All around the world people are starting to make healthy eating a priority, hence the rising popularity of keto or vegetarian diets. But going vegan – and sticking with it? For many, that sounds more intimidating than climbing the Everest. In their minds, there’s too many things to give up on. “I can’t stop eating dairy. I just can’t.”
“My whole family is huge on meat. That’s who I am.” And it’s daunting to rethink decades of cooking and eating in a certain way. Maybe you love pancakes, but those have eggs and milk. Maybe you really like your grilled beef burger on a summer day, but that’s a capital sin in a vegans’ world. And what about protein? Are you supposed to resort to not ever feeling full again?
While those are legitimate concerns, there’s mounting evidence proving that veganism is actually great for your physical and mental performance. From NFL players to bodybuilders, wrestlers, boxers or skaters, more and more athletes are going vegan and breaking major records.
One of the most prominent figures in this space is Matt Frazier, vegan ultramarathoner, founder of the No Meat Athlete movement. Frazier’s “The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts―and the Rest of Your Life,” is getting a lot of publicity these days. Written with Stepfanie Romine, longtime health coach, yoga teacher, and food writer, the book promises to deliver 125 recipes that any even hardcore meat eaters or desk ‘athletes’ will enjoy.
We played devil’s advocate and asked Romine some challenging questions to see if the book could be of real use to the average, non vegan person. Responses were edited for space and clarity.
- What if I’m not an athlete? I work a 9 to 5 desk job. Will the recipes still be doable for me?
Absolutely! These recipes were tested and developed while I was working full time and training for a half-marathon. Though I love spending hours in the kitchen on weekends, even I need recipes to be quick, easy and delicious on weekdays.
- Do I need to buy fancy or pricey ingredients? What are some staples to have on hand?
Some of our recipes contain ingredients that may be new to you or your readers, but you can find most of them at a regular supermarket. And, I offer substitutions whenever possible. Staples in my house are:
- legumes (lentils and beans), tofu and tempeh
- fresh produce: vegetables of all colors, including root veggies, sprouts and leafy greens as well as fruit
- frozen vegetables (broccoli and riced cauliflower are great for quick meals) and berries (I buy huge bags of organic ones at Costco)
- herbs and spices: they are loaded with phytonutrients and add so much flavor
- whole grains: bagels or bread for breakfast, wraps for lunches on the go, and whole grains (farro, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) for dinners and sides
- I love waffles and burritos but I heard chickpeas waffles can taste like cardboard and tofu burritos aren’t all that great. What’s different about your recipes?
Ha! You’ve heard wrong! Chickpea flour is just ground-up chickpeas, and if it isn’t cooked through, it can taste awful. But if you season them properly and cook them until they’re brown and crispy, chickpea waffles are savory flavor bombs. Ever eat pakoras at Indian restaurants? I created a recipe for a baked version of those, too, and they use chickpea flour.
As for tofu, yes, it can be bland on its own. I’m a glass-half-full person, so I prefer to see it as a blank canvas for my culinary masterpieces. The tofu in my breakfast burritos is well-seasoned with herbs and spices, plus nutritional yeast for a boost of umami (yumminess).
I spent six years as editorial director of a healthy cooking website, and during that time I co-wrote my first cookbook with a world master chef and culinary instructor. I studied the science of cooking as well as the ins and outs of making healthy food taste delicious. My recipes are different because I’ve tested them several times — and had others test them as well — so we know that they work and taste good. I like bold flavors and am a picky eater. If something is just OK, I won’t waste my time eating it. I think you’ll find my recipes are flavorful and easy to execute in your own kitchen.
- I am a very busy person with little time to cook. How long does it take to make a vegan dish? (any tips of saving time?)
Vegan dishes can be just as quick as non-vegan ones. Throughout the book, we have labeled meals that are especially quick and easy. If you are short on time, opt for A Grain, A Green and A Bean. It’s a No Meat Athlete classic, and it can be as simple as batch-cooked brown rice with steamed kale and canned black beans. Top with salsa or avocado, and dinner’s ready!
- My family members are hard core meat eaters. They say they don’t feel satisfied unless I serve them meat. Are the any recipes that will make them happy?
Shifting your food habits can take time, but remind your family of the health benefits of eating more plants. Start by serving less meat at meals or one plant-based meal a week. There are probably plenty of vegan or meatless meals they already know and love, like spaghetti with marinara sauce, black bean soup or falafel wraps. And perhaps you can cook some of the recipes from our book and serve them alongside your family’s usual fare.
- I am not an athlete, but I do like intense workouts and like to have a protein smoothie afterwards. Is there enough protein in your smoothies?
Oh, the protein question! We need far less protein than we think we do. There’s plenty of protein in plants, even without adding protein powder.
- What about sweet treats? Plant-based desserts don’t sound all that appealing…
Well, we’re not making desserts with vegetables. 😊 Plant-based means they don’t have butter, eggs or milk. We have recipes for Chocolate Lava Mug Cake, No-Bake Mocha Cheesecake and Mango Sticky Rice — you’ll love them.
Snack On This:
Baked Deep-Dish Apple Pancake that takes 45 minutes to prep and bake
This baked pancake tastes like dessert, but it’s substantial and healthy enough to serve as breakfast. Bonus: The leftovers can be wrapped in parchment and eaten midway through a workout. This is one of the sweetest recipes in the book, so if your apples are on the sweeter side, you might want to scale back on sugar and maple syrup.