About 4.5 years ago, I started to think seriously about what I was eating. This soon changed from just a health issue, to an ethical one too.
I spoke about my change in approach to diet, health and fitness in this blog post here, but I thought it might be interesting to share my journey with vegetarianism and some tips on how you can eat a more plant-based diet this year, or make some simple veggie swaps. Every little effort helps.
Personally, I started eating more vegetables and less meat to help me get some more goodness in my diet. Before this, I was filling myself with a lot of meat, fat and carbs. Think cheese and potato pie or creamy chicken pasta. I was craving more greens!
Once I started eating more plant-based meals, I saw meat as a ‘treat’; something for weekends, or special occasions. This shift in how I thought about meat made me realise that consuming meat really wasn’t worth the obvious suffering of animals, as well as the detrimental impact on the environment.
With this in mind, my switch to vegetarianism (and massive reduction in dairy) became permanent, and as much an ethical choice as a health one. Put simply, there’s so many great natural foods and alternatives out there that I don’t have, need or want to consume animal products.
At this time of year, people start thinking about their diet, eating habits and how much meat and dairy they consume. You might want to boost your diet to feel a bit healthier in 2020, have meat-free days in the week or be tempted by the idea of Veganuary. Whatever the reason, it’s a great thing to be considering and I hope some of these tips will help you along the way!
Find recipes you’re excited to try
People often expect vegetarian and vegan food to be dull, lacking flavour and …basically, a pile of leaves. But, this simply isn’t the case!
A quick search online will help you to find a whole host of amazing recipes that will get you excited about cooking your meat-free meals. I recommend checking out: Deliciously Ella, Minimalist Baker, Aine Carlin and even BBC Good Food.
And, remember! If any of the non-essential ingredients look too fancy, too expensive or you can’t find them in the supermarket, you can always swap them out for cheaper, easier to access ingredients too. I do this all the time.
Explore a variety of fruit, veg and pulses
Don’t get stuck in a rut!
When changing your diet, it can be easy to stick to what you know and trust (e.g. potatoes, carrots, bananas… you get the jist). But that will become boring very quickly.
Now is the time to get adventurous and explore different foods that you’ve never tried before, or experiment with different ways of cooking them. When I first went veggie, I started out by trying different ways of using chickpeas, sweet potatoes, lentils, quinoa, dairy free milk, kale and lots more.
It was great fun, and although it took a little while to find out how I liked to eat them, it has massively expanded my recipe repertoire and these ‘new’ items are now some of my everyday favourites.
Try alternatives of your favourite meals
Just because you’re giving up meat doesn’t mean you have to give up on your favourite meals. I’m all for healthy eating but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a big, juicy burger sometimes – it’s just now I turn to Linda McCartney or No Bull burgers instead!
With the growing popularity of vegan- and vegetarianism, it’s becoming easier than ever to find great, plant-based and protein-rich alternatives such as burgers, sausages, chicken strips and fish fillets. You name it, there’s probably an alternative!
*It’s probably not the best idea to eat them with every meal, but as a treat they’re great!
Make sure you’re feeling satisfied
It’s really important that you don’t just cut something out of your diet and then forget to replace it with something else. When I first started going veggie, I didn’t really think about what I was going to add into my diet to ensure I was still feeling healthy and satisfied (and it sucked!).
Make sure you’re packing your plate full of different vegetables, grains, pulses, seeds and all the goodness you need to feel full and happy, not wanting for more. If you’re feeling hungry all the time, you’re not going to enjoy or want to stick at your new way of eating.
Visit small, local plant-based cafes
Vegan cafes can often create some of the most inventive and delicious dishes from simple, natural food sources. It’s a great way to find out about different ways of cooking your typical vegetables, the sauces and dressings that work really well with them and to highlight the incredible variety of tastes and textures that you can recreate at home.
A quick Google of your local town or nearest city will help you to find your nearest vegan/veggie eatery to visit. There’s a couple of my favourites in and around Cardiff and Swansea in this blog!
Are you planning to eat more veggies this year?
I hope these tips help you to feel excited and motivated to try a more plant based diet this year!