Last substantive edit: December 5, 2023
See https://github.com/vipulnaik/diet-exercise-health/blob/master/notes/health-profile.md#diet for a more health-focused (and shorter) summary of my diet.
What I eat these days: vegatarianism and veganism
I have been vegetarian since childhood. In mid-late 2019, I shifted more in the direction of veganism, by stopping all regular consumption of dairy products. Since then, my dairy consumption is limited to small amounts of dairy found in outside meals as well as some packaged foods. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the frequency of outside meals with small amounts of dairy reduced to a few times a year (most of my takeout dishes are dairy-free); by March 2022, I also phased out packaged foods that have known/intended amounts of dairy.
I do not consume honey or eggs, though I have had both of those when young. My vegetarianism is primarily a result of habit and health considerations. In November 2017, I started taking supplements (Vitamin D and B12) to address some nutrient deficiencies created by vegetarianism; I added omega-3 supplements in early 2020. Animal welfare and suffering considerations are not a primary reason for my vegetarianism, but do create an additional disincentive to exploring meat consumption. See also my moral profile page.
What I eat these days: foods I purchase
I do not keep a food consumption log, but I have been recording food purchases since March 2021 here (see here for my thoughts on why I only record purchases and not consumption). I’ve also been recording supplement consumption since early 2020 here. Together, these paint a picture of the kind of food and supplements I consume.
As of December 2023, my food is mostly as follows:
- Food from Trader Joe’s, that falls in these categories: produce/greens (some in raw form, some in cut/peeled/shelled form), some prepared foods that do not need microwaving (sauerkraut, almond milk, miso soup), tortillas/flatbread, and walnuts.
- Udupi Palace food, that is usually spinach masala dosa (when doing takeout) or bisi bele bhath (when dining in, which I usually do only when meeting somebody). This makes up about 10-15% of my meals, though the exact proportion varies. Generally, I get takeout from Udupi Palace whenever I go to Trader Joe’s for shopping, though I might skip the Udupi Palace trip sometimes or it might be closed on the day or time of my Trader Joe’s trip.
- Occasional rice from Trader Joe’s or Berkeley Bowl: I keep some rice as a backup if I run out of tortillas and can’t go shopping due to weather or time constraints, or if I’m having health issues that necessitate simpler forms of food.
- Occasional vegan probiotic yogurt from Berkeley Bowl: I get vegan probiotic yogurt from Berkeley Bowl when I’ve having throat issues or other health issues that make sauerkraut difficult.
- Occasional meals at other outside places, either dine-in or takeout (think once every 1-2 years per place): Kitava in San Francisco, Pakwan in San Francisco, Imm Thai Street Food, Bangkok Thai Cuisine, Mehak Indian Cuisine, Chipotle.
Food from the supermarket (mostly Trader Joe’s, sometimes Berkeley Bowl), makes up about 85% of my meals, and takeout (mostly from Udupi Palace) makes up about 15% of my meals. The exact proportion fluctuates.
- I do meal prep in a large stainless steel pot. I cook on generally low heat but for a longer period of time, keeping the food covered.
- I use extra virgin olive oil for the base — generally about enough to cover the entire base of the pan. I may also add a bit of olive oil on top after putting everything in. I generally wait about 2-3 minutes between turning the heat on and adding the olive oil.
- I add condiments to the olive oil at the base before adding vegetables or other large things. The condiments I use are: turmeric (haldi), cumin (zeera), and sometimes red pepper / ceyenne pepper and cinnamon.
- I generally put spinach at the lowest layer among vegetables. This is pre-cut, pre-washed spinach. The spinach loses its volume upon cooking as it releases water, so adding it early helps free up space sooner.
- Beyond this, the remaining things I add depend on the type of preparation. For a standard mixed vegetables prep, I use: cut and peeled carrots, eggplant (manually cut by me), green bell peppers (manually cut by me), and red bell peppers (manually cut by me). For a potatoes prep, I use: pre-shelled peas and/or pre-washed beans, and potatoes (manually cut by me).
- In all cases, I add a bunch of beefsteak tomatoes (manually cut by me) on top. The tomatoes give liquidity and the umami flavor to the food, helping it mix well.
- I add iodized salt on top, sometimes after partial food addition, and definitely at the end.
- After prepping, I store the meal in glass food storage. A given preparation can last between 3 and 7 days. At any given time, I generally have a mixed vegetables preparation and a potatoes preparation that I am simultaneously consuming.
- Other foods I have along with my preparation, that need no preparation: tortillas, sauerkraut, almond milk, miso soup, and walnuts.
Meal structure and frequency
I eat two meals a day on most days; in some cases, I might eat three meals a day.
- My first meal is generally a few hours after waking up. During most sufficiently warm months of the year, I do my morning running (exercise) before the first meal of the day. In the winter months, I do my exercise between my meals.
- My second and last meal is generally in the late afternoon / early evening, though in some cases it can be further into the night. I generally have a gap of at least 3 hours between my second meal and sleeping.
The main consistent structural difference between the meals is that I include daily supplements with my first meal and not my second; this is so that if for whatever reason I forget to include the supplement with the first meal I can add it into the second. I also try to not have sauerkraut with both meals, as that might be excessive, so I generally have it with my first meal, but if I can’t have it with my first meal I have it with my second. Otherwise, my meals don’t differ in structure.
Diet changes in recent years
The general pattern has been away from eating outside foods, and away from heavily processed foods (e.g. vegetable biryani) and sugary foods (e.g., hot chocolate). Two key things that have helped me reduce my consumption of outside foods have been greater time for home food preparation (due to a reduction in my work hours and a switch to working from home) and the expansion of the range of foods I cook at home; in particular, adding shelled peas to my regular home cooking helped me cut out stuff like vegetable biryani, and adding potatoes helped me reduce and eventually stop my takeout from Mehak Indian Cuisine.
- Mehak Indian Cuisine changes and phase-out in May 2023: I started eating at Mehak Indian Cuisine after moving to Berkeley in 2014, and kept a tradition of weekly meals there. I stopped going there around August 2016 due to price increases there and because I found the food at Udupi Palace better. However, I resumed doing takeout from there occasionally (once every few weeks) from September 2020 to May 2023, after the COVID-19 pandemic led to me no longer going out to eat in San Francisco. I phased it out around May 2023 as I got more time for home food prep and started including potatoes in my home food. (Somehow, adding potatoes to my regular home food reduced my craving/desire for Mehak Indian Cuisine food, suggesting that its main function was to provide that additional potato boost).
- Prepared foods changes and phase-out in November 2021: I used to have chana masala from Trader Joe’s. I switched to vegetable biryani after noting that the chana masala was causing stomach problems (around November/December 2016). Later, I switched to / augmented with misal curry. My last purchase of vegetable biryani was in October 2021 and my last purchase of misal curry was in November 2021. After that, I phased out these foods, instead using shelled peas as my protein source.
- Bangkok Thai Cuisine start and end: I started getting takeout from Bangkok Thai Cuisine (yellow curry with tofu) in August 2019 (with the shutdown of Chaat Cafe), and did my last take-out in May 2022, after which I stopped as I moved to a different location that was farther from the place. The food is good and I might have continued to do the occasional takeout if I lived close to the place. With that said, considering that I later phased out Mehak Indian Cuisine, it’s likely that I would not do takeout from Bangkok Thai Cuisine too frequently even if distance weren’t an issue.
- Chaat Cafe shutdown in August 2019: I used to order takeout from Chaat Cafe regularly, but they shut down in August 2019, and since then, I substituted that with the yellow curry with tofu from Bangkok Thai Cuisine (that I would also eventually stop; see preceding point) as well as eating more at Udupi Palace.
- Transition to veganism in mid-2019: In 2019, I switched away from yogurt and dairy products in general, toward a mix of almond milk and sauerkraut. The sauerkraut is for the active cultures and the almond milk helps with the calcium and (fortified) vitamins A and D. When I have throat issues or colds that make sauerkraut challenging, I use vegan probiotic yogurt, but most of the time I use sauerkraut.
- Hot chocolate phase-out around May 2019: I used to have much more hot chocolate. I took a break from it from November 2016 to early January 2017 after identifying it as one potential culprit in stomach problems, and then again reduced it to zero around May 2019 after its effect on my oral health and the energy spikes and crashes it seemed to cause. After that, I had hot chocolate once in February 2020 while on a trip to Seattle (right before the COVID-19 pandemic!) and without a lot of good breakfast options, and I remember the sugary after-taste feeling awful; I had to rinse my mouth several times to feel fine.
- Condiments introduction in November 2017 and later: I added turmeric and cumin recently (in November 2017) at the suggestion of my parents. Later, I added red pepper / ceyenne pepper and cinnamon as well.