Let’s say that this past week you did a one-hour vinyasa yoga flow every day followed by a fifteen-minute self-love meditation, and then went to Taco Bell and engorged 1,500 calories of heavily-processed tacos.
That’s a balanced, healthy lifestyle, right?
If you’re craving Taco Bell, or you’re short on money and have a taco or two there once in a blue moon, it’s not the end of the world.
Personally, a vegan burger at Fat Burger called the “Impossible Burger” is my gluttonous meal of choice!
With that being said, if fast food is a big portion of your diet, it could negatively affect your overall health and your yoga practice greatly over time.
You may often feel fatigued in day-to-day life or weighed down when you’re in Downward Facing Dog pose.
Chances are, you’re probably already feeling some of the side effects if you felt drawn to the title of this article.
If you’re finding that you’d like to maintain a healthy weight, feel more energetic and light when you practice yoga, and strongly increase your chances of living long and comfortable, you’ll be intrigued by the tips and information I have to share with you.
The Yoga Diet Plan: How Yogis Eat WellWhile there isn’t one specific way a yogi must eat, there are ways to eat that will help you get the nutrition you need, help you feel light when you practice yoga asana and meditation, as well as boost your mood.
Most people know that eating fruits and veggies is good for your body, but what is the perspective on grains and meat as a yogi?
We’ll dive into that today, and I will give you guidance to design your meals to make them ideal for a yogi lifestyle.
A Plant-based Diet is Common
You may or may not have known that vegetarian and vegan diets are frequently the choice for both traditional yogis and modern-day yogis.
Wonder why that is?
Here are five reasons that I went vegan and why other yogis have too!
Ahimsa means nonviolence in Sanskrit. It is one of the yamas (ethical rules) in the philosophy of Ashtanga yoga that dedicated yogis try hard to follow.
It can be in relation to environmentalism and not cutting down trees, not physically harming other humans, or in the case of food, not hurting animals.
To eat an animal in modern-day America, someone often kills the animal, butchers it and then ships it to a company to be packaged.
Many yogis such as myself are against this, and therefore do not take part in eating meat. Quite frankly, for me, it only took one video that I watched on Bite Size Vegan’s YouTube channel to put me in tears and switch to vegan during the next meal.
If you haven’t seen her channel, and are curious about veganism, I highly recommend it.
Easy to Digest
While many vegetables can be fibrous and difficult to break down, they are still easier to digest than steak, chicken, and pork. Meat and poultry can take at least four hours to digest, yet you can digest a plant-based meal in about two hours.
Vegetables and fruit also have a high water content, so the water from the food helps the nutrients to be absorbed quicker, and extra waste to go through the colon and intestines easier, with constipation being a rare occurrence for vegetarians and vegan.
I can vouch that I have been vegan for 4 years and not once have I had an issue going number two.
Sorry for giving TMI, but it is a valuable reason to remove meat from the diet, and if one of you out there has this problem, I could save you from a future case of colon cancer!
Low-Calorie and Highly Nourishing
Any nutrition course will show you this. A plate full of cooked veggies with a fourth of grains and a cup of fruit is going to be fewer calories than a six-ounce steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a few bits of buttered broccoli.
Vegetables and fruit are very low calorie, and full of valuable nutrition. Grains, beans, and nuts are higher calorie, but still good to have in moderation for the minerals and fiber it contains.
If you have a veggie salad on a dinner plate and chop up some toasted almonds to sprinkle on top for protein and slice pickled olives for omega-3 fatty acids, it’s still going to be a lot fewer calories than the steak dinner.
When eating plant-based yoga diet, the yogi can eat more food for less calories and higher nutrient value than a meat eater.
A Plant-Based Yoga Diet Boosts Your Mood
When I have a green smoothie first thing in the morning, I can’t explain how much energy and happiness I feel throughout my body.
Positive thoughts are constantly fired from neuron to neuron, and my negativity and morning grumpiness disappears. Of course, this is also combined with seven to eight hours of sleep, but even with the smoothie alone, I still feel better when I didn’t get enough shut-eye.
I’ll give you one of my best smoothie recipes, so you can feel what I mean:
I’ll usually mix in a handful of spinach because it’s light in flavor, a spoon of peanut butter for satiation and protein, a teaspoon of ground flaxseed for mood-boosting omega 3s, a banana for potassium and sugar, some vanilla soy milk for vitamin B-12 and delicious flavor, and water for hydration and thinning the smoothie.
Be sure to add more water than soy milk, so the smoothie isn’t too caloric.
Smoothies are super simple, but other vegetarian and vegan meals give the same sensation of euphoria because you’re helping the body stay healthy and function optimally. On top of that, you feel light and energized which will immediately make you feel great!
Less Chance of Cancer
Many studies show that out of all the human diets, the vegan diet (our recommended yoga diet plan) results in the least chance of cancer.
Vegetarians have the second best chance of being cancer-free, with omnivores and those who eat a lot of red meat having higher chances of cancer.
Cancer is life-threatening and is the scary reality for a lot of people. I grew up with a mom who was an oncology nurse and has had the ingrained fear of cancer in me since I was a kid.
If you want to greatly decrease your chances of getting cancers, especially of the heart, liver, and colon, switch to a plant-based diet.
But Is it Okay to Eat Meat?
The short answer is “yes”. Most compassionate and experienced yogis would not want another human to miss out on the incredible benefits of a yoga practice and lifestyle, regardless of their diet.
Many yogis that are omnivores are still loving, healthy people that have their personal reasons for not switching to a plant-based diet. However, you may want to ask yourself why it would be challenging for you to part from eating meat and poultry.
Is it because of fear that you will be mocked by peers, or that you will feel left out during the holidays?
Is it because of nostalgia you experience from childhood while seeing and eating the food? Is it because you’re anemic and struggle to get iron in your diet?
Rather than dismissing the idea of eating a vegetarian diet altogether, I do recommend trying it out, or at the very least pondering your connection with eating meat and poultry.
These exercises alone can deepen your spiritual, physical and emotional practice within yoga.
If you try them and still find valuable reasons for eating meat and poultry such as wanting more protein, that will be respected by good yogis and myself, so don’t worry about being judged or excluded.
I would only ask that you give the same respect to vegetarians and vegans.
The Yoga Diet Plan: Guidelines for Each Meal
Rather than giving you one meal plan, I felt that it would be more beneficial if I gave you guidelines for each meal, so you could adjust each meal to be right for you.
I know some of you will eat meat, some of you will eat plant-based, some will be trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight, and some will have allergies.
It would take writing a book to write meal plans for all of you, so use this guideline as your first step to healthier eating, and then continue your research to perfect what you eat in a day.
Please do not skip breakfast. Breakfast is so important for revving up your metabolism, helping you wake up and be productive in the morning, and preventing you from overeating at lunchtime.
If you’re a morning yogi, start your day with lemon water, tea or coffee, and practice on an empty or shallow stomach, only eating a banana or drinking organic juice.
Once you have finished yoga, be sure to eat a meal high in protein and carbs, but low in fat. Try oatmeal with fruit or a smoothie with nut butter or protein powder.
Do not add more than a teaspoon of nut butter if you’re trying to lose weight. If you’re trying to gain weight, add nuts to your oatmeal with the fruit.
Let’s say you’re hungry because you didn’t eat enough breakfast, but it’s not quite your lunchtime yet. What should you pick up as a snack?
Stick to water and fiber-filled fruit such as melon slices, apples, or grapes. Veggies like raw broccoli or carrots and two tablespoons of hummus is another option.
The key is to keep snacks plant-based and light, so you’re not weighed down and tired.
If you want to gain weight or maintain weight, a handful of organic dried fruit and nuts mixed together is another option, but make sure not to eat too many nuts.
If you’re not vegan or vegetarian, I also strongly recommend that you try eating two hard-boiled eggs as a snack. I haven’t done it for years, but before I went vegan, it did help when I craved protein without the extra fat.
While it’s fine to eat cooked food for lunch, I still strongly recommend eating raw food with your meal, so you don’t get the afternoon slump.
I usually will stick to veggie sandwiches on wheat bread, vegan sushi that has avocado, plant-based bean and leafy salads with vinaigrette, falafel pitas, filling fruit and nut butter smoothies and high fiber veggie or grain soups for lunch, which energize me until my afternoon snack or dinner.
It may seem you won’t get enough calories, but if you add beans to salads and soups, and vegan mayo or avocado to sandwiches, you’ll stay satisfied for hours!
If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, have chicken, fish or turkey in your meals for extra lean protein and fiber.
If you eat a heavy meal such as an XXL cheeseburger with fries and a soda, or chicken alfredo with a mimosa, you’re going to regret it when you go back to work and want to sleep until the end of your shift, or when you get home and you were planning to clean the living room and bathroom.
Not only will it make you tired, it will leave your body still craving nutrients, which will then cause you to reach for more food. Eat nutrient-dense food instead, to consume fewer calories and more wellness!
Treat an afternoon snack the same as you would a morning snack. This is a time to add calories and nutrients to your daily intake that you didn’t get from the previous meal.
Keep it light, water-dense, and listen to your body to figure out what you need.
Try to finish dinner within two or three hours of bedtime. So if you go to bed at 10 pm, try to eat at 7 pm. I know this isn’t realistic all the time, but this is a good rule to have because dinner is the best time to eat a heavier meal, and this gives you time to digest.
The reason it’s good to eat a heavy meal for dinner is because it will make you tired, and therefore, you’ll be able to sleep well for the night.
When I say to eat a heavy meal, I don’t necessarily mean eating that processed, XXL cheeseburger I was talking about.
What I mean is that it’s okay to have some roasted sweet potatoes with a lean chicken breast or seasoned, sautéed tofu, and steamed peas with a teaspoon of earth balance butter.
Or, your favorite Thai veggie curry with brown rice, or tofu tikka masala from your favorite Indian restaurant with a couple slices of whole wheat pita bread and hummus.
Eat cooked meals that still contains vitamins, minerals and healthy sources of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you are probably a dessert lover.
I won’t lie.
I love vegan chocolate chip cookies, the fact that Ben and Jerry’s came out with non-dairy fudge brownie dessert, and all that delicious stuff.
These are okay to have!
Cake is okay to have!
Just don’t eat it every day.
If you want something sweet at night, buy a case of organic strawberries, or a watermelon, or navel oranges if it’s winter time. Fruit is a great dessert.
If you eat enough of it (not the recommended 8 strawberries that they assume you’re having dipped in chocolate), you will be satisfied for the evening.
Some Final Thoughts on the Preferred Yoga Diet
The preferred yoga diet is going to be different from yogi to yogi, but hopefully, you’ve learned some information today that has given you a clearer idea of how you want to eat.
If you want to be able to get leaner, stronger, healthier and advance your poses, it’s vital to eat a healthy diet, whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan.
This is possible for each diet because we have a variety of sources available to us for all the macro- and micronutrients our body needs to thrive from fruit, vegetables, legumes, meat, poultry, fish, oils, and nuts.
Decide what diet suits you best, and then continue to research recipes, meal plans, and nutrition information until you feel that how you’re eating is best serving your health, as well as your yoga practice.