Easy Plant-Based Meal Swaps
Ask anyone on a plant-based diet the question they most often get asked and I’ll bet it’s ‘what do you eat?’ That’s not a silly question. In the west, we’re so used to a meat-heavy diet that it’s challenging at first to imagine meals without animal products. Yet, as we’re becoming more aware of the environmental impact that high meat consumption has had, many of us are considering incorporating more plant-based food into our diet.
It’s not only for the sake of the planet but for our health also. Although it’s a leap to argue that meat is bad for you, much of it is now processed and there are signs that point to us eating far more than we need to. More to the point, most of us are not eating enough veg. Reaching for more for the green stuff can only be good for us and I’ve prioritised foods packed with calcium, protein, fibre and vitamins because it is important to be mindful of nutrition when making any changes to your diet.
So, let’s look at some easy plant-based meal swaps.
Milk and Butter
Milk and butter are a good place to start in your move to easy plant-based meal swaps. Plant-based alternatives to milk can be a bit marmite, people either love them or hate them. However, there are plenty of options to try including soy, oat, almond or even coconut.The tastiest and most sustainable in my opinion is Oat Milk.
Butter tends to be a fairly simple swap as olive oil and plant-based butter has been available for some time. If you hated these as a child then give them another go, they’ve improved a lot, I promise.
Chicken for Chickpeas
Love your chicken sandwich? If so I’m guessing that chickpeas don’t sound like they’re going to measure up, right? Well yes, chickpeas on their own aren’t exactly packed with flavour, but they are incredibly versatile.
I love coronation chickpeas. All you need is to boil them until they’re a little mushy, then add vegan mayonnaise and curry powder. Diced fried onions and sultanas give a little extra punch too. Coronation chickpeas work well in sandwiches and salads. Plus, chickpeas contain iron and are cholesterol-free!
Beef for Beans
Trade your beef mince chilli-con-Carne for one made of black beans and you’ll be getting a good hit of essential fibre, as well as some protein. Black beans take in flavour really well and have a meaty texture. This dish goes great with rice but, in my opinion, even better with a roasted sweet potato which will ramp up the nutrition in this meal even more.
Black beans are also amazing in tacos and burritos. Canned black beans don’t need to be cooked for long to take in flavour and cooking them with agave, tomato paste, stock and spices create a great barbeque style sauce that’s perfect in a wrap with rocket and red peppers.
Plant-Based Asian Cooking
British food tends to rely on the old staple of meat and two veg, so transitioning to plant-based options can be challenging. In many ways, it’s easier to start with other cuisines where the lack of meat is less noticeable.
Stir-fry doesn’t need much reimaging. Simply add more variety of vegetables and leave out the meat. With all those flavours you probably won’t even notice. If you are aiming for a full vegan meal then you’ll need to swap the soy sauce for tamari and the honey for agave. With all that sweetness and saltiness not only will you not miss the meat, but you might actually find the variety of texture that vegetables provide more interesting.
Indian cuisine in India is actually more often vegetarian. We’ve incorporated meat to suit a western diet, but that makes it very easy to take out again. There are plenty of great recipes available for vegetarian curry but I love a good lentil dahl. It’s so warming on cold winter nights and it’s not too tricky to make. Plus, it’s usually a one saucepan dish which saves on the washing up and it’s ideal for when friends come for dinner as you can make it just before and you’re not stuck in the kitchen coordinating multiple meal parts.
Tofu or not tofu?
Tofu has had a bad rep for too long. Yet, when cooked properly it’s a wonderful replacement for meat and makes for an easy plant-based meal swap. The key is ensuring you remove the water to maintain the best texture, so gently squeeze and use paper towels to prepare the tofu before cooking.
Tofu may be thought of as a food for puritans but it’s actually best when made a little bit naughty. Satay sauce, sweet and sour and salt and pepper marinades make tofu a tasty treat. Try them on skewers with vegetables or make yourself a poke bowl with sticky rice, edamame beans and sticky sauce-covered tofu.
Other easy plant-based meal swaps
There are many other easy plant-based meal swaps, for lunches, breakfasts, snacks and dinner. You’ll even find ones that will keep the kids happy. Whether you’re looking to do meat-free Mondays, Veganuary or are fully transitioning to a plant-based diet the most important thing will be your mindset. Those who view it as an adventure and opportunity to try new food and learn new cooking styles always seem to do the best. Focus not on the meat you’re missing out on and instead on all those amazing food you’re getting to try.