Make Plant-based Meals Without Trying Too Hard

Eating more plants doesn’t have to mean an all-or-nothing approach. No one’s saying you have to go vegan, or even vegetarian. But there’s a lot to be said for incorporating more plants in our diets.

By the kilo, vegetables are much cheaper than meat, chicken or fish. There are also environmental benefits but what I want to talk to you about today is the good that it does for your body.

What are plant-based foods?

Obviously, fruits and vegetables are the prime plant-based foods we all think of. You can munch on an apple, toss a salad, roast some veggies or enjoy a fruit smoothie. But what about nuts and seeds? What about tofu? What about legumes? Grains are plant-based, so is hemp. There is so much choice available to us that it seems like we eat so much meat because we aren’t allowing our imaginations to fire!

Why are plant-based foods so good for us?

Scientists are discovering that a diet rich in plant-based foods is useful in keeping chronic diseases at bay; Type 2 Diabetes is one of those. Consuming an abundance of fruits and veggies (mostly veggies) can help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Harvard researchers conducted a 14-year study of 110,000 people and found that the higher the intake of fruits and vegetables, the less risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, vegetarians tend to consume fewer calories overall. Again, you don’t have to turn ‘vego’ but increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy grains means eating less foods that are higher in saturated fats. Also, the bulk you consume from all that fibre keeps you satisfied for longer. Fibre keeps you regular, assists the digestive process and helps keep cholesterol and blood levels in check.

Healthy grains, nuts and seeds are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre and many fruits and vegetables pack lots of antioxidants. Nutritionally speaking, a plant-based diet has a lot to offer. If you still want to consume dairy and eggs, then you’ll even benefit from additional sources of protein, calcium and iron. Add a little meat when the mood strikes and you have a well-balanced diet.

A plant-based diet doesn’t mean a boring diet!

Oh goodness, you can cram so much flavour into a vego dish that you may not even miss meat, fish or chicken, at least for a few days.

  • You’ll never complain about the ‘humble’ spud again if you whip up a nice Potato and Chickpea Turmeric Curry. The leftovers are delicious the next day.
  • If you’re feeling under the weather, a soothing bowl of Khitchari made with lentils, split peas and mung beans will keep you well-nourished while your body attends to healing.
  • Take a trip to your local farmers’ markets and pick up a haul of in-season veggies. Roast Vegetables and blitz it into a sauce – it carries an unbelievable flavour and lots of goodness.
  • Keep it super simple with a Tikka Egg Masala, a lively, curried dish with a tomato and onion base and deep flavour.
  • For something a little more special and very colourful, tray bake Capsicums then fill with fried chutney rice.
  • Don’t forget tofu! With its lovely texture and bland flavour, it effortlessly takes on the flavours of whatever you combine it with. A Tofu Pumpkin Curry is easy to make and is nice and creamy thanks to the coconut milk.
  • Go full Indian with a Korma Mixed Vegetable Stew. Add whatever you have on hand like carrots, cauliflower, potato, beans, peas, eggplant … it helps you use up veggies you don’t know what to do with.
  • Be even more frugal with your vegetables and use up bits you usually throw away. Use the leaves from Cauliflower and make a curry with it. Spiralise your broccoli stems and use in your pasta sauce. It’s surprisingly delicious!!
  • If you see mushrooms on special, grab them! They’re jam-packed with B vitamins, fibre and the antioxidant, selenium. A simple way to prepare them is in a stir fry.
  • Make colourful platter-style salads like a Mixed Veggie and Haloumi Salad. I love halloumi as it looks so beautiful with the golden-brown char marks and I quite enjoy the texture.

How to eat more plant-based meals without trying too hard

It can be so easy to fall into a rut with your meals. Do you ever find yourself cooking the same things over and over again just because it’s easier than conjuring up a new repertoire? Here are some ideas to help you liven up your plant-based menu.

  • Whenever you prepare a veggie-based meal, write it down somewhere and keep the list going. That way, when you’re stuck for an idea, you simply look back at what you’ve cooked before.
  • Never throw out vego leftovers! (Or any, for that matter.) Freeze individual portions and voila! One night you don’t know what to cook and you’ve already got something to microwave and serve. Maybe you just toss a quick salad, cook some rice or slice some cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes to go with it.
  • When in doubt, blend! If you have a pumpkin, some potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, zucchinis, beetroot or other blend-able vegetables, cook them down with some stock, some herbs and spices and maybe some coconut milk. Now you have fabulous soup to serve!
  • Create plant-based substitutes for meat dishes. For instance, instead of spaghetti with a beef mince sauce, make a tomato-based sauce using roasted blended vegetables, spices, tinned tomatoes, and add diced, roasted eggplant, minced mushrooms and some red or tinned brown lentils. Switch your family’s standard Butter Chicken Curry with some roasted eggplant and paneer for Butter Veg Masala. Fill your tacos with roasted veggies smothered in hot sauce or chutney. Leave the chicken out of your noodle soups or stir-fries and add capsicums, zucchini, tofu, mushrooms and pumpkin and finish off with lots of micro herbs

You see? Incorporating more plant-based foods in your diet is not hard, it’s not expensive and it’s certainly not boring!