If you’re trying to move toward a plant-based diet, you’re going to find yourself trying some new foods, and building up your vegan, or whole plant foods pantry. This can be overwhelming – there are so many new foods to try! It can also be expensive when you are just getting started.
My advice is to do it gradually. Each week choose one or two new foods or ingredients to try. This has several advantages.
#1 It doesn’t feel like EVERYTHING is new so it’s less intimidating.
#2 You can really appreciate that food/ingredient, its taste and role in a recipe if it is the only new thing, instead of one of MANY new ingredients (and then if the recipe doesn’t work or you don’t like it, it’s easy to isolate the culprit).
#3 It doesn’t break the bank.
#4 It’s fun, rather than overwhelming, to find new ways to use that ingredient.
To get you started, I have created some lists. In this post we’ll start with beans/legumes. These power-packed foods are an important part of a healthy plant-based diet. They have been credited with lowering cholesterol, good weight control, decreasing circulating insulin levels, as well as the risk of metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes. They reduce blood pressure and inflammation, stabilize blood sugar levels, and more! There are many different kinds of beans and legumes with different textures and flavours. Ideally you should be getting about 1 1/2 cups a day. This can seem like a lot if you’re not used to eating legumes on a daily basis (and you might want to up your intake over a couple of weeks to avoid digestive discomfort), but they can be added to so many things! Throw a handful into a salad, or a bowl of soup. Make savoury oatmeal by combining your oats with quick-cooking red lentils. Add them to curries, pasta sauces or stir fries. Keep hummus on hand as a snack. You can even include them in baking!
If you are soaking and cooking them from scratch, add some kombu seaweed to the cooking water to make them more digestible. If you’re buying them canned, make sure you’re getting them in BPA-free cans, and a variety with no added salt.
These are some of the beans you might want to consider adding to your plant-based pantry, and some of my favourite ways to use them:
- lentils – red, green, brown, french – great in soups, dals/curries, savoury oatmeal. *Quick cooking
- chickpeas/garbanzo beans – hummus (of course!), salads, curries, soups, pizza, baking – just about anything! *Versatile, mild flavour
- black beans/turtle beans – wraps, soups, baked bean casseroles, salads, baking *Antioxidant-rich
- red kidney beans – chili, baked bean casseroles, soups *high in soluble fibre
- cannellini beans – spreads, salads, soups, pasta sauces
- adzuki beans – salads, soups, casseroles
- soy beans – soy milk, tofu, tempeh
- black eyed peas – soups, casseroles, salads
- great northern beans – soups, stews
- lima beans – with pastas, sautés or stir-frys
- pinto beans – refried beans, soups, salads
- navy beans – soups, stews, marinated salads/regular salads
- mung beans – sprouting
What are your favourite beans/legumes, and how do you love to use them?