Updated: Jul 9
After last week’s dense article about interpreting research data, let’s downshift back to a simple question that many people ask me: “What does a plant-based doctor actually eat in a day?”.
After pre-med, medical school, medical residency and after almost 15 years of medical practice and teaching at our local medical school, it’s safe to say that I’ve accumulated lots of random facts, knowledge and experience. But over the last 7-8 years, I’ve focused most of my energy and spare time on scouring the medical literature for hidden gems of information on nutrition science. I’ve learned a lot about basic biochemical functions, chemical structures and even though I‘ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge about nutrients on a microscopic level, I’m still fascinated that the question I get asked the most is: “what do you eat?”. It’s like people think I’m trekking over mountain tops in search of some tropical super fruit no one else knows nothing about. I‘m proud to report that my meals are pretty darn simple, quick and easy to prepare. Nothing glamorous, nothing worth gracing the cover of ”Foodie” magazine. Just real food that grows in the ground, or from a tree. Food that doesn’t have eyes or a mother and father.
Let’s break it down into its simplest form! I’ll go meal by meal and describe in detail what I eat in a typical day! Keep in mind, studies suggest that most of us eat as little as 5 different meals that we rotate, but the average is 8-10. If you can put a plant-based twist on meals you already eat, you’re already most of the way there.
The evidence does suggest that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. A nutritious first meal will provide much needed energy to start the day off right. Chronobiology, or the study of how our hormones have cyclical variations according to sleep and sun exposure, also concludes that calories ingested at breakfast will be used more efficiently for energy mobilisation than storage. This simply means that calories at breakfast are less fattening than the same amount of calories at night. So a calorie isn’t always a calorie, it depends on when you eat it. I’ve already covered that on a past article published on my blog! Read it here! Our body wants us to eat breakfast. Early meals will also decrease salt and sugar cravings later in the day and minimizes temptation for unhealthy and processed junk foods.
Before I even get out of bed, I drink at least 500 ml of water. I fill my water bottle every night after brushing my teeth and leave it on my night table. I put my phone behind it so that I have no choice but to move my water bottle to turn off my alarm. That’s my daily cue to chug some water. A “habit stacking” technique I learned after reading a great book by James Clear called “Atomic Habits”.
Then I head downstairs and have breakfast. On most weekdays, I will have the same thing: sprouted oats with soy milk (I alternate days with almond milk), mixed with chia, hemp and flaxseeds. I top that with blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, and then sprinkle some Kashi granola. During the start of my plant-based transition, I added maple syrup since I needed that sweetness. Then I switched to date sugar, date syrup, and now that I‘ve slowly weaned myself off of super sweet foods, I use whole medjool dates to add that sweetness.
On weekends, I enjoy vegan pancakes with fruit or scrambled tofu if I’m in a cooking mood, or if we want to eat out, we head to Cora’s where I’ll have coffee with a vegan smoothie bowl. If my workouts were particularly brutal that week, or if I’ve indulged in excess calories, I will sometimes use intermittent fasting on Saturday mornings as an evidence-based way to recover faster and to maintain a mild calorie deficit. I still make sure to hit all my nutrient targets during the rest of that day. Fasting is only healthy if you eat appropriate nutrients during your eating window.
I never miss my morning coffee and I enjoy it with an almond based creamer. The milk in my coffee was pretty much the last thing that I needed to remove to be 100% plant-based. I had no problem cutting out dairy everywhere else, but it took me almost a year to make the switch from coffee cream, to milk and finally to almond milk. I knew I wanted to do it and I was determined to do it. That’s the one thing that took a little longer for me.
Since I’m at work most of the week, I always have my lunch box packed and ready. For lunch, I’ll typically heat some leftovers or bring a thermos with some vegetable soup in it. To make sure I eat my veggies, we always batch cook lots of soup! I always bring 2 bananas, an apple, a Kashi granola bar and sometimes I pack a plant-based protein bar, or mixed nuts with a few medjool dates. I drink water at lunch, although I’ll occasionally have a second coffee.
For supper, we have a simple rule: try to have as many colours as possible on your plate. Typically, we’d have a plant protein source, like beans, lentils, chickpeas, edamame or tofu. There are many ways to dress them up with herbs, spices and sauces. Then, as a side, we‘d probably have a variety of veggies, like peppers and onions, or cauliflower and broccoli. We very often have a full plate of salted cucumber slices for the whole family to share and enjoy. Some days, we’ll have sweet potato fries, brown rice or quinoa as our complex carb and others, we’ll add chickpea pasta with cashew sauce. For dessert, we almost always have fruit, either watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, apples or berries and most of the time, a mixture of all of them!
If I’m craving a snack during the day, I’ll typically eat mixed nuts, with focus on healthier ones like walnuts. I’ll often mix in granola and/or dates as to get a salty-sweet combo. If I’m on the run, I’ll most certainly have bananas, apples, dates or a plant-based protein bar since they’re super convenient and easy to pack. If I’m craving a more elaborate treat, I’ll most definitely eat my popular smoothie bowl, or make some popcorn with our super healthy and nutrient rich seasoning.
For many people, snacks are where they can rack up the empty calories by eating processed foods that lack nutrients. As you already know, these foods tend to be calorie dense and nutrient poor. They leave you feeling undernourished and craving more food. Many people will also interpret dehydration as a salt craving, so before running to the cupboards, drink some water. If you’re still hungry in a few minutes, then try to reach for fruits and veggies instead of processed food.
Hahaha gotcha!!!! I don’t do cheat meals, I do wholesome and healthier versions of junk food. I eat cake, I eat muffins and I eat ice cream. I simply use plant-based versions of them. When people embark on restrictive weight loss diets, cheat meals or days seem to be the norm. But studies tend to show that cheat meals are counterproductive for those trying to lose weight much in the same way they would be for those trying to get healthier. They destroy progress made during the week and they often maintain our brain’s urge to eat nutrient poor and hyper-palatable processed foods. We don’t ask someone who just stopped cigarettes to have some only on weekends, since that simply never ends well. Brain MRI studies show that the dopamine rush caused by nicotine is pretty much the same as the one caused by unhealthy processed food. Even pictures of doughnuts and milkshakes have been found to light up these same regions in your brain. Why would you want to intentionally create cravings that would put forward progress at risk. Could this be the reason why diets, by definition, are temporary? People eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle tend to not crave unhealthy foods as much. If I want to binge, I can still do it on plant-based comfort foods. The collateral damage will be much lower. There are tons of foods out there that are healthy and can still cure that craving. Achieving a healthy body weight, and living a healthy lifestyle makes it ok to have unhealthy rewards here and there, but you shouldn’t need to designate a specific day to undo the hard work you’ve done. The published science already shows that it’s a bad idea.
One of the weird things you’ll notice on a plant-based diet is that within 2-4 weeks, your taste completely changes. Fruits and veggies start tasting delicious again.
After years of being jolted with excessive and supra-physiological doses of salt, sugar and fat, your tastebuds get dumbed down. They need hyper-processed food to be satisfied. Have you ever taken a bite out of a fruit after drinking sugary juice? The fruits taste like nothing. Now imagine 20 years of processed foods. Studies show that our children are now getting 50-60% of their calories through ultra-processed foods. No wonder real food doesn’t taste like anything anymore. Tastebuds adapt quickly and yes, it is possible to drool while thinking about veggies.
When eating out, we always check the menu for vegan options. When traveling, we email the chef if we don’t find anything on the menu. When eating out with our carnivorous friends, we always find options that accommodate both parties. When we want to binge, we binge on vegan ice cream, vegan cheese, vegan chocolate. You get the point. Vegan food has come a long way since the seventies and it’s become as easy as ever to enjoy food without the animal ingredients. I still enjoy a good BBQ, just not with animals. I still drink milk, just not cow’s milk. I still eat cheese, vegan cheese. People ask me why would I want to eat meat “substitutes”? In return, I would ask you: “why wouldn’t you choose a meat substitute, knowing it’s healthier, better for the planet and shows compassion towards animals?”.
Lots of people get intimidated by “going plant-based”. It took me 18 months to make a full and complete transition and I’ve never looked back. I started by switching one ingredient and for me it was milk.
Then I proceeded to switching one meal and for me that was breakfast. Then I went plant-based for a full day per week and for me it was meatless Monday. Once I could go a full day without meat without dying, I knew that 2 days per week would be easy. I rarely made major changes more than once per month. Even with my intense “black or white” way of seeing things, I quickly recognized that there had to be grey for it to last long term. The main issue with most people ”failing” is that they try to go too fast too soon. If I can leave you with one last tip, it’s “don’t let perfect get in the way of better or good”. As this ranking of dietary patterns illustrates, the goal is to slowly move towards the right.
Thanks for reading and keep taking good care of yourself. For my favourite tips to make the transition, check out my website plantbaseddrjules.com or click here to jump directly to the “how to transition“ section.
If you really want to see for yourself the meals that my family eats on a daily basis, check out or download my free eBook here containing over 20 of my favourite plant-based recipes.
Check out my website plantbaseddrjules.com and look for the “How To” section in the menu. There, you’ll find tips and tricks that helped me on my journey towards a plant-predominant diet. Everything there is completely free, no catches!
Look for me on the socials, @plantbased_dr_jules on Instagram and go like my Facebook Page, Plant-based Dr. Jules. If you’re looking for some fitness motivation and are curious to see what a plant-based athlete can accomplish, follow me, @maritimeninja, on my fitness account on Instagram or check out my fitness group on Facebook, called Maritime Ninja Warrior. I'm a two-time world championship qualified athlete and you can follow my fitness journey there! You can even access the resources section by becoming a member. It's free and there, you can download free resources like my plant-based recipe eBook!
You also check out my YouTube channel here for more tips and tricks on how to embark on a plant-based journey!
Thanks so much for reading!
Plant-Based Dr. Jules 💚🌱