Changing to a plant-based diet from a carnivorous one can be complex. It may feel overwhelming, especially when you start thinking about all those family meals that need to be altered. But rest assured. Often, you’ll only need to make one or two small changes to replace meat with a plant-based protein.
Here’s our ideas to help you and your family make the transition from meat-eaters to plant-based a breeze.
Plan, Prepare and Plan Some More
One of the most effective ways to keep things simple, is to be prepared. Keep your cupboards stocked with plant-based basics so that you don’t struggle when it’s time to cook. This means always having a selection of dried or tinned beans to hand! Herbs, spices and seasonings will help keep the flavours alive.
Dried beans and pulses need a long (usually overnight) soak to soften them up before you can cook with them. A great tip is to pre-soak them so you can make quick dishes without any fuss. This is especially important if you have a hungry family waiting!
After soaking overnight, simmer your beans until they’re cooked. Rinse them well, then when they’ve cooled, pop them in the fridge to use later in the week. Weekends are an ideal to prep in this way if you have the time spare.
Using tinned beans will help if you’re pressed for time or you’re getting used to cooking with pulses.
Plant Protein – Perfectly Possible!
It’s hard to make nutritious substitutions for meat without understanding your plant-based protein options. Tofu is the best known source of plant protein. But if you’re looking to consume fewer processed foods and more natural, whole foods, tofu isn’t a great first choice.
Lentils are protein-packed and very easy to use in place of minced beef because of their small size. There’s 18g of protein in every cup of lentils. Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans all have around 15g of protein per cup and do well in a whole range of pasta dishes, stews and curries instead of meat.
Those All-Important Plant-Based Swaps
There are many meals that are ideal for accommodating a plant-based meat substitute.
Tacos are a popular dish, using lentils in place of the meat. Once you mix in some black beans, tomatoes and lots of zesty spices, you can hardly tell that they’re meatless.
Chilli is another excellent meal that you can quietly turn plant-based. Black beans and kidney beans are classic chilli ingredients anyway. So they can easily be the main component without having to change much else.
Comfort food like Shepherd’s pie works very well without the meat too. Again, use a mix of lentils or other beans to replace the minced beef. With a little more effort, you can even make a classic meatloaf by using lentils or a mixture of mashed beans. Combine these with your favourite seasonings and bread crumbs, roast it and serve with gravy and veggies.
Not all changes have to be meat-based. Green soybeans (known as edamame) are very tasty, and are packed with protein. You can add these as a vegetable side-dish, much like peas or green beans. Or swap your usual rice for protein-fuelled quinoa.
Involving the Kids and Making Things FUN – for Everyone!
You can keep the kids interested in trying new foods by getting them involved in the preparation and cooking. Children can be a lot more open to giving different foods a chance when they’ve had a hand in making the dish. Make it a fun activity and let them know how proud you are of their cooking skills. It’s hard to turn your nose up to a meal after that.
The best way to start moving to a plant-based diet is with simple meat replacements. Take it one recipe at a time and enjoy your plant-based journey!