When I first went vegan, I thought I already ate a lot of plants and whole foods. To be fair, I probably did in comparison to many, but a lot of my meals focused around meat (and then meat replacements), pasta or some kind carbohydrate, with vegetables on the side.
In recent years the research has shown that eating mostly plant based foods is best for your body. There may be occasional studies that show otherwise, but after digging there is usually something unusual around the methodology, or there are conflicts of interest, however the majority of the science shows that a whole foods plant based diet can be disease preventing, and even reversing.
With this knowledge, it can seem a little overwhelming to completely change your diet. I have gradually, over time moved towards a majority of whole foods, but I thought a post about easy ways to eat more plants and whole foods could be useful.
- Greens with every meal
- Make the vegetables the main, rather than the side
- Switch white carbohydrates for wholemeal
- Try new grains
- Always look for a way to add vegetables no matter the meal
Smoothies can be a great way to get in a lot of fruit (and vegetables), and can be a good breakfast option if you are busy in the mornings. In addition to the fruit, you can really load up with vitamins by adding ground flaxseed (readily available in tesco and other shops), which is a great vegan source of omega 3. I have heard that whole flaxseed (sometimes called golden linseed) can’t be broken down properly, so for the benefits of the omega 3 either buy already ground, or grind yourself.
I would note that with smoothies, it is important to drink slowly rather than gulp down. This is discussed within How Not to Diet, that the speed of drinking helps the full feeling. Personally, I also avoid juicing, as the majority of the fibre is removed, and this is one of the key ingredients that you want in your diet.
Ideas to have in smoothies – Bananas, Apples, Berries, Mangoes, Nut Butters, Oats, Oranges, Ginger, Kale, Spinach, Cucumber, your favourite vegan milk and so much more.
Oats are a nutritional powerhouse, full of fibre and goodness. I have started having porridge in the mornings and again I add flaxseed. I add berries, a banana, occasionally a little dried fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, cacao nibs and it is a naturally sweet, filling start to the day. There are so many flavour combinations out there it would be difficult to get bored with oats.
Overnight oats are a good choice if you don’t have time to make porridge in the mornings. When I make this I usually do the same as my hot porridge but I add a little vegan yoghurt. You can also make cookies from oats which is a good way of avoiding white processed flour.
Salads, or some variation of them can be a good choice for lunch, or to have with dinner. Salads have moved on from just iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes (although I do still like and eat this combination). My meal prepped lunches are technically salad. Their base level is the old school combination but then on top I have my grains, legumes and many more vegetables of all different colours. There are lots of recipes for dressings out there too if that’s your thing.
Greens with Every Meal
An easy way to fill up on iron, calcium and fibre is to have greens with every meal. The base of my plate is usually kale, cabbage, spring greens, brocolli, spinach, some kind of green vegetables.
One point of note when it comes to what greens are you choosing to eat. Spinach is pretty high in oxylates, and there is some evidence that large amounts of spinach can potentially cause kidney stones. Recently, even though I eat quite a lot of spinach, I have began subbing some of it with kale. Kale is really better all round so its a good choice, but don’t avoid spinach altogether!
A lot of greens consumption comes down to how you cook them and I do it in a few different ways depending on the meal. My usual dinner preparation is too lightly steam them. After steaming for a few minutes these go even more green coloured and this is when to take them off the heat, its a sign of the nutrients being released. I also have them water sautéed with my veggies, and regularly throw handfuls of spinach and kale into meals.
Switch White Carbohydrates for Wholemeal
Switch out white rice for brown or white pasta for brown. They both have a slightly more nutty flavour, but are far higher in fibre as they haven’t had the outer husk stripped. This is an easy switch to make. I don’t eat bread that much anymore but I try to choose wholemeal, and love brown sourdough (too much though!). My family aren’t keen on brown bread so they eat 5050 which is even a small step in the right direction.
Try new grains
I like to try new grains in place of rice and pasta. While I think these are okay within moderation, they can be fairly calorific, and often I’m looking for a more nutritious option instead of these.
My favourites are quinoa, wholewheat Cous Cous, pearl barley, bulgur wheat, there are so many options out there.
Always add vegetables no matter the meal
I try to add vegetables no matter the meal. If I’m having pizza I’ll add vegetables to the topping and have a salad. If I’m having pasta I’ll have my bowl of greens with it. If I’m having a meal I can’t force vegetables in I’ll have homemade soup before.
There are so many ways to move towards a whole foods plant based diet, so many swaps to make, some of them significantly cheaper and faster to make. I find over time my diet has moved closer and closer to a higher percentage of plants, and my health and energy levels have improved along the way.