Simple swaps for a plant-based diet

We all know we should incorporate more fruit, veges, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes into our diet - they're good for us and pack a serious nutrition punch. Eating a plant-based diet is about choosing whole foods over processed foods, skipping refined sugar, flour, and oil, and focusing on what's good for us and good for the environment. If you're thinking of incorporating more plant-based ingredients into your diet, here are some simple ideas from Laura McNamara of islandwholefoods.co.au.

1. Swap cow's milk for plant milk

Have you ever considered ditching dairy for something plant-based? Maybe you've tried soy milk before and hated the taste, but did you know there are lots of other options out there, and it's so easy to make your own? Whether you try almond, oat, coconut, rice, pea, or hemp milk you'll be making a really easy switch. Our favourite is cashew milk, especially in smoothies. Just add a handful of cashews to your smoothie and replace milk with water.

2. Swap beef burgers for veggie burgers

It's probably no surprise, but beef burgers are often full of fat, especially if you buy the ones that are premade. Why not try out some veggie burgers, which are often filled with lentils, chickpeas, tofu, and beans. Getting your fix of vegetables might be a challenge for you normally, so this is a great way to get them in. If you are struggling with keeping on track with this, many diet plans are great for keeping your nutrition levels up if you can't do this with vegetables alone. Maybe check out the nucific customer reviews or something similar to inspire yourself! You can easily pick up veggie burgers from the supermarket or you can make your own. Sweet potato and chickpea burgers with homemade cashew cheese are a favourite!

3. Swap butter for coconut oil

If you're mad on baking, try opting for coconut oil instead. It adds a subtle coconut flavour that is full of fatty acids that boost brain function. As an added bonus, coconut oil has been seen to help boost your metabolism and reduce your hunger.

4. Swap ice-cream for frozen bananas

Also known as "nice-cream", blending up frozen bananas creates a similar consistency as ice-cream without the dairy, refined sugar, preservatives, and other nasties. You can add anything you like to the bananas: Berries, mango, toasted coconut, nuts... Our favourite combo is placing a few frozen bananas in a blender with a table cacao nibs, two dates, and a handful of almonds.

5. Swap meat for beans or mushrooms

Salads are a lunchtime staple in our house, but rather than grabbing out a tin of tuna or slicing up some chicken, we use beans to add that protein boost. Four-bean mix is a really nice option because it gives you some variety; otherwise, chickpeas or lentils work really well too. If you do have time, fry up a whole bunch of mushrooms with a little sea salt and place in the fridge to add to salads or grains.

6. Swap eggs for chia seeds

When you're baking a cake, muffins, or other sweat treats, test out using a "chia egg" instead. This is a tablespoon of chia seeds mixed in 2.5 tablespoons of water. Just mix it together in a cup and let it sit for a couple of minutes. You'll see the seeds puff up and become almost jelly-like. An added benefit of chia eggs is that they are packed with Omega 3 fatty acids and are loaded with antioxidants.

7. Swap cream for coconut cream

When you need to add a little extra decadence to a cake or some berries, try whipping up a can of coconut cream instead of grabbing the dairy alternative. Regular cream has lactose, a type of sugar, and accounts for a 4g per 100g, so if you want it to taste a little sweeter, add a teaspoon of sugar and/or vanilla to your coconut cream.

8. Swap mayonnaise for avocado

We never feel like this is a compromise, because we love avos so much! They are a great addition to a sandwich and add lots of flavour and moisture. Plus, they are packed with so much goodness like potassium, fatty acids, fibre, and can even lower cholesterol. You'll never look back.

9. Swap egg noodles for zoodles

If you're wondering what a zoodle is, it's basically zucchini (courgette) noodles that emulate the texture and shape of regular egg noodles. All you need is a spiraliser and a zucchini and away you go. Rather than just the empty carbs you get from noodles, you'll be filling up on a green veggie that's nutrient-dense and really tasty. Try making zoodles out of carrot or beetroot to jazz up your next stir-fry!

10. Swap creamy dressings for tahini

Not familiar with tahini? It's sort of like peanut butter consistency, but it's made with toasted and ground sesame seeds so it has a delicious, nutty taste. We make a great creamy dressing by whipping together tahini, lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt, coconut sugar, and water.

11. Swap milk chocolate for dairy-free

There are loads of vegan chocolate options available now, which you should be able to find in your local health food shop. But these chocolates can be a bit expensive, so you might like to try out making your own chocolate by mixing together raw cacao, coconut oil, and maple. Add in nuts, seeds, freeze-dried fruit, or coconut, and you'll create a delicious and wholesome treat. Please always check with a health professional, your Plunket nurse, or your GP before making significant changes to your children's diet, as it's vital to ensure that the foods they are eating contain the nutrients they need to build healthy, strong bodies and minds.
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