How does a minimalist eat? Just a few grains of rice each day, perhaps? Leo Babauta provides us some inspirations about minimalist eating. A minimalist would more likely eat less, prepare food simply with few ingredients, eat mindfully, and eat sustainably.

Here’s how.

Minimal eating

Veganism, simply defined, is abstaining from animal products, from meat and fish and poultry to dairy and eggs and other such products. I also try for whole foods that are minimally processed, which means I mostly eat veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, some whole grains.

This is a limited, minimal diet, and yet it can be incredibly satisfying and maximally flavorful. It’s also very healthy, very light, and low on the budget (if you compare it to eating whole foods carnivorously).

A small amount of ingredients. Light on the palate and stomach. Easy to prepare, with a minimum of fuss.
The most sustainable diet

I won’t go into the figures here (they’re covered better elsewhere), but raising animals for meat, eggs and dairy is incredibly wasteful. For every pound of meat or dairy, many times that amount of plants must be used to feed the animals for those products.

Animals also produce a huge amount of pollution and contribute immensely to greenhouse gases, not to mention the machinery and fuel that’s used to raise, slaughter and transport them … and all the plants needed to feed them. They contribute hugely to deforestation and other environmental problems as well.

Eating only plants cuts that waste to a minimal amount, and is so much better for the environment. Minimalists who care about living lightly and sustainably would do well to research this and consider it.
Minimal cruelty

One of the main reasons for becoming a vegan is that we don’t believe animals should be held captive, suffer, and be slaughtered for our pleasure.

There is absolutely no need for humans to consume animal products to live a healthy life. Sure, we’ve eaten them for millions of years, but as millions and millions of people have proven, you can eat a vegan diet and be healthy.

And so, the only reason to eat animal products is pleasure — you like the taste and “can’t give it up”. Vegans don’t believe animals should suffer for our pleasure, and becoming vegan means you’re opting out of a society that treats animals with extreme cruelty and pretends it doesn’t happen.

Eat less. If you’re overweight, eating less is absolutely the best thing you can do. If you’re underweight, eating less isn’t a good idea. But the Okinawans, reknowned for their incredible health and longetivity, do so well in part because they eat fewer calories than most people. They stop when they’re 80% full. I’ve been doing this with great results. Trick is to cut back on your portions a little at a time, and your stomach slowly grows smaller. It’s not hard if you do it slowly, gradually. Don’t starve yourself, but learn to eat until you’re almost full — after 5 minutes, you’ll realize you really are full.

Fewer ingredients. Try three-ingredient recipes (other than spices, oil & water) — there are lots of them on the web. I like oatmeal, nuts & fruit (with cinnamon); black bean chili with tomatoes (and cilantro, cayenne, chiles, salt); black beans & quinoa; soy yogurt, berries & nuts; coconut flakes, fruit & soymilk; apples & almonds. You get the idea.

Simple preparation. The above dishes require very little preparation. If you really love cooking, this tip won’t be for you, but for those who normally eat out or eat packaged foods, it’s important to find foods that don’t require a lot of prep time. You want to do little work with few ingredients — just fresh, real food that is flavorful and healthy.

Eating mindfully. Instead of eating while you watch TV, try paying attention to each bite, savoring your food and getting the most out of it while eating less.

Eating sustainably. A plug for veganism, which is more sustainable than meat and dairy because plants require fewer resources (yes, even fewer than free-range animals). If everyone became vegan, we’d have more than enough food to feed the world, and we’d use fewer resources with less carbon emissions.

Living lightly, not always conveniently. If your definition of minimalism involves always choosing the most convenient, easiest options, then veganism might not be the most minimal choice. It can sometimes be inconvenient, when eating at restaurants that aren’t vegan-friendly or at the homes of non-vegan friends or family.

That’s a reality, but in truth, it’s not that hard. I mostly cook my own food, with a minimum of preparation, and so most days I have no problems whatsoever.

More and more restaurants are becoming vegan-friendly, and the ones that aren’t can usually whip up a quick and simple vegetable dish on request. I usually avoid McDonald’s and most fast food anyway. When I go to someone else’s house, I usually bring a dish with me, and friends and family who know me best often will cook a dish for me out of consideration.

So it’s not that hard. My suggestion, if you’re interested, is starting small: try a couple vegan dishes this week, a couple next week, and so on. There’s no need to drastically change overnight, but in time you’ll find that vegan dishes are delicious and the vegan lifestyle is wonderfully minimalist.

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