The transition into plant-based eating can be difficult for non-plant-based eaters. Starting off simple like replacing dairy products, eating vegan before six or participating in Meatless Mondays are great ways to ease this transition. Eating vegan is often viewed as a scary (and hungry) diet that may seem impossible. For all you non-vegans out there- fear not! Eating and cooking plant-based is actually super simple. Whether you’re trying out a new plant-based lifestyle yourself or cooking for your vegan kid, using plant-based ingredients to make meals is easy, healthy, hearty and nourishing.
Here are some simple and delicious plant-based meal ideas for those who are new to vegan cooking. These ideas are perfect for feeding a whole family and are fulfilling enough to put a smile on anyones face. Plus, they don’t require special tools or fancy ingredients- just an open mind, loving hands and a hungry belly.
1. Pasta (the healthy way!)
Pasta can be a great dish for plant-based eaters. The tricks to making a healthy pasta dish are to use whole grain pasta and lots of fresh vegetables. Many classic pasta dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs and fettuccine alfredo use beef and chicken, white pasta, dairy sauces and loads of butter. You can, without a doubt, cook rich and warming pasta without these unhealthy components. To keep is super simple, toss some sautéed, meaty vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, eggplant or sweet potatoes with lightly olive-oiled whole wheat pasta. To get some added protein, make these Vegan and Gluten-Free Tempeh Meatballs. Tempeh is a plant-based protein that has a meatier texture than tofu and can replace ground beef.
Pasta is also a great way to sneak more vegetables into your dishes. This Mac n’ Squash is decadent like a classic mac n’ cheese, but uses pumpkin puree and nutritional yeast instead of cheese. It’s amazingly hearty and won’t leave you feeling bloated or sluggish afterwards. You can also substitute the pumpkin for pureed butternut squash and add peas or kale for some extra greens. For the ultimate vegan treat, make this Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo. This creamy sauce uses pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast and non-dairy milk as plant-based alternatives to oil, butter and heavy creams.
Roasted veggies are a necessity for both vegan and non-vegan cooks alike. The best part of roasting vegetables is that you can use almost any vegetable (seasonal is best!) and they can either be a rockin’ side dish or a substantial main. Learn the Best Ways to Cook Your Veggies for the Most Nutrition before roasting. My favorite vegetables to roast are root vegetables as they are extremely warming and filling. These Easy Roasted Root Vegetables use coconut oil to make the flavors shine. Combine roasted vegetables with whole grains such as quinoa or millet for a complete, clean and protein-packed meal.
3. Stir Fry
Stir fry is an inexpensive and fast meal. Use one pan (or wok) and any vegetables you have on hand can create a simple stir fry that feeds a crowd. Most stir fries use chicken, beef or fish. For the non-vegan cook, simply leave out these proteins and let the vegetables shine on their own. Or, to get plant-based protein, use tofu as an alternative. Tofu is easy to use in stir fries as you can just toss cubed pieces in with the vegetables and rice, and the stir fry sauce will give the tofu flavor. Learn the secrets to sauteing vegetables Chinese-style and you’ll be cooking up this Spicy Mushroom Stir Fry or Kale and Roasted Corn Stir Fry in no time. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try making a stir fry with more unusual flavors, or sub noodles for rice. This Kelp Noodles in Peanut-Miso Sauce is awesome for those cooks looking to make a low-calorie, yet satisfying meal.
4. Soup and Salad
This classic soup and salad combination is guaranteed to please. Soup and salad are imperative dishes to learn how to cook because they are both versatile and a piece of cake to make. Making great vegetable soups is a satisfying ways to include beans, grains, leafy vegetables and good-for-you starches into a meal. Soups also keep for long periods of time and can be eaten for days. A lentil soup or bean chili are great ideas to feed a family well. To make a clearer and cleaner soup, try using a homemade vegan vegetable broth and whatever vegetables you have in your kitchen or freezer. This Winter Potato, White Bean, and Kale Soup is a great start for stirring up some soup creativity.
Salad is an awesome pair to a hearty soup. While most quality breads are vegan, pairing salad with a hearty soup is an easy way to stay full without feeling sluggish or overstuffed. Salads are just as versatile as soups. To get some green goodness, make a Super-Healthy Kale Salad or a Buttery Spinach Salad. For lighter greens, try using arugula or romaine lettuce as your base. Quinoa makes an extraordinary grain base for a salad, as do beans and marinated vegetables. Served cold or warm, these are awesome options to accompany any soup.
Nothing says home like a good ole’ fashioned meatloaf. Whether it’s a special occasion or you’re getting the cold winter blues, a meatloaf is a sure way to to warm up. Making a meatloaf plant-based is super simple for the non-vegan cook. The most uncomplicated way to make one is to use lentils. This Lentil Loaf provides ample protein and is moist and “meaty” like the classic. Pair this loaf with mashed potatoes, and opt for skipping the the cream and butter. This Easy Mushroom Gravy is a wonderful vegan version of the classic. To make a loaf without lentils, try using tempeh and grains like in this Country ‘Meatloaf’. Great for feeding a crowd, savory enough for any meat eater, and healthy enough to feel guilt-free, a loaf is an unusual and delicious choice.
All adaptable, palatable and simple for both vegan and non-vegan cooks, these plant-based meal ideas are great beginnings to vegan cooking. While intimidating at first, cooking plant-based can be a fun learning experience that can lead to overall healthier habits. Use these five meal ideas as vegan staples if you’re ever stuck on what to cook next. With a little creativity and awareness, plant-based eating and vegan cooking can seem like a breeze.
Lead Image Source: Sundried Tomato Pesto Zucchini Pasta with Corn, Beans and Spinach