So, you’ve decided to adopt a plant-based diet.
After months of perching on the fence, you’re finally giving it a go.
The only thing is, you haven’t got a clue how to go about it.
You know it means upping your intake of vegetables, but beyond that, you’re at a loss.
What will you eat now that eggs, cheese and grilled salmon are all off the menu?
And please nobody say kale and rice cakes, right?
I can hear your tastebuds shrieking in horror from here.
Even if you don’t need GPS to find the kitchen, cooking plant-based can seem intimidating to the uninitiated.
It’s actually paint-by-numbers easy when you know the basics. Like most things, you can make it complicated if you try, but it doesn’t have to be.
Life on a plant-based diet can just as soon be healthy, tasty and super simple. Think of it as an exciting adventure.
You can bring your armbands if you like, but you won’t need them.
Let’s Talk Basics for a Minute
Transitioning to a whole new way of eating is a big deal.
Take a moment to feel pleased with yourself. You’re daring to do what a lot of humans still can’t fathom.
You’re giving up cheese. And eggs. And ice-cream. And burgers. And…
Oh wait, you’re not. Because:
I digress. Let’s get back to talking basics.
While I’ve included some links to recipes, this post is more about giving you some foundational know-how to mull over. Think of it as sharpening the axe.
Some tips may seem obvious, while others will hopefully provide food for thought. Either way, you’ll leave you feeling more confident about your vegan food prep abilities.
Let’s dive in.
1. Change Your Idea of Healthy (No Kale Required)
Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean a steady intake of steamed kale and rice cakes. It’s a lifestyle, not a prison sentence.
Food can be tasty and healthy. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Cooking from scratch isn’t a prerequisite either. It’s great, but store-bought is fine.
Think about the kinds of food you love to eat and learn to make a healthy, plant-based version. It’s much easier than you think. Google vegan + [your fave dish] and you’ll be inundated.
Read: Vegan Substitutions by VegKitchen
2. Invest in Some Kitchen Gadgets
Meal preparation is faster, easier, and a lot more fun when you have the right equipment for the task at hand. Let’s go shopping.
Steaming is the easiest way to cook veggies. A slow cooker means you’ll have a cooked grain when you get home from work (or Salsa). And a stick blender is all that stands between you a delicious sauce or dressing.
You can always scale-up later on when you’re more confident. For now, just focus on kitting yourself out with the basics.
Read: Vegan Kitchen Appliances That Really Help by Jordyn’s Vegan Place
3. Out With the Old, in With the New
It’s time to give your pantry a make-over. Start by taking out everything that isn’t vegan-friendly (long-life milk, fish sauce, beef stock, etc.).
While you’re at it, get rid of everything that’s past its sell-by date. Don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us.
All that’s left to do is stock up on some plant-based staples. A properly stocked pantry allows you to be spontaneous. Even better, you’ll never go hungry.
Read: Ultimate Vegan Grocery List by Veggie Visa
4. Keepin’ It Fresh and Organic
Making tasty, healthy vegan food also requires a weekly trip to the farmers’ market. No market? No problem. Stock up on fresh produce at your local supermarket.
Organic is preferable, but if it’s not available don’t worry. The important thing is that it’s fresh. Frozen and canned goods work in a pinch, but fresh is always best.
If you have space (and the inclination), you could try growing your own veggies. Another option is to order them online. Just make sure you get them.
Read: Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce by EWG
5. Dress up and Get Saucy (No Heels Required)
People often get nervous about cooking vegetables. I get it, they can be underwhelming. Recipes are great, but they take time. So, what’s the solution?
The trick is to make your veggies tasty after you’ve steamed them. Steaming might not sound exciting, but it’s super quick and it retains more of the nutrients.
Having a couple of homemade sauces and dressings in the fridge is a gamechanger. Break out your handheld blender and whizz up some deliciousness.
Read: 8 Tasty Vegan Sauces, Salad Dressings and Dips by Well Vegan
Download: Chef Cynthia Louise’s Wholefood Beginnings eBook to get your grubby vegan paws on her miso mustard dressing
6. Up Your Kitchen Smarts and Inspiration
It’s easier than ever to learn stuff. Whether you’re new to plant-based cooking or new to cooking in general, you’ll find someone to teach you the basics.
From cooking grains and roasting vegetables to soaking oats and baking bread, there’s a video showing you step-by-step how to make it.
YouTube is a great place to improve your cooking skills and kindle your inspiration. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it sounds tasty, try it.
Watch: The Happy Pear by Irish Twins Dave & Steve
7. Forget Serious, Let’s Have Some Fun
Remember, you’re making food, not building rocket ships Check serious at the door and have fun. You’ll learn more and your food will taste better.
Your mood when you’re cooking is transferred to the food. That’s why you often hear people talk about food being made with love.
Disasters happen. Embrace them and move on. If you can learn from them, even better. The important thing is to not beat yourself up.
Watch: Cheap Lazy Vegan by Rose
Meal Ideas to Nourish Your Body and Excite Your Tastebuds
I’ve walked you through the equipment you need, the importance of stocking up on staples and buying fresh veg, and I’ve spoken about upping your kitchen skills and kindling your inspiration.
In case you feel like you could use a little extra guidance, I’ve also put together a list of meal ideas to whet your newly discovered appetite.
Read: The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners: 21-Day Meal Plan by Alice Newman
1. Buddha Bowls (aka Protein Bowls, Power Bowls)
Buddha bowls are the vegan bomb. Omnivores make them too, but ours are better. I’m just saying.
You’re basically adding all the components of a healthy meal (grain, protein, vegetables, greens, and a healthy fat) to a bowl and topping it off with a tasty dressing.
19 Beautiful Vegan Buddha Bowl Recipes >> Happy Happy Vegan
2. Soaked Brekkie Oats
Oats are also the vegan bomb. They’re hearty, nutritious, versatile, and ridiculously easy to prepare. What’s not to love?
They too require a bowl. Throw in some rolled oats and plant-based milk (water works fine, too) and then add, well, anything you like, really. Superfoods, berries, banana, grated apple, raisins, spices, whatever.
7 Easy Overnight Vegan Oats Recipes >> 88 Acres
3. Vegan Pasta Perfection
The thing about pasta is that all that’s standing between you and a hearty meal, is a pot of noodles and a decent sauce.
The Italians might argue otherwise. That’s fine. We can indulge in their made-from-scratch pasta genius the next time we’re in Rome.
For now, we’re after quick, tasty and healthy.
31 Delicious Vegan Pasta Recipes >> Vegan Heaven
Bonus Recipe: Vegan Apple Crumble
Photo Credit: The Minimalist Vegan
In case you thought I’d forgotten, here’s a super easy recipe for vegan apple crumble from the Minimalist Vegan.
I know, I know, the caption in the image promises vegan apple pie, but I’m a crumble kinda gal and I just couldn’t find a suitable stock photo.
Artistic license, I think they call it.
Besides, apple crumble is tastier, easier and above all, much quicker to make. Zumba anyone?
Let’s Turn Up the Heat and Get Cooking
Imagine if you could be healthy without feeling deprived.
Imagine if preparing a weekday meal was quick and easy.
Imagine if Hangry Harriot went to live at someone else’s house.
You can. It could be. She will.
When you’re a beginner the learning curve can seem steep. Implement the tips in this post and it won’t seem quite as daunting.
Take it slow and steady. You’ve got this. I believe in you.
It’s time to dive in.
You’ve ditched the armbands, right?