A brand new year is ahead of us and good intentions are all around. Eating healthily is a recurring topic, but maybe you’d like to eat less meat and more vegetables due to health, environmental and animal concerns.
Great idea, but where do you start? It’s not complicated to cook vegetables more often but it might take a little time to get used to the new regime. I will help to make the change as smooth as possible. A vegetable-based diet has lots to offer and can be incredibly varied and tasty. Not eating animal products is about enrichment rather than elimination.
Today, I will give you a few tips so that you can opt for a delicious plant-based meal more frequently.
Start with the basics. When planning a meal, focus on (unprocessed) plant-based ingredients. This could include vegetables, fruit, legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils and black beans), wholegrain products, potatoes, nuts and seeds. These items form the basis of a comprehensive, vegetarian diet and can be used to make all sorts of meals.
Choose your favourite type of cuisine. Before starting on an exotic dish with a huge list of unknown ingredients, and then realising that it’s not really ‘your thing’, you may want to consider your favourite type of food. Do you like Asian food? Then find a delicious vegetable-based recipe from the Asian kitchen (in a cook book or on the internet). Then the recognisable flavours will ensure that you enjoy the meal.
Start with 2-3 easy and healthy meals that you can cook off the cuff. These are ideal for moments when you don't have much time but still want to put a tasty meal on the table without things going wrong. My three favourite, easy meals are a robust Chilli sin carne, an Indian curry with cauliflower and brown rice, and an easy Italian pasta with pesto and rocket.
Choose certain days on which you don’t eat meat. With a fixed moment or day, you’ll get into a routine (with your family) of eating more vegetarian food. For example: “Every Monday and Wednesday, we will eat vegetarian.”
Perhaps you’re worried that you won't get enough protein without eating animal products? Don’t stress, there is plenty of protein in vegetables, which you can vary. This includes legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas and black beans), tofu, tempeh, seitan, (pseudo) grains (such as oats, couscous, quinoa), various vegetables and nuts.
Replace meat sandwiches with treats such as nut pasta, hummus with sun-dried tomatoes, baba ganoush with cucumber, grilled veg with balsamic syrup, pea-spread with mint or sweet spreads such as (unsweetened) apple syrup and jam.
Make sure you stock up on herbs. These will help give your meal a great flavour. Choose fresh herbs, dried herbs or a herb mix without additives. My favourite herbs and spices are coriander, bay, cumin seed and ginger, and can all be used in curries and soups.
Buy vegetables and fruit that are in season. You’ve probably seen this tip many times but it’s worth repeating. The fruit and vegetables that are in season are often cheaper, more sustainable and tastier.
Give yourself time to get used to a vegetable-based diet and see what works best for you. To start with, it may well take a bit more time and planning to create your meals but you will quickly see that things get easier with time.
Cook together! This allows you to help and motivate one another. Make a deal with a friend to eat vegetable-based meals more often and organise a meal one evening. Let others taste what you make; this is how you can inspire others.
Be realistic about what you can achieve. Start with things that are easily adapted, e.g. lunch at work or your evening meal at home.
Hopefully, you’ll find eating a vegetable-based diet is easier than you thought and find these tips useful. See www.lisagoesvegan.com for tasty recipes, more tips and information. Remember that every step counts for you and the planet, and enjoy your vegetable-based diet!