If your new year resolution is to finally make a weight loss diet plan and stick to it, then you are probably on the look out for healthy recipes to add to your list. Avoiding meat is a good idea, and going vegetarian is a healthy move as well, as many studies show. But if you also want to ensure that no animals or feathered friends are harmed just for the sake of your palate, then you may wish to go a step further and opt for a vegan lifestyle instead.
There are two main reasons why many folks consider going vegan:
One, you show your support for farm creatures that are reared and/or killed and that undergo both psychological and physical stress just to provide food for you.
Two, you also help the environment because producing animal products is far more damaging for the ecology than even producing cement or sand. According to Professor Edgar Hertwich, author of a U.N report that showed why going vegan is a better option for the world, “biomass and crops” used for the animals being farmed for food have about the same adverse impact on the environment as burning fossil fuels.
Apart from these, there are also some very persuasive health reasons to turn vegan. Studies show that if you switch to foods only derived from plants, you enjoy several health benefits. This includes a lowered risk of cancer, heart ailments, and type 2 diabetes. Cutting out animal products also means you may be reducing your risk of developing cognitive ailments like Alzheimer’s. The hormones that are used on farm animals and the antibiotics to keep them illness free do not do your body any good- by turning vegan you avoid risks arising from this, as well. There are also weight watchers who swear by their vegan diet and credit their svelte figures to being vegan, so that’s another health benefit right there.
“But I can’t compromise taste for going vegan!“
And you don’t have to at all! A common misconception is that vegan recipes are bland and tasteless, and that you are terribly restricted with what you can cook if you go vegan. Not true at all! All it takes is a bit of planning and thinking when you do your grocery shopping, and you have a pantry full of awesome vegan stuff that you can use to create some simple, some exotic dishes that all taste good.
You do take time to do a bit of planning before you go grocery and vegetable shopping anyway. Once you switch to vegan, you just have to get some practice running through lists of items mentally and figuring out what you need for the week ahead.
Here are some items that fit into your vegan diet plan perfectly and that are a must- add to your grocery list:
Fats are an essential addition to your grocery list not just because you need to sauté or fry some foods, but also for your salads, dips or spreading on toasts. When you choose your fats, pick those with a good dash of essential acids, especially omega 3 and 6. Pick up two or three different oils for cooking and you add a whole different range of tastes to each dish. Of course, you can have your oils for salad dressings and then a different one for frying too, based on both your budget and your taste preferences.
Among oils, you have a whole host of vegan options. Choose from coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, and flax seed soil, with olive giving you a unique taste with most salads. Canola and flax seed are the lighter options, while coconut lends a very distinctive aroma to foods that can make for a good variety. You can also get vegan butter and vegan margarine to use as spreads for toasts or tortillas.
Vegan Milk Options
Giving up animal derived products need not mean that you have a no-milk shopping policy. You just have to choose the right kind of milk, and thankfully, you have plenty of alternatives to pick from. You will need milk for adding to your beverages like coffee or tea, and maybe you like to drink a refreshing glass of milk from the fridge too in lieu of unhealthy snacking. One of the most popular and most nutritious plant based milk options is soy milk. With a healthy dose of protein and with its texture so similar to cow’s milk, soy milk is a great alternative to those who have just given up dairy but still miss the creamy taste of cow’s milk. If you prefer, you can choose flavored soy milk too for just drinking straight from the fridge. Go for unsweetened options so that you do not load your body with unnecessary sugars. Other vegan options are cashew milk, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, quinoa milk, flax milk and hemp milk. The last three are excellent options in a weight loss diet as well.
Let’s also talk about milk derivatives here. You cannot include your regular cheese, butter and yogurt now. But tofu makes a good substitute both taste- wise and health-wise, thanks to its protein packed goodness. You can choose vegan cheese that is available in both slice form and in shredded form to top up your salads or add to pasta. Nutritional yeast is another no- dairy product that can add texture to your recipes.
Plant Based Sweeteners
While avoiding dairy does not mean you avoid white sugar, you can switch to healthier plant based options to sweeten your dishes and enjoy better health. Apart from the very commonly used maple syrup, you can also choose cane sugar, agave syrup, or stevia to add a sweetness to your dishes without overloading your body on sugary stuff.
Apart from these, you can also stock some items for long term. For example, you can stash a number of products in your freezer and use them to add a new facet of taste to simple dishes.
Frozen Fruits and Veggies
You can add these to desserts or smoothies. You can also use these as your go-to snack when you are feeling peckish instead of choosing a junk food that will add empty calories. Oh, and breakfast cereal tastes much better topped with frozen fruit too. Pick up some colorful berries that are rich in anti-oxidants – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries,and raspberries all fit the bill well. You also get mixed berry blends that you can carry along as snacks or just pop into your bowl of cereal when you need to eat a wholesome breakfast in a rush.
Having some healthy vegetables stocked away in your freezer ensures that when you run out of fresh ones and don’t have time to do your shopping, you are not in a fix, and you don’t have to forgo nutrition in your meal. Good frozen veggie options include spinach, asparagus, broccoli, peas, corn, and edamame.
You can also store nuts in your freezer if you prefer to buy them in bulk and keep them stashed away for later use.
Now that you know what to shop for and stack in your pantry, take a look at some low fat vegan recipes that will keep you healthy and energetic while your waistline remains trim.
Recipe 1: Chickpea vegetable stew
You can make this one with dried or canned chickpeas. With the dried variety, they need to be soaked overnight. In the morning, drain away the water in the dish, fill in fresh water so the chickpeas are nicely submerged, and then cook until they are nice and tender.
You need other veggies too for this one, such as carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
Saute the finely cut onions, and then then add garlic to it. Meanwhile, make a paste of the tomatoes. With the other veggies, you can either finely cut them and add them to the onions to cook, or make a broth and add that along with the tomato paste once the onions cook. Once the tomato-onion-veggies mix is cooked for a while, add the chickpeas. Close and let the mixture simmer for about half an hour. To get a thicker consistency, mash some of the chickpeas. For extra taste, add basil and oregano along with cayenne pepper, and then finally salt. You can dip your wheat toast in this flavorful stew, or eat it with quinoa or brown rice.
Recipe 2: Chickpea salad
This one is an ideal early-in-the–day food that is loaded with protein to keep you feeling satiated for long. This gluten free recipe needs other veggies like red cabbage, carrots, and cilantro apart from quinoa.
To start, cook the quinoa, Nx chop the cabbage, carrot and cilantro. The chickpeas need to be cooked if they are the dried variety (after an overnight soak). Else rinse and drain your canned chickpeas to get them ready for the salad.
A good dressing for this salad is a peanut butter, veggie broth mixture that can be made thin or thick as per your preference. Add lime juice for the tang, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper, mix all of it up with quinoa, chickpeas and the other veggies, and you are ready to serve. This salad holds well in the fridge, so you can make it and store it away overnight as well so that you have a healthy meal ready for the morning.
Recipe 3: Chinese style tofu with cauliflower
Toss tofu pieces in cornstarch so that they are coated well. Fry the tofu in oil until golden brown. Now make stock mixture with the remaining cornstarch along with soy sauce, hoisin, and vinegar. Use the oil in the pan to brown your cauliflower pieces,and add garlic and celery generously. Sauté quickly, keeping in mind that you want to retain the crunch of the celery. Add ketchup to the cauliflower and then the stock mixture. When the mixture boils and thickens, toss the fried tofu in. Add pepper and salt, and mix well, and your dish is ready!
Recipe 4: Thick carrot soup
Sauté finely chopped onions well along with salt, turmeric and paprika. When the onion starts to brown, add garlic. Once the garlic begins to brown, add the carrots. Have vegetable stock ready and add it to the carrot mix now. Cook with a lid until the carrots are really tender. Now for the blending – add tahini to the carrot mixture in the blender and run it until you have a super smooth, velvety soup. To add crunch to the soup, use almonds or pistachios.
Recipe 5: Kale caesar salad
The first step is to make tofu croutons that add crunch to this recipe. You need extra firm tofu and a mixture of lemon juice, garlic and onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce to coat the tofu cubes with. Leave the tofu to stand for a quarter of an hour before putting it away in the fridge for at least two hours before you fry it in a shallow pan until golden brown. Kale and nutritional yeast go into the salad. Toss well with olive oil, add the croutons and pumpkin seeds, and you can even store for four days in the fridge.
Recipe 6: Garlic bread
If you are feeling in the mood for Italian but want to make sure you are eating healthy, why not just make your own garlic bread at home?? You need a loaf of bread of your choice, vegan cheese, garlic, tahini, and parsley. Blend the garlic, tahini, and parsley well. The mixture is spread on your loaf of bread, on both sides, after slicing the loaf lengthwise. Be generous with the spread. Use a baking sheet and bake until golden. Shred vegan cheese on top of the baked bread and serve. This bread is also quite tasty when served straight from the fridge.
Recipe 7: Tofu quiche
This quiche comes with a hash brown crisp crust, which requires potatoes and vegan butter, as well as sea salt and pepper. Grate the potatoes into a pie pan that has been coated with non-stick spray. Remember to squeeze the moisture out of the potatoes first. Add melted vegan butter, salt and pepper to taste, and mix it up by tossing. Press the grated potato into the pan using your fingers. Bake for half hour until golden brown.
For the filling, you need extra firm tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic, hummus, leeks, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli. Toss the veggies and garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven until soft. Next comes the tofu- use a processor for the tofu, yeast, and hummus, along with salt and pepper. Get the veggies out, add the tofu mix to it, toss to mix, and then spread it onto the quiche. Bake again until the top layer is golden. Let it cool and then serve.
Recipe 8: Quinoa veg salad
Cook quinoa and let it cool. Add oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a mixing bowl and stir well. Add the quinoa and also eggplant, grape tomatoes, sliced zucchini, cucumber slices, parsley, jalapenos, bell peppers, and also thin slices of garlic cloves along with black pepper and salt. Toss well, refrigerate for two hours at a minimum, and serve.
Recipe 9: Bean avocado spread for toast
Mash the avocado until you have a nice pasty mix. Rinse and drain your canned white beans. Use red pepper to taste if necessary and also salt and ground black pepper. Toast a slice of whole wheat bread, spread the avocado mix on top of the slice, and then add the white beans to create a near instant breakfast that is rich in protein and low on calories.
Recipe 10: Minestrone soup
This one has plenty of healthy veggies, such as leeks, carrots, and asparagus. Heat olive oil, and to the oil, add carrots and leek along with salt. You can add thyme for taste as well. You can also add chopped red potatoes if you want a richer taste and texture. To these veggies, as they cook, add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, and then turn down the flame and let it simmer until the potatoes are soft and tender. Add the asparagus now and then some salt and pepper along with fresh dill.
Recipe 11: Vegan potato salad
Baby yellow potatoes taste the best for this recipe. You also need celery, green onions, and dill pickle. Put the potatoes in water, bring to a boil, and then simmer until they are cooked enough to be pierced with a fork. Let them sit for 15 minutes. The dressing is done with vegan mayo, mustard, vinegar, and pepper- mix them all in a large bowl. Add the finely chopped celery, green onions, and dill to this mix, and refrigerate until your potatoes are ready. Once the potatoes are cooled, add them to the dressing in the fridge. Mix well, add seasoning if you please, and then it all goes back in the fridge for another hour at least.
Recipe 12: Classic spaghetti and “meat” balls
Red lentil spaghetti and marinara sauce take care of the first part of this meal. Cook the spaghetti as per instructions on the packet. Once it is done, strain and cool, then add the marinara sauce and mix well so that the spaghetti is evenly coated.
For the meatballs, you need canned kidney beans and oats. Mash the beans thoroughly. Add the oats, along with garlic and onion powder, oregano, marinara sauce, soy sauce and mustard. Mix well with the mashed kidney beans, and then make little balls out of the mixture with your hands. Line up the balls on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until the outside begins to crisp. Once done, sit the “meat” balls on the pasta and sauce and serve.
Recipe 13: Lentil chili
You will need canned red and pinto beans, celery, onion, green pepper, and diced tomatoes. Sauté the onion, green pepper, and celery over medium heat. Add salt, chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin powder and ensure the vegetables are infused with these flavors by stirring thoroughly. Now add the beans, tomatoes, and lentils to the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer after a boil for half an hour. You can top it with vegan cheese, jalapenos, and green onions.
Recipe 14: Italian pasta salad
Olives, tomatoes, cucumber, and red onions go into this salad, along with herbs. Use fusilli to make the pasta and cook as per instructions on the packaging. Cook it al-dente. Once drained and cooled, add the finely chopped veggies to it, then olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped garlic. Italian seasoning, salt pepper, and also maple syrup, if you like a dash of sweetness, complete the wholesome salad.
Recipe 15: Black bean soup
Start with onion, garlic, red bell pepper, cooked black beans, and canned diced tomatoes. Sauté the onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium heat. When they are beginning to turn soft, add cumin, smoked paprika, oregano and salt to taste. Wait for three minutes, and then add the black beans and tomatoes along with vegetable broth. After a boil, let the mixture simmer for a quarter of an hour. Puree half of the soup and add it back to the rest to give a thicker texture overall.