In all my recipes, I have a rough health index.
1/5 (occasionally, once in a month or never)
2/5 (once a week)
3/5 (2 to 3 times a week)
4/5 (4 to 5 times a week)
5/5 (everyday food, highly recommended)
The health index is my estimation of the recommended consumption frequency based on my study on vegan nutrition and cooking experience.
People often ask me whether it’s possible to be an unhealthy vegan, the answer, unfortunately, is yes. If your staple food is refined white bread, white pasta, white potato, white sugar, white rice, lots of fat and spice, lots of sweets and ice creams, even if it’s all vegan, you will still gain weight and you won’t be healthy at all. Actually, vegan actor Jared Leto fed himself such foods in order to become fat for the role Mark David Chapman in the movie Chapter 27 (Click here for the picture, he’s very devoted to his acting but please don’t imitate), of course, now Jared is back to his normal state. ;)
When food goes through a lot of processing, nutrition is lost on the way. Some industries might restore some minerals or vitamins back, but it is never the same quality as the original one. To eat healthy vegan food, you should concentrate on lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, raw nuts and seeds, moderate amount of healthy fats, beans and grains, be gentle on spices, and only go for dessert (unless it’s fruit and nut-based raw dessert, which I call everyday dessert) occasionally.
Another crucial factor that affects the nutrition in food is the way it’s prepared. Heat will destroy most of the enzymes in the plants, which are supposed to help you digest. Some vitamins are lost into the water or vapor, when it’s boiled. Of course, some vegetables can’t be digested well by human beings, such as root vegetables, so certain cooking is required.
Here is a rough comparison of cooking methods from good to bad:
raw > steam > stir-fry or sauté > boil > stew > bake > grill > deep fry
I don’t recommend using microwave even though it’s convenient. I just don’t like the way it cooks the food. You can Google more on that if you’re interested.
The servings are only used for reference, as there are different standards. I designed most of the recipes based on a single person’s consumption, so a salad is normally 1 serving for 1 person per meal. While a Chinese dish might have 1-2 servings, that means if you only have the dish to accompany rice, you can eat 1 serving per meal, or if you are sharing with another person, you can eat two different dishes, hence the 2 servings.
I understand for beginners, they might have a transit period, and they might need to consume some not-so-healthy dishes to “get used to” vegan diet, such as mock meat or faux meat products, it is not ideal but still better than meat. For vegetarians or vegans, they will occasionally miss some comfort food they used to eat before. It’s OK to break the rule once in a while, no need to beat yourself up for that. As long as you have those guidelines in mind, and try to include the healthy food as much as possible into your diet, you’re doing fine. :-) Remember, it’s about including and making positive changes, not excluding and avoiding this and that. ;-)