Good for you for making some healthy changes! Hey, small steps are sometimes the best way to go! I started eating a lot healthier back in 2007 and one of the first things I cut out was soda pop and carbonated beverages. That alone will go a long way in reducing sugar and sodium in your diet. And it will help you bones. I am still soda pop free and haven't touched it since then.
Fruits and veggies can be a lot of fun and very tasty if you know how to prepare them and incorporate them into your diet. You don't always have to eat them straight as is or in salads or boiled and as a side dish. Here are a few ideas to make them more exciting:
saute a few chopped carrots, onion, and celery in a large pot with either a little oil or veggie broth or water. Add some navy or great northern white beans (can or 1.5 cups dried and cooked). Sprinkle in some garlic powder, curry powder, ginger powder or use fresh garlic and ginger. Add four cups of water and/or vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for twenty minutes. Then pour the soup in batches into a blender and blend to get a very creamy white bean carrot curry soup.
Cut up some tempeh into square cubes (or use extra firm tofu or just use chickpeas or even nuts like cashews). Add it to a nonstick skillet or use a little oil or water to simmer it. Also add some chopped onion, fresh chopped broccoli, and fresh pineapple (or use canned pineapple made with juice if in a hurry). Incorporate some of the juice from the pineapple. Add some garlic powder or fresh garlic and maybe a little dijon mustard or mustard powder and stir to mix in your tempeh/pineapple, broccoli mixture. In the meantime, cook some brown rice in another pot. When all is done and soft, mix the tempeh broccoli pineapple dish over the brown rice and you've got a tasty filling meal.
If you have a crockpot, try this recipe:
I add uncooked red lentils to it to boost protein and nutrition. This is an awesome stew, and requires little more than chopping vegetables and throwing everything into a crockpot. I do this sort of dish on a Sunday morning and then forget about it til dinner. I also utilize my crockpot to make large batches of soups, stews, and other dishes for lunches for the work week.
You can also make homemade plain vegan pancakes without adding any sugar. Make the batter, then pour into a skillet. While that is cooking, chop some kale or spinach or another leafy green into bits. Chop some bell pepper or celery and onions. Maybe some tomatoes. When the pancake starts to firm up and bubble, sprinkle some vegetables on it, then take a spatula and fold the pancake over in half so the veggies are tucked inside like an omelet. Let it cook for a minute, then flip and cook the other side. I add a dollup of salsa on top of my finished pancake. Any vegan sauce on top will do, or none at all. Or even catsup. I personally use chickpea flour and water for my batter and mix in cracked black pepper but I understand chickpea flour can be hard to find for some people. I get it at a whole foods health store (Bob's Red Mill is the brand I use).
Get some couscous as it is very quick and easy to make. All you do is add some dry couscous to a bowl (1/3 cup dried makes one cup cooked I believe). Boil one cup of water. Pour the water over the couscous and cover the bowl for five minutes and viola you have fluffy cooked couscous. Now add some chopped dates, carrot, and shredded coconut. Add some spices like cinnamon, maybe a splash of plant milk. This makes a great breakfast or lunch.
The ideas are endless. Smoothie are the best way for getting a concentrated amount of fruits and veggies in a serving or two. I love to use frozen bananas (I take a banana, chop into five or six bites, and put in a freezer ziplock back in the freezer. I do this with a batch of bananas and store them in the freezer to have on hand). Melon and cantaloupe and peaches make thick creamy smoothies too. Citrus fruits added make it sweet without the need to add sugar. I throw in several cups of leafy greens too. If you have a cheap blender you can still add softer lettuces and spinach and it will blend. I have even added cooked/cooled carrots to the blender with fresh chopped coconut and coconut water/milk for a treat.
If you want a sweet snack, dates are the way to go, and bananas. No prep work either. A handful of cashews or almonds (whole unsalted) will keep you full for a long time. I have had a bowl of fresh fruits and nuts for breakfast and have had some of my best workouts at the gym following this lol.
I am guilty of too much coffee and too little water. I think my fruit intake helps make up for that though. Progress not perfection right? Keep up the good work!