5 Easy Vegan Recipes for Hungry Athletes

A plant-based diet could help boost your fitness, but eating enough veggies to feel full can be a challenge for some people. Vegan food tends to be less calorically dense than meat- and dairy-heavy meals, so we sought out heartier options from four athletes with big appetites. Whether you’re a full-time vegan or just looking to cut down on your animal-product intake, these recipes offer great ideas for preworkout fuel, midmission snacks, and recovery meals. 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl

New York City-based runner, community organizer, and Adidas ambassador Jessie Zapo opts for an easy, filling breakfast. “Being hyperactive and often pressed for time, I like to have a simple start to my day [with something] that tastes good and gives me energy,” she says. She prepares a base, usually a sweet potato puree or cashew yogurt, and then adds different toppings depending on her mood—and what she can find at her local bodega.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large sweet potato 
  • 1 cup plain nut milk 
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh organic blueberries
  • 1/2 cup low-sugar granola
  • 1 tablespoon hemp protein powder

Optional toppings:

  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon organic maca powder
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas

Directions:

Peel the sweet potato and chop into one-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the sweet potato, and boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until soft when poked. Then toss it into the blender with the nut milk, coconut oil, and salt. (You can prepare this in advance and store in the refrigerator.) Mix the puree with the blueberries, granola, and hemp protein to use as a base, then add toppings.

‘Cheesy’ Garlic Chickpeas

Registered dietitian and ultrarunner Amy Tribolini specializes in helping athletes pursue their endurance goals while eating a plant-based diet. Plenty of popular snacks are animal-product free—like potato chips—but you don’t have to sacrifice nutrition for a satisfying, savory crunch. Flavorful roasted chickpeas make a healthier alternative to gas-station junk food and work just as well as a postrun treat as they do atop a salad. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Distribute drained chickpeas evenly on a sheet pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove chickpeas from the pan and toss them in a bowl with the sea salt, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, and olive oil. Spread the seasoned chickpeas back on the pan, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Stir the chickpeas, return to the oven, and turn the oven off. Let the chickpeas sit in the oven as it cools, which helps them dry out and develop a crispy texture. Enjoy immediately or store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks. To mix things up, experiment with different flavor combinations using spices like dill, black pepper, cayenne pepper, turmeric, or chili powder.

No-Bake Fig Bars and Apricot-Tahini Balls

Registered dietitian and bikepacking extraordinaire Matthew Kadey loves plant-based snacks for long days in the saddle. Without eggs or dairy, vegan options will keep in your jersey pockets, even in hot weather, he says. Kadey’s simple recipes—which you can find in his cookbook, Rocket Fuel—are packed with carbohydrates and nutrient-dense ingredients. 

No-Bake Fig Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried figs
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces

Directions:

Place figs in a large bowl, cover with hot water, and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain figs and pat away excess moisture with a paper towel. Then blend the drained figs, almond flour, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until the mixture clumps together. Pulse in walnuts. Line an eight-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving about a one-inch overhang. Add fig mixture to the pan and, using damp hands, press the mixture flat (to about three-fourths of an inch thick). Place pan in the freezer until contents have firmed up, about an hour. Lift the bar mixture out of the pan with the help of the parchment paper, and slice into nine squares. Keep bars chilled in the refrigerator or freezer.

Apricot-Tahini Balls

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place oats in a food processor and pulse until pulverized. Add remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Using damp hands, roll into one-inch-size balls. Makes about 14. Keep chilled.

Spaghetti Squash Dinner

“Being vegan and an athlete, you have to be a bit creative to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need,” says Under Armour ultrarunner Sarah Cotton. “That has led to a lot of discoveries about foods and recipes that I probably never would have found.” Cotton often opts for spaghetti squash, thanks to its versatility and low price point. And here’s her favorite way to enjoy it—with homemade pesto and sautéed vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • Spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups basil
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until soft. Use a food processor to blend the basil, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, the nutritional yeast, pine nuts, lemon juice (also to taste), and garlic into a simple homemade pesto. Sauté the broccoli and mushrooms (and any other veggies you want) in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Use a fork to loosen the “spaghetti” from the squash’s skin. Top with pesto, veggies, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Outside Magazine: Fitness

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