By now, the numerous benefits of veganism are well known. Not only does a plant-based diet actively reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer by cutting out excessive amounts of fat, sugar, and cholesterol, but it is also high in vitamins and minerals. Even if you’re not a vegan, there are times when an entirely plant-based meal, free of animal products, can provide some serious health benefits whilst leaving us feeling energised and refreshed.
In order to learn the basics of vegan cooking, it is important to know that a true vegan diet is one that is entirely plant-based. This means no eggs, milk, or any other animal-derived products. Generally, it is acceptable for vegans to eat honey, as it possesses important health benefits and is produced without causing serious harm to bees. The staples of the vegan diet include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables; whole grains such as corn, rice, and wheat; legumes; and plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh. Furthermore, the vegan diet often employs the use of various spices and roots such as ginger, turmeric, and chili, which are prized for their taste as well as their considerable health benefits.
So how do we cook using only plant-based ingredients? Well, lucky for us, vegan cooking has come a long way in the last few decades, with the effects of globalisation making products from across the world readily available to consumers. To learn how we can incorporate vegan elements into our diet, let’s take a look at the three main meals of the day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Though many of us choose to start the day with a plate of eggs, a bowl of cereal, or even meats such as sausage and bacon, there is evidence to show that a plant-based morning meal provides us with both higher and slower-releasing energy levels to burn off throughout the morning. A classic vegan breakfast of fruit salad achieves all of this. Provided the milk is plant-based, such as soy or almond, then that bowl of cereal is still definitely an option, too. For the purposes of adhering to a truly health-conscious vegan diet, it would be wise to steer clear of processed, sugary cereals and instead go for whole and organic choices like granola, oats, or even some mueslis. For those who enjoy a warm breakfast, a way to keep things vegan is to make avocado on toast with chili and coriander. Another alternative is a classic Japanese style miso soup, which is both nutritious and comforting on a cold winter morning.
Now things begin to get really interesting, with plenty of options available for your vegan lunch. Sandwiches made with fresh salad, olive oil, and meaty vegetables like Portobello mushrooms or spinach are a great vegan way to stave off hunger around midday. There are, of course, endless varieties of soup available as well; just make sure to hold the cream. One of the most delicious soups, and one that retains a naturally creamy consistency, is butternut. Salads are a go-to lunch for vegans who often incorporate whole grains or legumes to boost the dish’s substance. Try a handful of lentils in a salad of tomato, onions, and olives, or take things to North Africa with a warm chickpea salad made with cumin and paprika. There really are endless options for a plant-based lunch; it’s all a matter of using a little imagination.
Ideal for serving alongside universal staples such as rice, pasta, and bread, there are some delicious vegan alternatives to beloved meat dishes. Try cooking a curry using sweet potato and cauliflower, adding plenty of garlic, ginger, and chili along with spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin. This is one of the single most nutritious meals in the vegan arsenal and can be reworked with various spices as well as vegetables like potato, broccoli, or aubergine. The Indian route is a strong one, with much of the country consuming only plant-based food. Dhal, a legume-based curry, is both simple and delicious with rice or flat bread. Vegan dinners can also take inspiration from the Far East, where tofu is often used as a replacement for meat in stir-fry, soup, and many other dishes. Try a tofu-vegetable noodle soup packed with beansprouts, greens, ginger, and seaweed as well as whole grain noodles for a seriously nutritious meal that will leave skin glowing and stomachs pleasantly full.