One of the common doubts among those transitioning to vegan or vegetarian diets is whether plant-based food preparation is more time consuming than cooking meat. Generally, it is easier to prep and cook vegetables as they stay for longer when refrigerated. But preparing a plant-based meal might take more time because you must include more variety of foods to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet. This is especially important for vegans because they have a higher risk of developing deficiency diseases. The purpose of this article is to introduce tips, techniques, and basics of plant-based cooking.
Is Plant-Based Food Preparation Difficult?
With enough experience, any type of cooking is easy, i.e., plant-based cooking can be as easy as cooking meat. You must remember that when you are trying something new, there is a learning curve, and this is also true for vegetarian or vegan meal preparation. Besides, there are a couple of advantages when you are cooking plant-based meals. For instance, they are simple, you need not use thermometers to know whether food is overcooked or undercooked, there is no risk of salmonella, reduced prep time, and so on. Finally, fruits and vegetables are less stinky than meat or fish.
Tips For Plant-Based Food Preparation
- When trying a new recipe, you must familiarize yourself with the ingredients. For this, you can start at the farmers market if there is one nearby or talk to vendors/growers of vegetables that you are using for the first time. The other option is to go to the fresh produce section of supermarkets or local stores.
- When switching to a vegan diet, you can try using new types of grains, nuts, and seeds that you would not have used otherwise. You can easily find them in the bulk section of the local store or supermarket.
- When switching to plant-based diets, you can try cooking international recipes. The spices, condiments, and ingredients required for making them can be easily found in the international/ethnic aisle of supermarkets. Some of the popular ones are tamarind paste, coconut milk, Mexican tortillas, rice noodles, and much more.
- You can become adventurous by picking a random item and trying to make a dish using it. This will let you become creative, find a new recipe, and make plant-based food preparation
- When purchasing plant-based food, you must keep stock of some staples. Some of them are brown rice, quinoa, oats, canned beans or beans, lentils, onion, garlic, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, nuts, plant-based milk, and fruits like bananas and berries.
- Chopped vegetables, canned beans, frozen fruits and vegetables, vegetable broth, tomato puree, etc., saves time during plant-based food preparation.
- Finally, you can buy fruits in season, and then freeze them so that you can use them as a base for smoothies year-round.
- When you start cooking plant-based meals, it is recommended to begin with simple recipes. As you get more experienced, you can try more elaborate ones.
- You can start transitioning to a plant-based diet by substituting standard ingredients with plant-based alternatives. For instance, you can use almond or soy milk instead of cow’s milk. Likewise, use nut butter instead of dairy-based butter, vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and so on.
- Roasting is one of the best ways to enjoy the flavor of vegetables. For instance, roasted bell peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, eggplant, asparagus, carrots, garlic, turnips, beets, and fennel are delicious. You can eat them directly or cut and add them to salads.
- You can make vegetable bowls, which combine different plant-based foods. It is made with whole grains, leafy greens, along with sources of protein like lentils, beans, tofu, or tempeh. This can be topped with salsa, pesto, hummus, guacamole, and tahini. Also, a vegetable bowl is a wholesome meal as it contains carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, and other essential nutrients required for a balanced diet. Furthermore, you can enhance its taste if you use sweet potatoes or avocadoes as they are a good source of healthy fats.
Processing or cooking enhances the bioavailability of the nutrients in plant-based food. Remember, nutrients like iron, calcium, beta carotene in carrots, and lycopene in tomatoes are absorbed better when you cook them. Listed below are the different ways to cook food:
- Steaming: This is the safest way to cook food as it retains most of the nutrients. Steaming is especially useful for preserving water-soluble vitamins like C.
- Boiling: This method is suitable for cooking vegetables like potatoes, pasta, and rice. The main disadvantage of this method of cooking is that it results in significant nutrient loss. That said, it is useful for making food tender and easily digestible.
- Roasting: In roasting, vegetables are baked in an oven at 400°F to 425°F. This method brings out the flavors and retains the nutrients in vegetables.
- Sautéing: You sauté vegetables by tossing them in an oiled pan. This brings out their flavor as well as gives them a golden-brown color.
- Stir-Frying: This method cooks food fast while giving them a perfect balance of crispy texture outside and tenderness inside.
You can improvise your plant-based food preparation techniques as you get more experienced. Also, you can try cooking vegan or vegetarian recipes from different cuisines.