It’s taken me a while to realise this, but the secret to a healthy, balanced diet is simple.
Eat real food.
In the words of Michael Pollon: “If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t…”
It should come as no surprise that eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods and minimising consumption of highly processed foods is good for our health. We all know that we should eat more vegetables.
So here is part one of a plant-based A-Z of healthy, whole, plant-based foods and what to do with them.
Not just for salads; you can add them to smoothies, make chocolate puddings with them (yes, really!) and they’re great mashed on toast with black pepper and a squeeze of lime.
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries… they’re great for snacking or adding to breakfasts. You can also use them to make chia ‘jam’ and if you have a food processor, you can blitz berries with frozen banana to make ‘ice-cream’. Berries can be expensive, but if you eat berries that are in season, you’ll get better value for money. Frozen berries are also a lot cheaper than fresh!
Like avocado, cucumber is not just limited to salad territory. It’s great as a snack with hummus, but you can also grill it to eat with dips and even add it to smoothies.
Dates are a delicious sweet treat. They also taste great with peanut butter!
Okay, aubergine… but it’s the same thing! Baba ganoush is one of my favourite dips, but aubergine is also great roasted and it’s delicious done in the slow cooker. You can also finely chop aubergine and mushrooms to use instead of mince in dishes like bolognese and chilli-non-carne.
Did you know that the inside of a fig is a tightly packed cluster of flowers and seeds? Figs are great as a snack, but also really tasty in salads.
From treating ailments to keeping the vampires at bay, garlic is rumoured to have many ‘powers’ but the best thing about it is its flavour. From garlic-roasted vegetables to wild garlic pesto, it’s a great addition to most meals.
Hummus is great with cucumber, peppers and carrots as a snack and can also be used as a spread to replace things like cream cheese and mayonnaise. What’s more, it’s so easy to make your own. It’s also cheaper than buying it!
I… also like butternut squash
There isn’t much that begins with the letter ‘I’, so I’m going to talk about squashes instead! Homemade butternut squash or pumpkin soup is my favourite, but they’re also great roasted. And don’t forget the seeds! Clean the seeds with water, then toast them for a few minutes in the oven with a little salt, pepper and rosemary. Less waste, more snacks!
If you have avocados, tomatoes, lime and coriander, there is one very important thing missing – jalapeños. What’s nice about these is that they actually have flavour and therefore don’t appear to exist solely to reduce you to tears with their heat. They’re great pickled, but you can also stuff them and bake them like bell peppers (if you’re brave!)
Not just for hipsters! Many people, myself included, aren’t keen on kale’s bitter flavour but apparently massaging it makes it taste less bitter. I haven’t reached that stage of intimacy with my vegetables as of yet, so I tend to just make it into pesto. Kale pesto is actually one of my favourite pestos, despite my usual dislike.
Lemons and Limes
Lemon and lime juice are great for adding flavour to dressings and marinades.
Melon is delicious as a snack or as part of a healthy breakfast. It can also be used in salads or blitzed with ice to make a cooling ‘slush’. Due to their high water content, they also make great ice cubes! I’ve also seen melon diced with things like kiwi to make a fruity Rubiks cube, but that might be taking things a bit too far…
For N-Z, make sure you check out part 2!