When people are getting started with plant-based eating, it can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for people who have been cooking a certain way for many years, and who are now faced with making new types of meals as a matter of health.
But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming – it doesn’t have to be complicated. And you can use many of the skills you ALREADY have to make delicious, healthy plant-based meals, by just learning some basics, and by thinking about your dinner plate from a slightly different angle.
One of my favourite meals to teach people is what I call a Buddha Bowl, or a Rice Bowl, or a component meal. This is a meal that consists of a grain, lots of varied veggies, cooked and/or raw, and some kind of bean/tofu/tempeh. I often serve this with a sauce, and sometimes with some nuts/seeds as a topper. It’s a fast, healthy meal that you can put together in about 1/2 an hour if you have some components pre-cooked, or even less if you have done some batch cooking ahead of time.
In the meal you can see above, we have some steeped/steamed brown rice, some chickpeas that have been roasted with a bit of olive oil (optional), sea salt (optional), onion powder, smoked paprika and ground pepper, some roasted butternut squash, and some kale lightly sauteed with garlic and a touch of tamari. Served with a tahini sauce…delicious!
Eating healthfully doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating. I love the plant-based power plate guide that is put out by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine:
Really, it’s that simple. Many of us are so used to building meals around a piece of meat that it seems crazy to think about composing a meal without it. But when we look at what else is on our plates, we’re usually already including a lot of plant foods. One of the major shifts is to find ways to include more sources of plant-based protein to replace the red meat, poultry or fish on our plates, and that is easily done by including a serving of legumes, tofu or tempeh, or even meat alternatives as transition foods to get you started. If you’re still wondering about the health benefits of eating less meat, poultry and fish, and eating more plant foods, check out this guide from Kaiser Permanente. And once you start experimenting with and learning more about legumes, you’ll realize how much variety and choice this provides.
Component meals can be as simple or as complex and interesting as you care to make them. I love including LOTS of different veg in mine if I have the time to prepare them. Here’s another example (just to show you how different this meal, built around the same concept that I described above, can be):
What are you waiting for? Create your Buddha Bowl today:
- Choose your whole grain (e.g. brown/wild rice, millet, quinoa)
- Choose your legume/tofu/tempeh and decide whether you are braising/marinating/roasting/panfrying it (tofu and tempeh are best marinated to instill flavour).
- Choose a few vegetables, keeping colour in mind, and try to use some cooked and some raw (some of my favourites are lightly steamed broccoli/cauliflower, dry roasted mushrooms, roasted squash, raw bell pepper, raw/lightly stirfried cabbage, stir-fried onion – you get the picture).
- Choose a nut/seed (optional)
- Choose a sauce (a spicy peanut or tahini are my favourites) to top it all off (you may not need a sauce if you are doing a flavourful tofu/tempeh marinade).
Still not sure? Check out this post from Vegan Em, another blog of mine, with recipes to make the Buddha Bowl above, and see how easy it can be!