As a 16 year old plant-based athlete, I’m constantly moving.  From running track and cross country, surfing and playing tennis to doing yoga.

I wasn’t always this way.  When I was younger I would groan about the one mile walks my parents would drag me on.  Not to mention eating any vegetables.  And when I finally decided to improve my health, eating plant-based was definitely not my first thought.

But becoming a plant-based athlete has completely transformed every aspect of my life.  From my confidence and athletic performance, to my empathy, drive, mood.

How I decided to become a plant-based teen

My transition to veganism came from a place of wanting to see how I could help my mood and health.

Why I decide to go plant based? It all started during COVID when I began switching my diet because I had more time and I wanted to explore what felt good to me.

In my early teens, I had a lot of stomach issues and a lot of difficulty with growing up. I had bad skin, never felt motivated, and had trouble sleeping. The transition to a plant based lifestyle made my transition so much easier!

plant-based teen athlete runner ct lifestyle medicine

My skin cleared up and the amount of breakouts I had decreased. And I became more intuitive with my sleeping habits, getting more tired when the sun goes down. Plus, I began working out and improving my grades because of all my new energy.

How I transitioned to being a plant-based athlete

The transition from eating copious amounts of meat and dairy was a long one and took a lot of experimenting.  There were weeks at a time where I would try avoiding certain foods that bothered my stomach.

The first step was removing dairy.  The difference was uncanny. My skin immediately cleared up and my digestion improved completely.  Yet I still felt foggy and slow.  Months after removing dairy I tried a week without red meat.  This led to no meat and I felt a complete shift in my mental health, energy levels, and mood.

I started to replace these foods with foods that made me feel good.  Fueling my body with sweet potatoes, smoothie bowls, baked tofu, and different vegetables. I started having fun with food, trying different recipes and cuisines I had never heard about. 

My family has come to love vegan spinach artichoke dip for super bowl, pita pizzas with all sorts of fun toppings, and one of our absolute favorites are Vietnamese summer rolls with mango and fresh cilantro; all of which have become staple weekend meals. I also tried my hand at making my own baked recipes, like decadent chocolate muffins or cinnamon bun bread without any of the dairy, white sugar, eggs, or oil.

Although I love my staple favorites, the way I eat is always changing based on how I am feeling, for example more fresh foods in the summer and more grounding hearty foods in the winter. Forks Over Knives, for example, has incredibly inspired options for exploring new plant based food recipes; they have a recipe for everything from dumplings to nachos.

My Favorite Baked Recipes:

Making plant-based work for me as a teenager

In order for meals to work for me, they need to be fast. I keep the  key ingredients consistent, it must be tasty and provide good lasting energy.

As a plant-based athlete who also balances school, there’s hardly any time to make extravagant meals. So I often batch cook lots of a weekly grain in the instant pot or rice cooker, prepare a type of bean, tofu, or lentil and bake something for breakfast and snacks each week.

Then, I always make sure to keep ready made sauces, plant milks, snacks, and nut butters on hand; why make it if it already exists?

Finally, keeping breakfast and lunch simple and based on prepped foods has been a lifesaver when it comes to time management.

Key plant based meals for weekly rotation

Breakfast– Quick cooking oats
– Whole grain breads: English muffins, toast, wraps
– Granola

– Soymilk
– Tofu (scrambled tofu)
– Nut butters; almond, peanut, hazelnut
– Seeds; flax, chia, hemp
– Bananas
– Berries
– Citrus
– Apples
Lunch– Lentils
– Quinoa
– Buckwheat
– Wild rice
– Black beans
– Chickpeas
– Frozen peas
– Frozen edamame
– Tofu
– Tempeh
– Tahini dressing
– Sweet and sour sauce
– Peanut dressing
– Japanese BBQ sauce
– Salsa
– Hummus
– Frozen brocoli, cauliflower, corn, carrots
– Salad: lettuce, tomato, fruit, onion, cucumber, herbs
– Steamed Kale
– Roasted corn, peppers, onions
Dinner– Whole grain pasta: buckwheat noodles, whole wheat, chickpea, lentil
– Potatoes: Sweet potatos, fingerling , russet, golden potatos
– breads: cornbread, olive bread
– Lentil bolognese sauce
– Hearty soups: chilli; indian lentil, split pea
– avocado
– seeds
– yogurts or sour cream
– Saurkrout
– pickles
– Kimchi
– Frozen brocoli, cauliflower, corn, carrots
– Salad: lettuce, tomato, fruit, onion, cucumber, herbs
– Steamed Kale
– Roasted corn, peppers, onions
Snacks– Whole grain crackers
– Rice cakes
– Baby potatos
– Pretzels
– Well Bean bars
– Black bean brownies
– Baked tofu
– Roasted beans: edamame, chickpeas
– Soymilk
– Hummus
– Nut butters
– Dark chocolate
– Lara Bars
– Carrots
– Radishes
– Tomatos
– Snap peas
– Watermelon
– Berries
– Citrus
– Apples/bananas

My favorite recipes

Quick Go-To Meals

Top 3 tips for getting started

  1. If you are trying to make the switch to being a plant based teen athlete, transition slowly! Start by eating less of the products you can live without and go from there. There’s no rush and lasting changes take time.
  2. Also, a realistic whole food plant-based lifestyle depends on meal prep foods that take longer. Start by making foods you like in the plant kingdom. For example, if you like lasagna make a plant based version or if you like fried rice find a delicious alternative.
  3. Be intuitive and make meals easy if you are tired; every meal doesn’t need to be complicated.
  4. Most importantly, have fun with the process. Flavors of spices, herbs and fresh foods are delicious and great to share! Try one new recipe a week until you have a repertoire of ones you love.