Vegan food blogger and recipe developer Elizabeth Emery guides us through her top tips for eating more whole foods this Veganuary and beyond.
With veganism trending upwards right now, there’s no shortage of tasty plant-based treats available, from Beyond Burgers to Greggs sausage rolls. Utterly delicious as these are, you might find yourself craving something a little more wholesome from time to time. If you’re looking to up your intake of goodness this year, keep reading on for some simple tips to incorporate whole foods into your diet.
1. Sneaky greens If you want to eat more veggies but aren’t sure how to go about it, try making the same dishes you eat regularly but add in an extra portion of vegetables. This could be as easy as adding a chopped courgette to a curry, a pack of baby spinach to a stew, or grilled red pepper slices to a sandwich. The more you do this, the more natural it will feel to add extra portions of veg to each meal, and the more you can gradually build up the amounts and variety!
2. Blend Smoothies are a magical way to get a huge dose of whole foods with minimal effort. As well as fruity favourites such as bananas, berries, mangos and avocados, you can also add in less obvious foods that pack a nutritional punch, such as flax and chia seeds, kale, hemp seeds, cacao and nut butters. Not only are smoothies delicious, they’re a fast and convenient way to eat a LOT of whole foods when you’re on the go.
3. Garnish away It may sound silly, but making your food pretty is a sure-fire way to make it more appealing. And conveniently, many foods that are often used as garnishes also happen to be really nutritious! For example, sprinkling your pasta with parsley will give you a dose of iron, and adding alfalfa sprouts to your sandwiches will provide an extra boost of vitamins and minerals (sprouts are mini nutritional powerhouses!).
4. Batch it up If you struggle to find the time to make healthy food at home, try just cooking a big batch of an easy dish once a week that will yield a lot of portions. Chilis are great because they contain loads of whole foods in the form of beans, vegetables and spices, and are one-pot meals that require minimal supervision. Any portions you make can be reheated easily to provide a quick lunch or dinner, and you can also freeze what you don’t use so you’ve always got a home cooked meal ready. If you’d like some recipe inspiration here, please feel free to try this Warming Bean Chili recipe on my blog.
5. Snack love Shop-bought treats can be tempting but it’s amazing how quickly you can make your own delicious snacks, and how much better they are for you than almost anything you can buy! Energy balls are a tasty way of getting more whole foods into your diet, and are so simple to make. Try blending the following in a food processor: 1 cup oats or almonds, 10 dates, 3 tbsp coconut oil and 3 tbsp cacao powder. Roll into balls and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
6. Grainy days A really easy trick to include more whole foods in your diet is to try subbing in whole grains and pastas where you’d usually eat white, refined versions once or twice a week. Try swapping out white rice for brown rice, or another whole grain like quinoa or millet. Similarly, instead of white pasta try brown, or a pasta made from millet or quinoa. For noodles, try using those made from buckwheat or brown rice.
7. Tools for the job Never underestimate how much having the right (and inexpensive) kitchen tools can make a difference when it comes to getting more whole foods into your diet. For example, using a mandolin means you can shred vegetables like broccoli stems and cabbage very finely, making them much easy to eat and digest. They’re also then easier to add to salads, stews or soups, boosting the overall nutrient content of these dishes.
8. Have fun Most importantly, eating more whole foods shouldn’t feel boring – it should be fun! Don’t force yourself to eat foods you don’t like – make it easy by first incorporating the foods you already love. Leafy greens and lentils are great, nourishing whole foods, but so are avocados, sweet potatoes, berries and almond butter. Try adding in the foods you love first in easy ways (like topping porridge with berries and nut butter), then progress to trying foods you’re less certain about. This way you’ll feel good about what you’ve already added in, not what you’re missing out on!
Elizabeth Emery is a food blogger, recipe developer and creator based in Vancouver, BC. She is passionate about making vegan food and living beautiful, and creating plant-based travel guides to cities around the world.
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PAGE UPDATED MAY 2020