There’s one thing that scientists, nutritionists and environmentalists all agree on: eating a predominantly plant-based diet is good for our health and our planet. But like any diet, it’s easy to overthink it, overcomplicate it and ultimately decide not to stick to it. The key to eating the plant-based way is to really understand how to balance a dish with nutrients as well as flavour. Below, we share some tips on how to do just that and bust some common myths.
Myth one: a vegan diet isn’t nutritious enough
The key to anything diet-related is knowledge; knowing what ingredients contain what macro and micronutrients will help you balance them with every meal. I’d recommend writing a list of your top 20 plant-based ingredients and noting down which nutrients they’re rich in, then sticking it on your fridge to help prompt creative recipe ideas that are nutritionally sound. You should be aiming to get around 40 to 60 per cent of your calories from carbs, 10 to 30 per cent from protein and 10 to 15 per cent from fats.
Myth two: meat is the best source of protein
It’s now well documented that you can get more than enough protein from plants. However, with plants, you do have to be more thoughtful in your ingredient selection to ensure you’re getting enough protein in every meal. Work out what your favourite plant-based proteins are – think lentils, chickpeas, tofu, sunflower seeds and black beans… there are a surprising number of options. Trying to get a portion of protein with every meal is important for sustained energy throughout the day. A good example of this would be quinoa and oat porridge with nuts and seeds in the morning, a sweet potato stuffed with black beans and avocado for lunch, and a lentil and chickpea burger with roasted veg for dinner.
Myth 3: dairy is the best source of calcium
Calcium doesn’t just exist in dairy – it can be found in nuts, soya, tofu and dark leafy vegetables. Including at least one calcium source in your diet each day will ensure you maintain good levels in your body.
Myth four: vegan food is bland
One of the biggest barriers to adopting a plant-based diet is that we think it can’t be as delicious. I couldn't disagree more; the trick is to start with great quality, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Write a list of your favourite herbs and spices and stick it on your fridge, so you can be daring with flavour combinations and find your winning formula. Whether it’s coriander and mint in a stir fry, rosemary and sage in a risotto, steak seasoning in your pea soup or fennel and sesame seeds on your sweet potato, learning to cook with herbs and spices is the key to having truly delicious food in your life for good.
Myth five: a vegan diet isn’t fatty enough / isn’t rich in fat
Nuts, seeds, cold-pressed oils, avocados and coconut milk are excellent sources of plant-based fats, so load your cupboards with them and ensure that you use them little and often throughout the day. A handful of cashews thrown into a curry, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds on a salad, chopped walnuts on your porridge or coconut milk in your dal will ensure you’re getting a healthy amount of good fats in your diet.
How to make Detox Kitchen’s sweet potato and courgette frittata
For those looking to dabble in veganism, these fritters are a great place to start: they’re moreish, comforting and packed full of delicious herbs and spices. Perfect for brunch or lunch, just pair with a side salad or pop in a pitta bread with some cos lettuce.
1 small sweet potato
1 spring onion
½ small red onion
2 garlic cloves
½ red chili, deseeded
2 sprigs mint, plus extra for garnish
1 handful coriander, plus extra for garnish
100g cashew nuts
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
½ tsp steak seasoning
80ml oat milk
2 heaped tbsp chickpea flour
1 tbsp rapeseed oil for frying
For the dressing
1 heaped tbsp tahini
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp maple syrup
1. Grate the sweet potato and courgette, finely slice the spring onions and dice the red onion, garlic and chili. Place the herbs, nuts, seeds and steak seasoning in a small food processor and blitz to a crumb.
2. Combine the vegetables with the nuts and add in the oat milk and chickpea flour. The consistency should be similar to cookie dough, not too wet. Season with salt and pepper and leave the mixture in the fridge for 10 to 20 minutes to chill.
3. In an oven-safe frying pan, heat a little rapeseed oil, spoon the fritter batter onto the pan and cook until golden on each side. Then, place the frying pan straight in the oven for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the tahini, maple syrup and lemon zest and juice. Pick some coriander and mint leaves for the garnish.
5. Remove the fritters from the oven, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle over the herbs. Enjoy on their own or pair with a green salad.
Lily Simpson is the cofounder of Detox Kitchen. Find out more at detoxkitchen.co.uk.
Image courtesy of Detox Kitchen