I have been asked this question many times. I am never quite sure how to respond as it is such a loaded question. It always comes from someone with an opinion on me being vegan, yet you know as soon as you open your mouth and advise someone exactly why being vegan is better for you, you become a preachy vegan. It really is the rock and the hard place situation. So rather than answering this, I like to instead let people know exactly what I do eat and how healthy it all is for you. I also like to point out, have you ever noticed almost all superfoods are vegan??
The question does however highlight the issue that you really should know what you should be eating. The basic food groups need to be covered in everyone’s diet, but it is particularly important when you are vegan. I am no dietician, so obviously if you are worried about your diet you should seek an experts help. But I thought it would be helpful to share with you a look in my food cupboard and what the staples are.
I wanted to start with the one and only vitamin you must take as a vegan, B12. This does not occur naturally and so must be supplemented. It is interesting to note, it does not occur in animals either, they get it from elsewhere too! The internet says they get it through either the food they eat (from mud etc) or from supplements they are given.
Tofu & Tempeh
Both are a great source of protein, and tofu also contains all 8 amino acids as well as many other essential vitamins. It is also really versatile so is such a good staple to have. You can get tofu which can be refrigerated or buy it from the aisles in the supermarket with a longer shelf life. Either way we always have a stash in my kitchen. But you need to know how to prep tofu, it has to be cut into slices and then I wrap it in a tea towel and stack the heaviest items in the kitchen on top. This will remove the excess liquid. I tend to leave it like this for 30 minutes before cooking.
Another place I get my protein. They are also high in fibre. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, whichever beans you like! Beans and pulses are a staple on a vegan diet and perfect for throwing into all manner of meals, least of all because they are cheap. I love a chilli, lentil shepherds pie, lentil bolognaise, black beans in fajitas. I could probably go on all day. Needless to say I have an entire shelf in my cupboard full of beans.
Nuts & Seeds
Slightly harder to just say nuts and seeds are good for x,z or z, because they are all sources of different vitamins and minerals, from iron to healthy fats. Mix and match what you eat to get the range of benefits. There are so many options of how to use them too, they can be made savoury or sweet and eaten on their own or mixed through meals. Nuts are a staple in my homemade granola too, the recipes will be coming your way soon. They can be made into milk if you want too. I also love to have them on standby to add into salads or stir fry’s whether that is as they are or toasted.
Seaweed & Spirulina
I am not sure why I bundled these two together, other than they are both green, but hey here we are! Both are maybe a bit random, but both seem to be highly recommended as having great health benefits. As I am not a dietician, I do not want to be simply be sharing what others say blindly, but the studies seem to suggest the hype is true. Honestly I am not 100% sold on spiulina, it has a very strong taste in a smoothie, but who doesn’t want an excuse to eat more vegan sushi.
Wholegrains & Cereals
These ones are high in fibre and B Vitamins. Oatmeal, brown rice, bulgar and quinoa to name a few fall in to this category. They are great as good filling options in your meal as well so I always have them stocked in the cupboard. We all know porridge is a great filling breakfast, a bulgar wheat salad can be a great lunch option and anything with brown or wild rice for dinner is a winner. They are so easy to get into your food and chances are you are already eating them.
Fruit & Veg
Goes without saying! They are full of vitamins and minerals. Super tasty too! Basically read any of my recipes and they will be filled with them, whether you opt for fresh, tinned or frozen they should always be in your kitchen. Almost every super food out there is either a fruit or a vegetable. So, get your greens!
This is not exactly a nutritional staple, but it is a vegan staple so I wanted to add it. It is great to add a little bit of cheesiness to cooking whether you add it to cheese sauce, on top of a cheese free pizza or into your risottos, nooch as it is often called is a great product to always have available.