I didn’t want to eat animals. For those counting, that means I have been a vegetarian (vegan leaning) for 30 years. GULP! How quickly the times goes by.
I went through puberty. Ran a handful of marathons. Climbed summits around the world. No, I do not use supplements. Yes, I am healthy. Decent skin. Strong hair and nails. Blood test results that always leave me feeling like Wonder Woman. Yes, a person can live their life without consuming animal products.
So, whatever your reasons for opening this article, kudos! And, yes you can.
To get started, I will acknowledge, I have an advantage. I learned to cook after adjusting my diet. Reflect a bit… how many years passed, and how many cooking mistakes took place, before you were in the swing of things? Even now, you may still find yourself learning new methods you didn’t know before. So, of course, if you are middle-aged (again, gulp), re-learning it all can feel daunting. Example, you may need to learn how to cook quinoa. Heck, you may need to research what quinoa is in the first place. And, that’s ok! Be a learner again! Let it be fun.
So, here are a six easy, “natural” recipes that, as a runner (wannabe athlete) are go-to’s for me. They are all well-balanced and easy to prepare. None require replacement meat products (I am not a fan of tofu. It’s a texture thing). None require you break the bank (fruits and vegetables are so much more affordable than meats and cheeses!). None require supplements (unless you consider Nutritional Yeast Flakes a supplement). All are delicious. I hope you enjoy!
Break Your Fast
If you are like me, you are not a breakfast, er, morning person. This means that any food consumed in the morning needs to be easy! So, here are two of my go-to’s:
Starchy, slow-release carbohydrates and fats that are easily digested after being soaked overnight – BOOM! Not to mention the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. I soak my oats (sometimes I soak quinoa instead!) in coconut milk. I buy my milk in cans because I find them to be more affordable than the fancy stuff in the refrigerator section, and there are usually fewer mystery ingredients in the canned goods. Not to mention that fact that the cans recycle more easily. Hot tip: I decant the can into a larger bottle and mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio.
Before whacking my milk covered oats in the fridge, I top them with nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, etc), seeds (chia, pumpkin, flax, etc), spices (cinnamon!), and fruit (berries, bananas, apples, etc). The internet is full of fun combos. Go on a Google mystery tour and have fun!
Avocado on Toast
I know, I know. It’s nothing new. But, don’t hate on it because it’s basic. It’s full of healthy fats (lots of fat, buyer beware) and fiber which, when partnered with some protein (toasted seeds for me!), is a balanced meal.
Grab yourself some nutty bread and toast it up (or, maybe a rice cake with some linseed or chia seed in its matrix if gluten is not an option for you). Slather some mashed up avocado on that bad boy. Sprinkle it with some salt, maybe some nutritional yeast flakes (yum!), and definitely some toasted seeds for your protein (flax, chia, sunflower, pumpkin – I buy them already toasted and premixed because, again, not a morning person). Hot tip: If you are using toast, scrape a raw garlic clove over it (less is more to start) before spreading on your
avocado. I learned that one in Spain. You are welcome.
Voila! Breakfast. Enjoy with a glass of orange juice. Or coffee. Always coffee.
Snacks on the Run:
You know those little gel packs? Ya, they are not for me. I get it, why they exist. But, if you are like me and you just want… food, here are two snacks I like to make for my long runs:
They’re not just for toddlers! Basically, make a smoothie, and put it in a reusable pouch. Then, mid-run, when you find yourself hungry: unscrew the cap and enjoy! I like these because I can take little mouthfuls at a time and then put it away, without any fuss or mess. Genius, right? Just ignore the looks you get – people will think you are eating your kids’ food.
An example of a pouch made with running in mind:
Kale or Another Leafy Green
Quinoa (cooked and cooled)
Banana (sometimes I use steamed and cooled sweet potato cubes instead of/in addition to
banana and… yup, it works!)
Nuts or Nut Butter
This combination is full of calcium, magnesium, and potassium (all great for hydration!), not to mention some healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Runners rejoice! And, have fun creating your own combinations.
Dates Filled with Nut Butter and a Nut
These can get messy, but gosh… they are good! And oh-so simple (unlike the pouches, which actually require a teensy bit of energy). Take a date. Slice it in half. Fill it with some nut butter (I use peanut butter despite my knowledge that it’s not as heroic as legitimate nuts). Maybe use the nut butter as a glue to hold another nut in place (I prefer walnuts and pecans in this case). If your nut butter is not salted, sprinkle with some salt (hydration support!). Put the date back together again (the nut butter will hold it together). Maybe wrap in some
tinfoil or some other reusable yet flexible storage device. And there you have it:
carbohydrates, potassium, a small dose of protein and fat – fuel!
Obviously, you can try other combinations: shredded coconut, other dried fruits,
pomegranate seeds. Go nuts! Literally.
Meals for “Lunch” or “Dinner”
I tend to eat the same types of food all afternoon and into the evening, so here are two favorites that could swing both ways:
Three Bean Chili
Because nothing comforts me like chili. I sauté up some onions, freshly chopped garlic, bell peppers, and maybe even some mushrooms for that “meaty” texture. Once that is all fragrant and soft and good-to-go, I add in my seasonings (I usually just Google “Tex-Mex Chili Spice Recipe”), put in some stewed tomatoes, maybe a dark beer or some red wine, and my beans. I use kidney beans and black beans when going the Mexican route, but feel free to think outside of the box. I might even throw in some corn and/or some spinach if I
am feeling vivacious. Oh oh! And Nutritional Yeast Flakes!
For that third bean, I will either add in lentils (they can be added dry, or precooked) or…drum roll… Quinoa! Ok, it’s not a bean. But it is a protein powerhouse (a complete protein
containing all nine amino acids). I rinse it off and put it in uncooked. It soaks up all the juices and… just yum.
Hot tip: beans. I am a bit sensitive here. Maybe you are too. It’s a thing. If I am using canned beans, I rinse them. It may be a placebo effect, but I am convinced this helps with the bloat. Otherwise, I tend to soak and cook dried beans, rinse them off after they are soft, and then put them into the chili. This definitely helps!
And don’t forget to top your chili with more Nutritional Yeast Flakes. Because more yum.
Bowls of Goodness
You have probably heard of Macro Bowls and Buddha Bowls and… whatever bowls. What is great is that they are super easy. The idea is simple. Pick a wholegrain or a starch (or a seed because Quinoa is a seed). Pick a few vegetables (I usually pick a green and then a root vegetable). Pick your protein (quinoa, nuts and seeds, garbanzo-based tempeh, hummus, all
of the options). Then top with some condiments, sauces, and add-ons (a dressing, some lemon juice, salt, pepper, soy sauce, siracha, avocado slices, nuts, seeds… the list is endless! The world is your oyster!). An entire meal in a bowl! Or, on a plate. Whatever.
Here is a build-your-own guide from some of my favorite ingredients:
Quinoa, Buckwheat, Basmati Rice, Millet or Lentils (Sometimes I’ll use two!)
Massaged (Raw) Kale (it’s all about the oil massage) or Raw Baby Spinach
A Roasted Vegetable or Two (Beets, A Squash of Some Kind, Carrots, etc.)
A sprinkle of those Toasted Seeds
Have I mentioned Nutritional Yeast Flakes in this article yet? Sprinkle some here.
Hummus (Hot tip: I make my own. It’s, like, really easy. And cost efficient!).
Avocado (maybe skip this if you had some for breakfast!)
Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and you do not need anything else.
As with your overnight oats, the options here are almost endless. Have some fun getting creative – just keep in mind the “macro” idea behind the bowl: a filling blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (sourced from nutrient dense vegetables, whole-grains, quality proteins, and healthy fats).