Starting a Vegan Diet? Read Our Tips To Get You Going
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With benefits from better health to a safer environment, a vegan diet or a few vegan meals is always something worth trying for anyone. Having second thoughts? It’s okay because the beginning is always the hardest, and we’re here to help you prepare for dipping your toe into vegan waters!
Preparing substitutes for any animal products in your fridge is always a good thing to start with when you’re planning to take on a plant-based diet. That may not sound as exciting as you’d like, but after you change some of the items in your fridge and learn a bit about how to use them, it all gets much easier – and we promise, more exciting too!
You can start by finding a substitute ingredient that reminds you of your previous favorite food. For example, you can choose mushrooms – which have anti-inflammatory properties – as your main course, and prep them to resemble the taste of beef.
As well as being lower in calories, plant-based foods are also rich in the following nutrients:
- Antioxidants to improve your overall health
- Calcium to help you overcome vitamin D deficiency problems
- B vitamins to boost your immunity.
You see? Replacing your beef with mushrooms is not so bad. You can maintain a similar taste with loads of added health benefits.
So, let’s run through some of our top preparation tips for you to make your first delicious vegan meal.
Some general advice…
1. Find the best substitute products
Starting with the most important! If there’s a particular animal product you are dreading leaving behind, think about what replacement would satisfy your craving best.
Popular meat and dairy substitutes include:
- Tofu, tempeh and jackfruit as alternatives for various types of meat and fish
- Mushrooms as a substitute for beef or chicken
- The creamy texture of cow’s milk can be replaced with soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk or any number of other alternatives.
2. Pay close attention to food packaging labels
Packaged food contains all kinds of hidden ingredients, including animal products. For instance, did you know that chewy candy or marshmallows often aren’t vegan, because of the gelatin or collagen they contain? Making meals from scratch is an easy way to avoid falling into this trap. But when you need prepared foods, you can ensure you avoid animal products by only buying products with a label saying they are “certified vegan.”
3. Make sure you still get your nutrients
When switching to a plant-based diet, make sure the food you are eating is healthy and rich in the same nutrients that you are no longer getting from animal products.
A nutritious plant-based diet has plenty of fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and hydration functions. Consuming foods rich in these can reduce your risk of chronic pain and chronic illness.
4. Plan your menu ahead of time
You’ll benefit from setting aside time to plan so you enjoy your meals and don’t get stuck in a routine.
An example menu can be as varied as:
Porridge with fruit and flaxseed and a side of toast with avocado and vegetables
Fried sweet potatoes or a tempeh burger
Rice and curry stuffed with peas, or a tortilla roll filled with vegetables and beans
Three delightful vegan meal recipes
Taking the above advice to heart, here are some of our favourite vegan recipes that we hope will get your vegan diet off to a smooth start.
1. Vegan Mac and Cheese
When you crave pasta for your lunch or dinner, you can give this vegan pasta dish a try.
The cheese sauce in this recipe is made with raw cashews and tart lemon juice, spiced with mustard and turmeric, to mimic the sharp flavour of cheddar.
This dish is both deliciously cheesy and full of carbohydrates, vitamin C, antioxidants and calcium. Just what your body needs.
Recipe for 2 servings.
A delish Mac and Cheese from Detoxinista
- 350g raw cashews (soaked in water for 2 hours, if desired)
- 45g fresh lemon juice
- 175ml water
- 7.5g fine sea salt
- 65g nutritional yeast
- 2.5g chili powder
- 5g garlic
- 1g turmeric
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2g mustard (optional; spicy brown or yellow)
- 450g Elbow or shell pasta of choice (gluten-free, if needed)
- freshly ground black pepper
- paprika, for garnish
1. Add pasta to a pot of boiled water for 7-10 minutes
2. In a bowl, combine the cashews, lemon juice, water, salt, yeast, chilli powder, garlic, turmeric, and mustard
3. Blend the ingredients until silky smooth
4. Drain the pasta and stir it in the cheese sauce
5. Season to taste and serve warm
2. Vegan Burgers
This is a tasty and filling dish highly recommended for you burger lovers who want to try vegan without losing those big burger bites.
The main ingredient is hearty black beans, which contain isoflavone, a type of antioxidant that improves blood circulation and respiration, and can reduce
headaches and fatigue. Over time, consuming isoflavones may help you manage chronic pain in the knees, shoulders, neck and lower back. They are even linked to the prevention of cancer and diabetes.
Recipe for 2 servings.
A yummy Vegan burger served by Nora Cooks
- 65g ground flax
- 110ml water
- 700g cooked black beans (2 430-g cans, drained and rinsed)
- 235g cashews, *see notes for options
- 350g cooked brown rice
- 110g chopped parsley
- 350g shredded carrots
- 75g chopped green onions
- 235g bread crumbs, *see notes for gluten free
- 30g smoked paprika
- 15g chili powder
- 7.5g salt, to taste
1. Mash the black beans in a large bowl, leaving a few beans whole. Mix in the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and stir with a large spoon.
2. Shape into patties about 2 cm thick.
3. Pan-fry, bake or grill them.
3. Mushroom and Potato Curry
This spicy vegan dish can be cooked in less than half an hour. The main ingredient is mushrooms, which are low in calories and high in B complex vitamins, which have anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve headaches and stomachaches.
Potatoes and eggplant provide some extra carbs and flavour.
Recipe for 4 servings.
This tasty bowl curry brought to you by BBC Good Food
- 15ml of oil (try coconut or avocado, or just good old olive oil!)
- 150g chopped onion
- 370g small-chunks potato
- 350g chopped eggplant,
- 250g button mushrooms
- 60g curry paste (depending on how hot you like it)
- 150g vegetable stock
- 400ml coconut milk
- chopped coriander, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the onion.
2. Add potatoes and keep on low heat for 5 minutes or until they start to soften.
3. Throw in the eggplant and mushrooms, then cook for a few more minutes.
4. Pour in the stock and coconut milk.
5. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Stir through the coriander and serve with rice or bread.
If you are interested in trying other recipes – like smoothies for breakfast, or maybe vegan tacos for lunch – you can fine more at the following links:
- Veganuary Easy Plant-Based Recipes
- Tasty Vegan Meals and Baking Recipes
- BBC Food Everyday Vegan Recipes
Keep in mind that a vegan diet can also cause deficiency of vitamin B12, a key nutrient naturally found in animal products. Taking B12 supplements is a simple way to help you fill any nutritional gaps.
Have fun trying out these healthy and tasty tricks!