by Judith Fertig
We all have good intentions to eat more fruits and vegetables, and it’s easier if we start with just one plant-based meal a day—lunch. Natural Awakenings has enlisted the help of vegan lunchbox experts to help us all enjoy easy-tomake and colorful feasts good for home, office, school and on the road.
“Vegan food offers so much variety, especially at lunch,” says Johanna Sophia, of Pine Plains, New York, who recently hosted the online series The Raw Lunchbox Summit. “A vegan lunch gives an extra boost in the middle of the day for more brain power, clarity and energy.” She and her two children operate Johanna’s Raw Foods, which makes vegan fast food such as veggie burger bites and carrot crackers, available at health food stores.
Laura Theodore, the vegan chef and recording artist who presents The Jazzy Vegetarian PBS television program, lives and works in the New York City area. After a childhood dominated by bologna sandwiches for lunch, she gradually changed to vegan dishes. “I began to notice a difference when I ate mostly plants,” she says. “I could do more and think better.”
Theodore favors colorful and delicious vegan foods that travel well in a lunchbox with a cold pack, so she can take them to rehearsals or wherever else she goes. She creates her zucchini fettuccine with a vegetable slicer and loves to end a meal with something naturally sweet, like her maple-raisindate truffles. Such experimenting in the kitchen led to her newest cookbook, Vegan-Ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet.
Brandi Rollins, Ph.D., a researcher at Penn State, in State College, Pennsylvania, found that switching her lunch habits to plant-based dishes made her feel better. The author of Raw Foods on a Budget determined that one of her favorites is a quick raw vegan pizza. She first marinates ingredients for 20 minutes: three medium mushrooms, thinly sliced, with one-and-a-half tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon of olive oil, one minced clove of garlic and a big pinch of Italian herb seasoning. Then she spreads half of a mashed avocado on a four-by-fourinch flax cracker and tops it with the marinated mushrooms, plus chopped tomato, peppers or other favorite options. Rollins says, “You can pack all of the components individually, and then assemble the pizza at work.”
Health Foods Chef Catherine Blake, in Maui, Hawaii, studied with renowned plant-based nutritional scientist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. She urges her culinary students to ask, “What can I do to sparkle a little bit more tomorrow?” The author of Healthy Recipes for Friends, answers the question in her online presentation, Cooking for Brain Power, at Tinyurl.com/ChefBlakeBrainPower.
Blake’s favorite brain-power luncheon booster is a wrap with antioxidant-rich fillings, accompanied by homemade almond milk, sunflower seeds or walnuts for vitamin E and some favorite blue berries or purple grapes. She makes fresh almond milk by grinding raw almonds in a nut grinder, and then adding them plus an equal amount of filtered water to a high-speed blender. After processing and straining out the solids, the resulting nut milk is perfect for smoothies.
Changing our diets one meal at a time gives us an opportunity to see if we can feel the difference, as our vegan lunchbox experts have, while we ramp up our taste for healthier eating.
Judith Fertig writes award-winning cookbooks and foodie fiction from Overland Park, Kansas. Connect at JudithFertig.com.