Vegan Food Groups

As omnivores we were so familiar with the standard meat+potatoes+veg template for our meals, that trying to create vegan meals can be intimidating at first. There is no reason why you can’t continue to use this same recipe when you’re vegan. You could simply replace the animal protein with vegetable protein.

Try out these faux sausages from Fry's Vegetarian range of frozen ready meals. Nothing beats a baked potato. This one is made with melted Cheezly. Photo © Mel 'Simple Vegan Cooking'. There is such a large variety of fruits and vegetables available in a wide range of flavours and colours. Have fun with it and experiment! Photo © iStock Serg_Velusceac Many ready made sauces and condiments are vegan, for example this Peach Apricot Chutney from Ima Paarman.
PROTEIN + CARBS + VEG + SAUCE

 

Let’s break the food groups down to show you the wonderful range of options you have to create your delicious vegan meals from now on.

Proteins

Here are some tips on how to prepare beans, as well as where you can find other forms of concentrated vegan protein.

  • Haricot beans, mung beans, kidney beans, borlotti beans, lentils, butter beans and chickpeas are all good sources of protein. Soak the dry beans overnight (sometimes longer) and then simmer in fresh water. Replace water halfway through. When cooked, they can be frozen in meal-size portions and then added to soups, stews, stirfrys, curries or salads when needed. When buying canned legumes, rinse them well in a sieve to get rid of the oligosaccharides that hinder digestion and cause flatulence.
  • You will find that many vegan substitutes for chicken and meat, are available in supermarkets and health stores, ranging from chicken strips, sausages and mince to burger patties. These are made from a variety of products including chickpeas, soya, mushrooms, lentils and seitan which is a protein invented by the Buddhist monks and made from gluten.
  • When buying soya mince, you will need to read the labels carefully, as not all soya products are vegan. As a general rule, soya products that are marked as ‘vegan’, are not usually genetically modified. If you are buying an unflavoured soya mince, first soak the mince in a bouillon made with vegetable stock or the flavouring you want to add to your meal.
  • Tofu is simple to prepare. Simply add tofu to whatever stew or soup you are preparing and it will absorb the flavours in the pot. Otherwise you could deep fry it, or purchase a firmer variety for more texture.

 

Carbohydrates

Did you know that pasta is vegan? Just keep an eye out for egg in egg noodles. Otherwise pasta is usually made from just 2 ingredients: flour + water. Bread is also vegan, although it is always sensible to check the ingredients. The Sasko label specifies that their emulsifiers and enzymes are from non-animal origin. Albany actually labels their bread as vegan!

  • Rice, corn, pasta, bread, wraps, tortillas and quinoa.
  • Potatoes could be served as chips, mash, rostis, hash browns or baked potatoes.
  • Muesli, porridge and cereal can be made with oats, rice, quinoa, soya, millet and buckwheat flakes.
  • Quinoa is the new superfood. Excellent tossed into a salad, or served instead of rice. It contains a multitude of nutrients and a generous helping of protein.

 

Fruit & Vegetables

If you don’t like vegetables it is still possible to be vegan, however you are going to battle to get flavour, variety and adequate nutrition. Please persevere. Treat yourself like an errant child and tempt your tastebuds with new dishes. Our bodies instinctively crave what they know is good for them, so when you start tuning into what your body needs, you will start to appreciate the complex flavours and textures you get from vegetables. Vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables should form the basis of your eating plan.

  • Include lots of green, leafy vegetables and salads in your meals. Kale, spinach, parsley and salads have a high iron, folate and protein content.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, aubergine, mushrooms, baby marrows are full of macro and micro nutrients and fibre.
  • Colourful vegetables, like carrots, butternut and red peppers are rich in antioxidants.
  • Alfalfa, lentils and mung beans are easily sprouted with minimal fuss. They are the ultimate fresh, organic meal absolutely bursting with real enzymes. Sprouting a bean dramatically increases its nutrient value.
  • Grow your own sunflower seed sprouts and wheat grass for tasty micro nutrients, chlorophyll, simple protein and minerals.
  • Fresh fruit is the perfect portable, in-between-meal snack, or as a pick me up for when the 4pm afternoon doldrums hit you.
  • There are so many fruits to choose from: apples, pears, kiwi, melon, oranges, granadilla, guavas, grapes and mangos.
  • Paw paw and pineapple greatly enhance the digestion.
  • Blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and mulberries are filled with antioxidants and vitamin C.
  • Dates and goji berries are Nature’s sweets and packed with nutritional value.

 

Sauces & Condiments

  • Condiments include capers, olives, pickles and sundried tomatoes.
  • Humus and tahini make an excellent spread for corn thins and bread, or can be used in salad dressings.
  • Omega 3 fats are a necessary part of your diet and it is far healthier to eat whole foods like avocados, olives, nuts and seeds than to add concentrated oils. Rinse olives and soak them for 10 minutes to remove excess salt.
  • Sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, as well as brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, coconut and pecan nuts make tasty snacks and are great sources of unsaturated fats, iron and calcium.
  • Have a tablespoon of freshly ground linseeds (flaxseed) every morning to ensure adequate intake of omega 3; or sprinkle it over salads, soups and stews to add flavour.
  • If you are adding oils to your food, rather use cold-pressed flax oil which is high in Omega 3.
  • For healthy fried food you can use coconut oil.
  • Sauces you can use include tomato sauce and canned tomato mixes, BBQ, Mexican, chili, chutney, some Thai curries.
  • You can make or buy vegan mayonnaise and many salad dressings are vegan.

 

Non-Dairy

  • Anything that can be made from dairy products can also be made from soya, nuts and oat or rice milk. Keep an eye open for vegan ice creams, custards, creams, butters and chocolate mousses. Many of the products use non-hydrogenated oils, which is 100% cholesterol-free and far healthier for you.
  • Soya yoghurts are available, but unless it clearly states “vegan” on the package, it isn’t.

Daily Vegan Essentials

Try to include these items in your diet every day:

  • plenty of green leafy vegetables, at least 100-300g
  • 50-60 g tree nuts
  • 1-3 fresh fruit
  • 30 g ground linseed
  • wheat grass juice or powder
  • Vit B12: 2.4μg daily from fortified foods, or supplements

Do you still think you will be hungry? Check out the Meal Plan and Recipe pages for some ideas.

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