Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Welcome back to Stirring The Pot. Thank you for joining me.
For many of us, starting a plant-based diet requires a profound shift in perspective. It requires us to question aspects of our lives that we have held to be true. The belief that we need meat and dairy to be healthy. But for your own reasons, you're now trying something different, where animals are no longer on your list of ingredients. Which means, whether you have thought about it or not, you are willing to consider an altered set of rules. A healthy plant-based diet requires one further shift in how we think. Do we need to use oil in our cooking or would those calories be better spent on whole foods full of nutrients and fibre? For every bit of food we eat, we displace something else. It's an either/or situation. It is surprisingly simple to cook without oil. The hard bit is getting our heads around the fact that it's even an option. If you are adopting a plant-based diet for weight loss or to help with your management of type 2 diabetes then consider cooking without oil. Oil is calorie dense with a low return on investment. It is the fat extracted from vegetables. You're much better off eating the vegetable. To fry without oil, heat a half cup of water in a preferably non-stick pan. Add your veg and saute over medium heat. If the vegetables start to stick, add a half cup of water and loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Repeat this until the vegetables are cooked. You will find this produces a delicious flavour.
Last week I suggested you think of meals you already eat and consider ways to make them plant-based. Now is the time to get going with that. Use the kickstart programs I mentioned in my last post to help with recipe ideas if you need them. As you become more confident with plant-based meals, aim to incorporate the four main food groups into your day. These are fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. Whole grains include rice, wheat, oats and quinoa. Legumes include beans, lentils and peas. A very simple breakfast is half a cup of frozen berries thawed in the microwave, add half a cup of rolled oats and one cup of plant milk and microwave for 3-4 minutes. Then sprinkle with cinnamon. It's quick and easy and includes two of the food groups. One of my favourite meals is a salad that I make with quinoa, chopped cucumber, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, kale, tinned green lentils, a palmful of pumpkin seeds and a few raisins sprinkled over, topped with the most delicious tahini dressing from a website called Clean Food Dirty Girl. It's quick and easy and happens to contain all four food groups. I would encourage you to think in terms of food (fruit, veg, grains and legumes) rather than macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) when you're planning your meals. In a later post, I will talk at greater length about micronutrients and macronutrients, but for the time being make life simple for yourself and just deal with food. You could also have a look at this very simple but excellent traffic light system for healthy plant-based eating from the team at Mastering Diabetes.
So where does the title of this blog come into it? It is an acknowledgement that changing to a healthy plant-based diet can have its challenges, both in change in mindset and in the way you function in the kitchen. The links I have included in this blog post are all directed to sites which promote a low-fat whole food (i.e. minimally processed) plant-based diet. There are an increasing number of these sites out there, attesting to the increased popularity of not only a vegan diet, but a healthy one as well. What I want to show you is the 'gold standard' of a healthy vegan diet so that you have a reference point. But please don't look at this measure of 'perfect' and decide you can't achieve it and then not bother to try at all. If you do want to try a healthy plant-based diet, then simply do your best. Be 'good' if that's what works for you right now. Veggie sausages with mash, veg and vegan gravy makes a delicious meal and is a great transition from omnivore to plant-based. Food should make us feel happy and feel well, so find your own balance.
On my next blog post I will talk about legumes. By then, you will be a few days into your new plant-based diet and will likely be farting up a storm. Not to mention a bit of bloating. Ease yourself into the legumes over the first couple of weeks. I'll discuss the benefits of legumes and the best ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Please be aware that a plant-based diet is a very effective way to lose weight, so if you are taking medication please consult your healthcare professional as medication doses might need altering as you become lighter and healthier. Also, anyone on a purely plant-based diet requires vitamin B12 supplementation of at least 10 micrograms a day or 2000 micrograms a week (British Dietetic Association).