Updated: May 27, 2019
A no-meat, no-eggs, no-cheese, no-dairy diet sounds like an awful lot of NO's. I get it. It conjures up images of lonely potatoes on a plate, or a couple of lettuce leaves and a tomato slice sadly sandwiched in a burger bun without the burger. If you have the notion that a vegan diet is mostly salads, devoid of flavor, lacking nutrients, and cannot possibly provide a satisfying feeling of fullness, I promise you, that is a mistaken viewpoint. There are literally hundreds of varieties of fruits, veggies, and grains that can be combined into endless of combinations of appetizing flavors and formats.
Last week, I escaped the grey Seattle winter for seven days of training indulgence in Southern California sunshine. After the week, my taste buds and my body are more inspired than ever by the foods that are available for plant-based athletes. Here are a few highlights of how I fueled my 13 hours of swimming, biking, and running.
Café Gratitude: The Whole Bowl
Café Gratitude is a 100% plant-based cafe, which provides options that are both refreshing and overwhelming. On my first visit, I naturally gravitated to the craziest sounding dish, with unfamiliar ingredients. The one that caught my attention was The Whole Bowl, which had the base of every great meal - grains and greens. On top of a bed of brown rice, quinoa, and kale sat five colorful stations of butternut squash, adzuki beans, sea vegetables (wakame), pickled beets, and BBQ tempeh, all drizzled with garlic tahini and topped with teriyaki almonds. Sounds like mish-mash of crazy flavors? It was insanely delicious! And just to geek out on this dish because it was so complex, I estimated the complete nutrition data on MyFitnessPal. It was extremely filling (731 calories, 27g fat, 86g carbs / 16g fiber), loaded with calcium (19% DV from kale, seaweed, and tahini), had probiotics for healthy digestion (pickled beets, tempeh), and contained nearly a full day's worth of protein (47g, from tempeh, grains, and beans).
See the nutrition facts for the Whole Bowl to the left. (Disclaimer: The nutrition facts provided in this post are my estimates, based on my observations, not provided by the establishments I visited.)
Joi Café: The Beast
The Santa Monica Mountains were our cycling and trail running playground for the week. The Joi Café is located in Westlake Village, just north of the park and was a convenient stop for a post-workout refuel. Although I could easily list the entire menu as a highlight, my favorite sampling from the week was The Beast, a homemade veggie burger (made of black beans, lentil, kale, mushroom, onion and quinoa), topped with grilled mushrooms and onions, all held together by a mind-blowing smokey provolone-style cashew cheese. The Beast was another filling and protein-packed meal, which I estimate provides about 600 calories, 20g of protein, 10g of fiber, and 50% of the DV of iron, thanks to the lentils, quinoa, black beans, and cashews.
See my estimated nutrition facts for The Beast here.
Tocaya Organica: Baja Chipotle Vegan Picadillo Tacos
In addition to filling up on sunshine while in California, we also had a mission to satiate our cravings for Mexican food, as Seattle lacks stellar Mexican options. Tocaya Organica is not a vegan restaurant, but has vegan-friendly options, including two proteins and two cheeses. The Vegan Picadillo is a base of pea protein and includes a slew of other veggies - potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, cabbage - but the star of the show was the homemade corn tortillas. I never cook with pea protein, so was interested to see how it tasted as a taco filling. It contains about 25g of protein per serving and is similar to tofu, in that it took on the dish's chipotle essence.
We ate a lot during our stay in SoCal everything was amazing. I can't resist honorable mentions for these restaurants and dishes:
Café Gratitude Garbanzo Quiche (with kalamata olives and kale pesto... mmmmm!)
Joi Café Kelp Noodle Salad and Avocado Toast (pictured below)
Karma Baker Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches (vegan and gluten free!)
Bareburger (several vegan burger options, including falafel, sweet potato, and black bean)
Satdha Thai Kow Yum salad (so colorful! pictured above)
Crossroads Kitchen (the mushroom risotto special was un.real.)
Sage Bistro Pesto Artichoke Eggplant Pizza ('nuff said)
I love that our vacations are packed full of outdoors, activity, and healthy recovery food. Moving with purpose, under the sun, and refueled by healthy food is a virtuous training cycle. It's a way of life that inspires me to become even more of who I am - disciplined in my training, patient with myself, compassionate with others, and respectful of the planet.