Plant-based diet. Benefits, tips and recipes to try

Plant-based diet. Benefits, tips and recipes to try

Recently myself and a few colleagues ditched the typical midday desk munching, and went out for a proper burger-joint lunch.

What happened next took me by complete surprise.

There we sat, civilised chat, much needed vents and menus primed. We laid our eyes over the options…A typical burger-joint selection of beef patties and chicken breast burgers, and string fries. Nothing unusual.

Then our eyes moved over to the right-hand side of the menu – Beetroot? Mushrooms? Chickpeas? Beyond Meat? Polenta Fries? We were intrigued.

The orders commenced – “2 Beyond Meat Burgers, 1 Chickpea Burger and 1 Beef Burger please.”

How times have changed.

The Western World is going plant-based at an exponential rate.

According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2018. And even more interestingly it’s not just vegans or vegetarians eating meat-free, with a staggering 92% of plant-based meals consumed in the UK in 2018 by non-vegans.

My colleagues and I were a case in point of this phenomenon. We were made up of 1 vegetarian, and 3 meat eaters with all but 1 choosing the meat-free option.  

So, why is this happening?

  • People are demanding more natural, less processed foods.
  • There’s a lack of trust for food industries and companies worldwide. Take a look at documentaries like Cowspiracy, What the Health, and Vegan Everyday Stories and you’ll see why.
  • We share an increasing collective concern for our environment and its inhabitants, and eating a more plant-based diet generally has a lesser impact on the Earth (if done properly).
  • It’s healthier and significantly reduces our risk of developing Heart Disease, Obesity, stroke, and some types of Diabetes and Cancers.
  • Eating a plant-based diet is typically much cheaper than a traditional Omnivore diet. A 2015 study in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition found that a plant-based diet could save Americans about $750 a year!
  • There’s a common misconception that plant-based meals are bland but that’s simply not true, they’re delicious! There’s a world of fresh and colourful ingredients out there, and if you use your creativity and stay open-minded the options are truly endless.

The power of plant-based.

There’s no denying the vast benefits of following a plant-based diet – But what I love most about it is the beautiful ripple effect it has on not just our own health, but our external environment too.

It’s a movement making a change and reshaping our traditional ways of doing things – Our health and school systems, agriculture and farming practises, food and drink industries, and even politics.

Going plant-based is not just for yourself, but taking a stand for others! And when enough of us are demanding more and saying no, the big players can’t turn a blind eye to us anymore.

My plant-based journey:

The plant-based diet I follow is as simple as food writer Michael Pollen’s advice, summed up in 7 words:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

There’s no ‘buzzwords’ in that, no fads, no craziness. Just simple, honest, humble advice.

I’ll be honest, my journey adopting a more plant-based hasn’t been smooth sailing. Naively I thought as soon as I adopted this diet i’d feel full of energy, my skin would clear up, and i’d lose weight.

But that simply didn’t happen.

  • I felt bloated
  • I was tired all the time
  • I had breakouts
  • And I had a lot of gas (thanks beans).

What I realised is it’s a process, and requires an investment from yourself to get educated and seek the right advice to know what the right foods for you are, and what support you need to ensure your vitamin and iron levels are ok.

Lesson learned…you can’t just swap chicken for mushrooms and expect to be the epitome of good health!

Apart from these downsides eating a more plant-based diet has been a fantastic journey – I’ve learnt to appreciate simple ingredients, to cook new and interesting recipes, I feel healthier, and am supporting a greater cause that I truly believe in.

My top 10 tips and recipes.

Throughout my journey i’ve learnt some great plant-based diet tips, and have discovered delicious recipes that are not only nutritional but easy to make, low-cost, and great to put leftovers in the freezer for lunches and dinners.

So if you’re just starting out, wanting to try more plant-based meals, or you’re already following a plant-based diet I promise there will be something in here for you…

My top 10 tips for a plant-based diet:

  1. Start slow, first with plant based breakfasts, then lunches, then dinner
  2. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables
  3. Opt for local produce
  4. Get pantry stables like beans, peas, rice & lentils
  5. Start your own vegetable or herb garden to save more
  6. Don’t splurge on gourmet alternatives
  7. Plan your meals ahead to stop temptation
  8. Make your plate a rainbow, the more colour the better!
  9. Find plant-based alternatives to your favourite meat dishes
  10. Opt for fresh or home-made over produced, just because a packet says ‘vegan’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

My top 10 plant-based recipes:

1. Vegan BBQ Black Bean Meatballs

  • Perfect for family dinners with salad or grains, and freezes well.

2. Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry

  • I absolutely love this dish, it’s so simple and my go-to mid-week meal.
  • To inject even more veges you can add more to the recipe, I like to add peppers and spinach.

3.  Crispy Zucchini Fritters

  • These fritters are so versatile, super simple and quick to make!
  • They’re perfect for weekend brunches, lunches, or even dinners.
  • I like to serve them with roasted tomatoes and a fresh salad.

4. Fennel, Sage & Kale Pasta

  • If you love pasta (and wine) as much as I do this one is a winner, a fresh warming pasta salad packed with veges.

5. Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

  • When I first saw this dish I thought it looked odd, but after reading the reviews I decided to stop being quick to judge and gave it a go.
  • And i’m so glad I did!
  • This little gem is truly delicious, it’s made from a corn and feta polenta base with a hearty aubergine and tomato sauce.

6. Vegetarian Chilli

  • This dish is perfect for when you’re craving something Mexican!
  • I like to make this with homemade guacamole and tortilla chips.
  • To make the tortilla chips simply slice up the tortillas into strips, glaze with olive oil and pop in the oven on low heat.. in 5 minutes you’ll have your very own tortilla chips. A perfect pairing with this vege-packed chilli!

7. Slow roasted cauliflower salad with sweet potato hummus and nut Dukkah

  • If you’re after something a little more fine-dining this dish is guaranteed to impress!
  • It may be easy to make, but damn it looks beautiful on the plate!

8. Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Soup

  • This dish is so tasty and filling, and perfect for cosy winter afternoons.
  • Make it with homemade vegetable stock to up your nutrients!

9. Roasted Mediterranean vegetables with feta and grains

  • Fresh grains, roasted veges, nuts and feta… a beautiful combination!
  • This dish is so simple but so tasty, and great either as a meal on it’s own or as a delicious side dish.

10. Vegetarian Skillet stuffed shells

  • It wouldn’t be right for me to only include 1 pasta dish on this list.
  • This dish is a little bit naughty but so tasty – cheese and spinach stuffed pasta shells smothered in a rich tomato sauce.
  • If you don’t eat dairy this one can easily be compensated with your favourite vegan cheese alternative.

I hope you’ve found value in this post, and have gained some tips and delicious plant-based meals to try!