Thank you to Triflare Tribe Member Vienna for giving us tips,and insight into her vegan/triathlete lifestyle. We are excited to have you as part of the tribe and thank you for sharing all of your wonderful tips!
Vienna Morrill is a self-described “everyday athlete” who lives in Cape Elizabeth, ME with her husband and two cats, Chloe and Ahab. When she’s not working or sleeping, chances are you will find her playing and training somewhere in the great outdoors or experimenting and “taste testing” in her home kitchen. Her latest focus? Training for her first 25K trail run and Olympic distance triathlon, and creating aged nut-based cheeses (think sharp cheddar, but made from cashews)!
Vienna holds a master’s degree in accounting, a certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University, and is a graduate of Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy. She believes in the power of food to address our greatest chronic health challenges, support environmental sustainability, and improve animal welfare. You can follow Vienna on instagram: @viennamorrill
In Vienna's words:
Among the athletic community, there’s growing recognition that plant-based diets can help reduce inflammation, speed up recovery, and give you an edge on the competition. I made the change to a plant-based diet for many of the same reasons that drove me to try my first triathlon. I enjoy finding ways to optimize my health and seeing what my body’s capable of, and I love a good challenge. The biggest surprise? Eating a plant-based diet was more rewarding than it was challenging - especially once I tuned into a few key strategies and discovered some helpful guidance in the vegan community.
As a vegan who focuses on consuming an unrefined, whole-food, plant-based diet, there is little that differentiates what I eat on a typical Tuesday night during the off-season and what I eat the week of a big race. Of course, as my training season picks up my calorie consumption grows, but the quality of my meals remains fairly consistent. Eating this way has allowed me to stay active year-round and avoid overuse injuries that plague so many athletes. It also allows me stay sharp, healthy, and energized in all aspects of my life - there are days when I literally want to jump out of bed!
Search #vegansofig on instagram and you’ll quickly become hungry. Next, you’ll either become very ambitious and create a 50 item shopping list that you’ll later realize is a bit over-zealous (eyes bigger than your schedule?) or you’ll simply become overwhelmed by the barrage of delectable buddha bowls, multi-layered smoothies, perfectly wrapped spring rolls, and lentil meatballs atop beds of cauliflower rice and pesto dressed zoodles. Here’s the thing - you don’t need to get fancy. And you may even discover that beautifully plated meals happen naturally when you start focusing your meals around vegetables.
For this blog post, I thought it would be helpful to provide some specific suggestions that can help make nutritionally dense, plant-based meals more accessible for busy athletes.
For starters, pretty much all veggies go together. I’ve yet to find a veggie combination that’s terrible. So go ahead - clean out your veggie drawer and throw everything in a bowl with some chickpeas and grains. And get some avocados. Everything tastes better with avocado and a little sea salt.
If you were to come to me and ask for a vegan grocery store tour, here are a few of the products that I would be certain to point out:
Big box of pre-washed greens - Perhaps this seems obvious, but those 1 pound boxes of pre-washed organic greens can be a lifesaver. Throw a handful in your smoothie, add them to soup (always add your greens after your soup is done and let them wilt under the lid), salads, sandwiches… or if you’re crazy like me, eat a handful straight out of the box before your morning run!
Vibrant veggies - When it comes to veggies, aim for organic and buy what looks fresh. If you can, buy local as well. Fresh veggies always taste better!
Pre-cooked Grains - This is a new discovery for me, and I love how these packets transform a ho-hum salad into a truly satisfying meal. Look for these packets in the grain section of your grocery store, or order through a service like Amazon or Thrive Market.
Ezekiel Bread - I keep a loaf of this organic, sprouted grain bread in my freezer. The sprouting process makes it easier to absorb nutrients and increases overall digestibility. Individual slices thaw quickly and provide a delicious go-to option for sandwiches and toast.
Frozen Organic Corn - I add this to my salads straight from the bag… it only needs an hour or so to thaw and it provides my salads with a satisfying sweet crunch!
Field Roast or Tofurky Sausage - Convenient, hearty, and flavorful, I love having these Italian sausages on hand for a quick pasta dinner or as a pizza topping with mushrooms, peppers, onions and sauce.
Beyond Meat products - Generally, I’m not a huge fan of fake meat (aside from my slight obsession with the sausages mentioned above). However, if you’re trying to follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet, but still craving meat, give Beyond Meat’s products a try. They’re close enough to the “real thing” to send your unknowing vegetarian dinner guest into a panic!
Tempeh - Ease your way into tempeh with some tempeh bacon (Lightlife makes a good organic option). Heat it up and make yourself a TLT (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato) on sprouted grain bread with some vegan mayo.
Vegan Cheese - Like many people exploring the prospect of going vegan, I didn’t think I could give up cheese. However, with brands like Kite Hill, Miyokos Kitchen, and Field Roast rapidly expanding and improving upon their non-dairy cheeses, cheese no longer has to be your achilles heel to vegan success.
Nutritional Yeast - Sprinkle this on veggie bowls, salads, pizza, or pasta. Look for brands that are fortified with Vitamin B12, as this is one area where vegan athletes can run into deficiency issues.
Vegan Ice Cream - With all that running, biking, and swimming, I feel justified indulging in a little treat from time to time. Vegan ice cream has come a long way over the past few years. My favorite brands are Coconut Bliss and So Delicious’ Cashew Milk variety.
Okay, so now you have some ideas for products. Now let’s move from the shopping cart to the dinner table. Below, I’ve provided a week’s worth of plant-powered dinners, many of which will provide you with leftovers for plant-powered lunches as well.
Pizza or Pasta Night - Buy some pre-made multi-grain pizza dough or cook up your pasta of choice and top with sauteed brussel sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, tomato chunks, and kalamata olives. For a little extra substance, add some vegan italian sausage or toasted chickpeas tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Veggie and Grain Bowl (aka Buddha Bowl) - Choose a grain, a protein (tofu, beans, chickpeas, tempeh, veggie burger, hemp seeds), and a few of your favorite veggies. Don’t be afraid to combine raw veggies with cooked veggies.
For an easy tofu rendition, simply toss crumbled tofu in salt, pepper, chilli powder, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. Warm it up in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 F, or enjoy it raw.
Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes - Bake some sweet potatoes and top them with whatever suits your taste - Try smashed avocado, diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, scallions, and crumbled tempeh bacon.
Doctored Up Packaged Soup - Find a quality canned/packaged soup that you enjoy and doctor it up with some fresh veggies. I love adding bok choy, cubed tofu, and mushrooms to Lotus Foods’ packaged miso ramen soups. Or try tossing some halved cherry tomatoes, frozen corn, green peppers, and baby spinach into black bean soup!
Sweet Potato, Quinoa, White Bean and Kale Soup - With the notes of thyme and coconut, this soup is warming and down-right heavenly!
Chickpea Salad Sandwiches or Lettuce Wraps - To make chickpea salad, combine canned chickpeas (or cook up a big batch of your own) with vegan mayo, diced red onion, halved red grapes, salt, and pepper.
One-hour Lentil Shepherd's Pie - Great for a one-dish family meal or if you want leftovers!
Easy living on a whole foods, plant-based diet requires a combination of planning, prep, and ready-made products. If you’re like me, you may find the idea of growing your own produce and preparing elaborate meals from scratch on a daily basis to be quite romantic, yet your job, family, and commitment to becoming a stronger athlete keep this aspiration in the fairy-tale zone. Those 1-pound containers of pre-washed greens, microwaveable packets of organic grains, freezable/make-ahead recipes, and an ever-growing list of yummy vegan products…. These are things that make it possible to not only get by on a plant-based diet, but to thrive on crave-worthy plant-powered meals on a daily basis.
If you’re interested in learning more about plant-based diets for athletes, there are many resources available on the web. I highly recommend checking out Rich Roll, Brendan Brazier, and the No Meat Athlete.