Being a healthy vegan is all about making choices. You’ve already made one great choice by taking part in Veganuary 2015 (or maybe you’re planning to take part in 2016), so you’re well on your way. If you’re after a healthy lifestyle, one of the main things to think about when preparing your own food or eating out is what your meal is actually made from – which is no different to being healthy before you became vegan! Too much sugar, salt, processed and refined ingredients have been shown to have a negative impact on our bodies and long-term health. But being a healthy vegan doesn’t mean eating bland and boring food, or denying yourself anything you love; cakes, burgers, pizzas and roast dinners are still on the menu – it’s how you prepare them that makes the difference.
In these posts I’m going to guide you through some of these options; to help you make informed choices at the dinner table, desk, or on the go and eating out. You’ll love the food and you’ll feel better for it – believe me, I started out as a junk food vegan, but my life is so much more enjoyable now that I’ve found a balance.
From raw fruit to a cooked breakfast, there are so many delicious and healthy vegan breakfast options!
Now, there are of course lots of breakfast cereals that you can buy that are already vegan (most brands of Cornflakes, Bran Flakes and Weetabix, for example), however many of these have a lot of added sugar and salt (particularly, it seems, with so-called healthy options such as Muesli). The same goes for a lot of the bread available to you in the supermarket, but there are also lots of widely available healthier options. So how about putting your own ingredients together to make a range of breakfast options, from the super quick and easy (fresh fruit) to the weekend cooked breakfast? Here are some ideas to get you started, with some of the things you might want to bear in mind when making healthy choices.
Fruit and nuts: Have a range of different fruits and nuts available for breakfast fruit salads, smoothies and as toppings for porridge or home-made granola. The frozen bags of berries you can buy in the supermarket are great value and provide instant variety to your morning meal. Dried fruits are great too; just remember they have a higher sugar content to fresh.
Porridge: Rolled oats are the best choice for porridge, as they are in their least refined state. What you add to them depends entirely on your taste buds! Add water or a dairy-free milk (again, no-added sugar types are best), and stir in something sweet. Maple syrup is unrefined and lower in calories than agave, although this is still a great alternative to sugar. Or how about a little coconut sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg? And if you’re brave, a pinch of cayenne pepper! It’s a great way to get your metabolism going in the morning.
Chia puddings & overnight oats: Simply soak your chia seeds or oats in your choice of non-dairy milk overnight with a selection of fruit, nuts, seeds and natural sweeteners, as above. Perfect for when you don’t have time to prepare breakfast in the morning!
Toast: There are lots of high-fibre, sugar-free bread choices in the supermarkets, including a greater variety of gluten-free brands. And don’t forget what your spread might be hiding! Look out for brands that don’t contain unnecessary additives or preservatives. Marmite is vegan, with the added bonus of B12, so you won’t be missing out on your favourite yeast extract and you’ll be topping up on that all-important vitamin. A lot of peanut butters contain added sugar. Look for a brand that is sugar free and low in salt. There are also quite a few organic chocolate spreads that are fantastic!
Toast with cooked toppings: You really can’t beat smashed or sliced avocado on toast with a little chilli for a power-packed start to the day! Or how about making up a batch of tofu or bean scramble? It’s low in fat, versatile and deliciously filling. With a little more preparation you can even make your own tempeh bacon with only a few ingredients. Fancy beans on toast? Go ahead! Just look for the brands with low sugar and salt.
Muffins: Who says cakes aren’t for breakfast? Just a quick look online will turn up hundreds of vegan breakfast muffin recipes, from wholegrain blueberry to savoury offerings with lots of tempting flavour combinations. There are lots of ways to replace eggs in vegan baking, from flax seeds mixed with water to avocados and bananas, all of which add a healthy dimension to your muffins. Try to use wholegrain flours, healthier sugar substitutes and pack them full of fresh fruit for the most nutritious treat.
Pancakes: As with the muffins, you don’t need eggs or dairy milk to make pancakes! For an even healthier version, make some buckwheat pancakes and bake them in the oven – and have some of that tempeh bacon and maple syrup on standby!
Cooked breakfast: The traditional cooked breakfast is so easy to make vegan and healthy. Some of the options include: rye or whole grain bread, tofu scramble, sliced avocado, steamed greens, black beans or organic baked beans (low sugar), baked tomatoes and mushrooms (or fried in 1 tsp of oil), potatoes/sweet potatoes dry-roasted or boiled then fried as patties in a little oil, and of course, a couple of vegan sausages.
Liquid breakfast: Not a fan of eating first thing? Never fear, there are still lots of tasty, healthy options. Hot water and lemon is a great way to start the day feeling cleansed and ready to go. Or how about a mixed green smoothie, or even better, blend up some frozen bananas and berries and start the day with ice cream! And not forgetting all of the delicious dairy-free milks to add to your coffee and tea – just remember to read the label for the sugar levels.
Breakfast on the go: Running for the bus or up early for errands, where would we be without high protein, whole foods bars? Nakd bars, Pulsin’ brownies and Clif Bars are all examples of the type of filling, nutritious ready-made options you can fall-back on if you don’t have time to make your own breakfast.
You can find recipes for some of my healthy and delicious breakfast suggestions over on The Whole Ingredient, and of course don’t forget to check out the Veganuary Recipes section for some great-tasting inspiration!