Chorlton Eats…. More Fruit and Veg!

Chorlton Eats... more Fruit and Veg!

Tasty Tips

Want to reduce your meat and dairy? Let’s get started!

Unless you’re very determined, going from meat-eater to vegan in one fell swoop isn’t going to work. This isn’t a fad diet: it should be a lifestyle change, so the best way to make a real difference in the longer-term is to take it one step at a time.  You need a plan that you can stick with – and as you build up the meat-free wins, you can keep on reducing your intake in different and exciting ways.  And if you want the occasional bacon butty, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Every bit of meat that you don’t eat makes a difference. 

Eat a rainbow!

Vegetables aren’t just about eating your greens. One of the best single pieces of advice for really enjoying your plant-based life is to make your plate as colourful as you can. Brightly-coloured fruits and veggies are not only visually tasty, but each colour also comes with some very specific health benefits. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, so you can pile your plate high!

We’re not going to list all the details here, because our friends at the British Heart Foundation have already done it – read all about the rainbow here

Try some smart swaps

You can improve your health, cut calories and help protect the environment by making a few swaps. And plant-based foods generally cook much more quickly than meat, which means lower energy bills and less time in the kitchen. What’s not to like?

  • When it comes to minced beef, lamb or pork, try lentils instead. They’re packed with protein and fibre and give a lovely, nutty texture at a fraction of the price. 
  • Making your own veggie burgers is easy, quick and you know exactly what’s in them (unlike the shop-bought ones). You can make speedy burgers out of roasted cauliflower slices or a big, juicy grilled mushroom. Experiment with ingredients to create your own perfect burger.  Chris Bavin, from BBC’s Eat Well for Less has this cracking recipe to get you started.
  • Pulses are life-savers! Beans, lentils and chickpeas are high in protein and fibre, meaning they’ll keep you fuller for longer. They’re cheap and have a much lower environmental impact than any type of meat. Bung a tin of beans or chickpeas into your dish! Top tip: save a small fortune by buying dried pulses. Soak them, batch-cook them and freeze them in tin-sized portions. 
  • And a super-easy one? Swap your butter for a sunflower or vegetable oil spread: less carbon, less saturated fat.

Got tips to share? Tell us about them.

Milking it

There’s a growing range of plant-based milks in our supermarkets. They’re generally made by grinding the key ingredient, then diluting it with water.  The plant milk you choose is a matter of personal taste and you might prefer different types for different uses. It’s great to have more than one choice!

  • Oat milk is one of greenest plant milks out there, with lower food miles and emissions. It’s lower in protein than cows’ milk, but oat milk can lower cholesterol levels, so it’s heart-healthy. We really like oat milk in our brew. 
  • Soy milk is nutritionally closest to cows’ milk. It has a bad rep for deforestation, but that’s because most soy crops are used to feed animals, rather than to make milks. 
  • Almond milk – almonds are a thirsty crop and can’t be grown in the UK, so perhaps not the best choice environmentally, but still better than dairy. This milk is rich in Vitamin E, though opt for unsweetened versions to maximise health benefits.

You can also experiment with pea milk, rice milk, coconut milk – even potato milk! The good news is that all plant-based milks are much more environmentally friendly than cows’ milk. 

“Beefing” up your flavours

People say that fruit and veg is lacking in flavour. We think that’s absolutely bananas!

  • Overcooking is the enemy of taste. Keep an eye on your veggies when they’re boiling (or steaming, which is healthier still): make sure they still have good colour and a little bit of bite. 
  • Roasting veggies is a great way to intensify flavour and sweetness. Chop up a colourful mix – onions, peppers, aubergine, squash, mushrooms, carrots, cauli, courgette, whatever you’ve got! Spread them out in a roasting tin with a bit of oil. Twenty minutes or so in a hot oven and you’ve a tasty, healthy dinner.  You can enjoy roast veg hot and save leftovers (if you have any, that is) for the freezer and future meals. 
  • Make it saucy! There are some brilliant ways to add ‘umami’ – that gorgeous savoury flavour – to your veggies. Try miso, soy sauce, nutritional yeast (an amazing ingredient!), barbecue sauce, black bean sauce and loads more.  Vegetables also love curry sauce, chillis, garlic, spices and even lemon juice. Time to experiment!

Pea is for Protein

Eating less meat isn’t all about salads and healthy eating: we can get as much protein from plant-based sources as we do meat – but without hurting the planet! There are tasty, protein-rich alternatives to fit every budget and lifestyle.

Top veggies for protein include peas, spinach, corn, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, kale and potatoes. Add plenty of lentils, tofu, chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds into your diet  too – they all pack a powerful protein punch!

Check out the plant-based section next time you visit the supermarket and see what’s out there – you might just find a new favourite!

We LOVE soup!

Soup is a fantastic, healthy and nutritious way to up your veg intake and it keeps you full for ages, especially with a bit of crusty bread. It’s also a great way to sneak healthy veg into fussy kids. You can batch cook and freeze all plant-based soups in individual portions. 

Gently fry an onion until it’s just softened. Add your soup ingredients (see below or search online), give it a stir, then add a veggie stock cube and water. Let it all simmer till softened, then blitz it with a blender, push it through a sieve or even leave it lumpy.  Top soup combos?

  • Carrots, ginger, apple (with or without curry powder)
  • Tomatoes and red pepper (and a little orange zest at the end – yum!)
  • Butternut squash with Thai red curry paste
  • Leek and potato
  • Red lentils, carrots and leeks
  • Minestrone – the fridge’s friend – use whichever stray veg bits you find in there. Chop them small, simmer them gently – add some small pasta (or snap up some spaghetti) then finish with a blob of pesto (or don’t). Unbelievably tasty either way. 

Know your onions

A big part of environmentally-conscious eating is about cutting food waste. Think about how you store your food and it will keep much longer. For more information, have a look at Love Food, Hate Waste’s helpful Food Storage A-Z guide

  • If you’ve a sad-looking squash or a limp lettuce, don’t despair. There are lots of ways to use veg that’s less than fresh. Soup can magically transform the most tired-looking veg into a warming, flavoursome treat.  Bags of wilting salad make great pesto. 
  • Think about the food you buy – a nice, crisp lettuce like a little gem, iceberg or cos will have a longer fridge life than a pricy bag of salad
  • You can freeze most raw or cooked veg if its water content isn’t too high (like tomatoes, melons, cucumber etc). If raw, blanch it in boiling water before freezing. Shop-bought frozen veg is frozen when it’s very fresh, so it’s just as good for you. 
  • Pasta, pulses, rice and other dried ingredients keep for years! So do tinned fruit and veggies, though go for fruit tinned in juice, rather than sugary syrup. 
  • Know your dates!  A ‘Best Before’ is just that: you can eat a food after that date and it will still be fine. Don’t ignore ‘Use By’ dates, though – they’re the ones that keep you safe. 
  • If you have a garden, you can save all your veg peelings for the compost bin! Making compost is so satisfying – and saves money too. Recycle for Greater Manchester have some great tips on how to get started with home composting. 

And if you still want to eat meat…

Doing your bit to cut down is the key thing. Every little helps!

  • A simple one to start with: take a look at your plate and make that meat section smaller! 
  • Decide to have a meat-free day every week. A lot of our schools have been doing this for ages. 
  • Mix and match – bulk out expensive meat by adding beans, lentils and other veggie ingredients.
  • Cook meals where you can more easily include loads of veg alongside a smaller serving of meat – a colourful stir-fry, a hearty soup or stew with potatoes, beans or chickpeas, a veg-packed pie… 
  • Beef is the most damaging meat in environmental terms – farming cattle takes a lot of land, energy and water. Opt for meat with less impact – chicken, pork or lamb. 
  • And if you’re eating meat, eat it mindfully. Respect it, don’t waste it