Eating plant-based may be mainstream now, but former Olympic cyclist Dotsie Bausch has been following this specific diet since 2010, at age 36. (She's 47 now.) "I started to get an understanding of what really goes on behind closed doors [in the meat industry] and I was just struck with intense frustration and anger," she says. To her, it was a big wake-up call. "I grew up in Kentucky and there was probably never a time when there wasn't an animal on my plate," she says. "But I knew I had to make this change."
As one of the top cyclists in the country, her Olympic trainers were nervous about her switching her eating style. They openly wondered if her endurance and stamina would be the same. It was all put to the test during the 2012 Olympic games. Bausch ended up bringing home a silver medal, quieting any doubts that she couldn't perform as well on a plant-based diet as on a meat-centric one.
While different people define plant-based eating in different ways, for Bausch, it means avoiding animal products completely. "I'm 100 percent vegan, but plant-based because 90 percent of my diet is coming from plants," she says. To her, the plant-based lifestyle resonates because she points out that just because something is vegan doesn't mean it's healthy. The health component is just as important to her as the animal-rights component.
Quarantined at home with her husband, Bausch says she's had even more time to cook the plant-based meals she loves. What has changed slightly are her workouts since going to the gym is a no-go right now. "Now, my husband and I work out together in our garage and yard," she says. "I jump rope and sprint up and down an alley behind my house for some cardio." She also (no surprise) rides her bike since it's one way to work out while maintaining social distancing. "I especially love to bike on trails because it's so beautiful where I live in Orange County, California," she says.
Here, check out what Dotsie Bausch's plant-based diet looks like IRL
Bausch says she craves savory food in the morning, so she forgoes sweeter breakfasts like oatmeal, yogurt, or pancakes for avocado toast. "I use Ezekiel bread and top it with avocado slices and tomato slices. Then, I add pepper, lemon juice, and drizzle balsamic vinegar on it," she says.
On days when she's not in the mood for avo-toast, Bausch whips up a vegan scramble for breakfast. "I use either chickpeas or soft tofu in place of eggs—whichever I happen to have—and scramble them on the stove the same way you normally do with eggs," she says. She enjoys her scramble with a side of potatoes, which she typically meal preps in advance. "I roast a lot of potatoes on Sundays, so then I can work them into my scrambles or other meals throughout the week," she says.
Whatever she's having for breakfast, Bausch says it's almost always accompanied with a side of berries, which she eats for the antioxidant benefits—important for muscle repair.
For lunch, Bausch says she typically makes a big salad, with a rainbow's worth of veggies. Avocado, bell peppers, carrots, beets, and onions are some of her most common staple ingredients. "For protein, I add chickpeas or white beans to the salad," she says. "If someone isn't used to eating plant-based, these are the beans I recommend starting with first because black beans, for example, can be a little harder to digest for people who aren't used to eating so much fiber," she says. She also suggests that plant-based newbies worried about digestive troubles cook at least some of the veggies in their salad, since cooked vegetables are easier on the digestive system than raw ones.
When it comes to dinner, Bausch says she lets her cravings inspire what she's going to make. Some nights, it's something Mediterranean inspired, like falafels, hummus, and greens. Another night, it's a Mexican-inspired bowl with rice, beans, guac, and salsa. Or if she's in the mood for an Asian-inspired meal, she'll make stir-fry loaded with veggies and tofu. "When it comes to making plant-based meals, there really is no limit to what you can make," she says.
While Bausch says she doesn't have a sweet tooth and isn't a big dessert eater, she says sometimes she'll have a few pieces of dark chocolate at the end of the day. "I'm not a cookie or cake person, but some dark chocolate with a glass of red wine is just lovely," she says.
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