This was written by my friend Jyoti. There some great ideas. Have a read! 🙂

Here are some recommendations, based on experience, about foods which may help your new vegan diet to be healthier, tastier and more varied.

Munchy seeds, Pumpkin mix – This will give you lots of the essential fats that you need, and the sesame seeds are a source of calcium.  Eat them on their own as a snack or scatter them on the salads you make and in your sandwiches.  They are particularly good in stir-fry.

Soya Milk – This is probably an essential part of your diet as soya is the best source of protein.  You should look for fortified milk which will have added in calcium, D vitamins and possibly B12.  You get the option of sweetened or unsweetened.  When people start, they usually opt for the sweetened version.  Try different makes and brands of soya milk as each taste quite different.  You will eventually find one you like.  If this fails, you can try Rice Milk.

Flaxseed/Linseed Oil – This oil contains the omega fat oils (the ones that are found in fish).  It is essential to get this into your diet.  It is good when used to dress salads.  It is not an oil to heat or cook with.  If you don’t think you can accommodate this, buy flaxseeds which you can eat as you would other seeds.

Nuts – buy a variety of nuts so you don’t get bored.  Cashews contain calcium.  Brazil nuts are essential for selenium (nerve functions).  Even if you have only one a day, that is good.  They are very fatty and oily.  Walnut and pecans are also good.  Put nuts into salads and stir fries.

Quinoa –Pronounced ‘Keenwa’ – It is considered a ‘superfood’ by health experts because it is a complete protein (contains every single type of protein you ever need).  It is like a grain and tastes just like couscous, but millions of times more nutritious.  You cook it as you would rice (1 part quinoa = 2 parts water).  You can treat it like a rice or couscous.  If you making something like a vegetable pie, or bake, you can add some of it in for weight and substance.  Try using it for Moroccan cooking and eat it with a tomato-based sauce with chickpeas in it (and raisins and apricots).  Also works well in tabouleh (Mediterranean parsley salad) in lieu of cracked wheat.

Apricots – Just 3 dried apricots a day = 1 serving of fruit/veg.  It is very rich in iron, which you need.  Eat like a snack, or if you put it chopped in sauces or whilst boiling rice, it plumps up and is deliciously sweet to eat.  Dried raisins are also very good for you.

Marmite – You may not like it, but it is a great source of B12.  Put a small amount in when boiling rice/quinoa/couscous/vegetables.  The vegetables/rice will absorb the nutrients of it and you won’t be able to taste it.  When you eat soup, dissolve a bit in and you will hardly be able to taste it at all.  The alternative to this is Nutritional Yeast Flakes, which have the same properties and taste similar but are in a flake form (so harder to disguise).
If you need margarine, there are lots of soya alternatives on the market.  The yellow sunflower version by the ‘Pure’ brand, to my experience, is the most accurate and does not have the soya aftertaste that many of them do.

Tofu – this is really a superfood.  If you buy plain firm tofu, you should marinate it for best flavour (in soya sauce/periperi sauce/jerk seasoning/spices).  It tastes good grilled or deep fried. A recommended brand is Taifun – try their smoked tofu almonds, or the basil tofu, or the Mediterranean one which has sundried tomatoes in it.

Avocado – is a fatty food, but they are all good fats.  It is great in salad or use it to make guacamole.

Beans should form an important, protein-rich part of your diet.  There are numerous types with slightly different flavours.  As a rough guide, the smaller the bean, the more protein-rich it will be.  For example, a mung bean will have far more protein than a butter bean.

Sandwiches –Sandwiches can sometimes get a bit boring.  A good tip is to try different types of bread – baguettes, pitta bread, tortilla wraps, rolls, bagels, wholemeal, seeded.  You will be surprised what a difference this makes.  Pack your sandwich with as many vegetables as you can cram in.  To give it a different flavour, use various condiments each time – mustard, ketchup, hummous, guacamole, vegan mayonnaise, vegan salad dressing, peanut butter.  Try roasting/grilling your vegetables.

Iron – If you feel you are lacking iron in your food, consider using blackstrap molasses as a replacement to sugar in tea.  It is unrefined sugar syrup that is extremely rich in iron.  Also bear in mind that Vitamin C will encourage iron absorption so try to consume both at the same time.  For example, have orange juice when having spinach soup.

Iodine – it is crucial to get iodine into the diet.  Most salt is iodised.  Dairy consumers will get their iodine through milk because cows are fed iodine pellets.  For vegans, sea vegetables (ie. Seaweed family) is the best source of iodine.  There are also kelp tablets available.

Biscuits – in recent years, many supermarket brands of famous biscuits have become vegan.  Always read the labels but you will find that many of the following are often vegan (depending on the supermarket in question):  Ginger Nuts, Digestives, Hob Nobs, Bourbons, Ritz Crackers, Jacob’s Crackers, Rich Tea.

Meal ideas – there are so many meals available to vegans, you just have to be adventurous.  The trick is to make small alterations to the same basic meal.

Chocolate – the majority of 70% plus dark chocolate is vegan (though this may not be the case in Europe).  Brands to look out for; Lindt, Green and Blacks, Divine (this is also Fairtrade).  Booja Booja make the most amazing truffles and have started a sugar and dairy-free ice-cream range.  Health food shops will also have vegan equivalents of favourites such as Bounty and hazelnut nougat chocolates.

Jacket potato – different fillings.

Stir-fry – this is a great meal that gets in a lot of different type of vegetables.  When you make it, try and use bean sprouts, because they are a very nutrient-rich food that are hard to eat in any other form.  Bung in seeds and nuts as you like.

Vegetable bakes –Steam vegetables and add a sauce to them and bake them in the oven.  To replace the cheese, top with breadcrumbs.  Add lentils/beans/quinoa for a more substantial meal.

Mexican food – wraps/tacos are great to include lots of vegetables.

Soups – are easy to make and you can use any vegetables you have and put in a vegetable stock cube. Make a lot and it can last you a couple of days.

Curry – Make curries using different vegetables and combinations of vegetables and you won’t get bored.  Almost everything works.  Make in a tomato based sauce and buy spices – they will last you for months and months!  To alter the flavour, try adding in coconut milk.

Pasta – when you have it, make sure you put in lots of vegetables, otherwise there is not much nutritional value.

Roasted vegetables are easy and great.  Leftovers can be cut up and used as sandwich fillers.

Smoothies – are fun and nutritious.  Start experimenting and you will be hooked!

Staples – vary between bread products, couscous, quinoa, rice, rice/spinach noodles.

Balancing the Vegetables – you need a variety of vegetables to get your nutrients.  This is as much necessary for meat eaters as vegans.  You should become more aware of it now though.  Get leafy vegetables (like spinach), get the floret family (broccoli, cauliflower), get different coloured vegetables for Vit C (Peppers), get root vegetables (sweet potatoes are more nutritious and nicer than usual potatoes, squash and other pumpkin family foods, carrots), courgette cooks quickly so is good when you are in a rush.  If you like mushrooms, they have a meaty texture and are meant to be good for you.

If you want recipes, go to our website!

By Jyoti Mehta

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