Embracing a plant-based diet has benefits beyond just improving your health. It can also reduce your environmental footprint, promote animal welfare, and help save money.
Cooking your own meals is not only cost-effective, but it can also be a fun and relaxing hobby. It’s also a great way to learn new skills in the kitchen.
1. Adapting Traditional Dishes
Embracing a plant-based diet can be daunting for some beginners but it doesn’t have to be. Many of the dishes that we already eat can easily be adapted into plant-based meals with some simple substitutions.
Swap traditional processed meat-based foods like pizza, pasta, hamburgers and nuggets for homemade versions made with veggies, plant-based cheese or a whole grain such as bread. Or, instead of soda, try drinking water infused with slices of natural cucumber or strawberry to add some flavor.
Recipes that call for a chilli, curry, bolognese, stew or casserole will be the easiest to adapt as the sauce or gravy base is typically the most important element to retain when making these meals plant-based. When it comes to replacing the protein source, it is best for those new to plant-based eating to start with soya mince or chicken’meat’ substitutes as they require minimal preparation and can offer a’meaty’ mouth-feel similar to what is experienced in a traditional meal.
2. Veganizing Recipes
Creating delicious, plant-based meals doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. Simply begin with a familiar recipe and make it vegan. This could be as simple as using dairy-free milk, vegetable broth or non-dairy butter instead of the original ingredients and adding some plant-based cheeses.
It can also be as easy as replacing meat with tofu or mock chicken or swapping out potatoes for cauliflower or rice. For example, if you are making the classic beef and broccoli, replace the beef with tofu and add some cooked cauliflower. This creates a hearty, satisfying dish that will be a hit with your family.
You can also try substituting sugar for brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup or honey to reduce your overall sugar intake. This is an easy change that will have a profound impact on your health.
3. Meal Planning
Eating more plants not only makes us feel better, but is a great way to protect our health and help prevent chronic diseases. But for those new to the kitchen, learning how to cook plant-based meals can be intimidating.
That’s why Elgquist stresses the importance of focusing on simple recipes that anyone can make. She recommends beginning with a few cookbooks that focus on “everyday cooking,” and avoids complex recipes that require hours of time in the kitchen.
She suggests starting with simple vegan dinner recipes, like this vegan chili recipe that combines tomatoes, beans, and quinoa with spices and chipotles in adobo sauce. Then, add toppings for a delicious and filling meal that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less!
Another idea is to try a meatless Indian dish, like this creamy vegan “butter chicken” made with tofu that’s perfect with rice, naan or roti. Remember to eat the whole foods that are plant-based, rather than adding in processed snacks and drinks, like sodas, potato chips, ice cream, or chocolate.
The new year is the season of resolutions, but resolving to cook more plant-based meals doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Whether you choose to add meat and dairy only as a topping or replace it entirely, there is a whole world of healthy recipes at your fingertips.
Start by learning a few basic vegan recipes and then play around with ingredients to find the flavors you love. Try switching out a sweet recipe for something salty or adding spices and herbs to change up the flavor profile.
Another way to make it easier to eat more plant-based is to do meal prep on the weekend or evening. This can be as simple as cooking up a big batch of beans to use in salads and grain bowls or prepping some roasted vegetables for a quick veggie sandwich. This will help eliminate the temptation to reach for less-healthy options when you’re hungry or running short on time.