Even for those of us who aren’t exclusively vegan or vegetarian, the benefits of including more plants in the diet are well-documented. Plant-derived foods are a fantastic way to boost our intake of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibre. Fibre is essential for a happy, healthy gut and also highly satiating (or satisfying), helping us stay fuller for longer. Moreover, including a variety of plant-derived foods supports healthy populations of beneficial bacteria within the all-important gut microbiome. This influences not only digestive health, but also immune, mental and skin health, to name just a few!
Health benefits aside, meat-free meals are also lighter on the grocery budget, which – cost of living crisis or not – is always welcome!
From the simple to the special, find 11 meat-free, plant-powered meals to try, below.
Simple: For those days when you’re low on time or energy (or both!)
- Veggie omelette. Eggs are a great vegetarian protein source. Omelettes come together incredibly quickly; you’ll just need two to three eggs, a dash of milk, your preferred combination of vegetables (omelettes are a great way to use up the final bits and pieces from your crisper, or left over roast veggies!) to sauté in extra-virgin olive oil, and S+P. Top with fresh herbs or rocket leaves, and serve with a slice or two of crusty wholegrain bread.
- Pumpkin + lentil soup. The inclusion of red lentils in this winter classic is an easy way to boost both protein and fibre. Simply cook them in water or stock and add to the blender with your cooked pumpkin.Tip: Roast your pumpkin in extra-virgin olive oil and spices for a deeper flavour.
- Pesto pulse pasta. Blitz a healthy pesto together faster than your pasta takes to cook! We love a combination of basil, spinach, kale, macadamias, garlic, S+P and extra-virgin olive oil – although you can very much make pesto your own! Boost plant diversity further by including a variety of nuts and seeds in your pesto, and opting for a pulse pasta.
Somewhere in the middle: For the every day.
- Sushi bowls. Alongside plenty of plants, a few fermented foods can also feature in this gut-friendly option! Simply microwave brown rice to use as your base (extra plant points for a brown rice and quinoa combination!) and top with some pan-fried tempeh/tofu, defrosted edamame, roasted or salad vegetables, kimchi, and shredded nori or seaweed flakes, for an iodine boost. Top with a sesame-miso dressing and enjoy.
- Dhal. Dhal can be as simple or as complex as you like – either way, it’s always incredibly comforting. Serve with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime, alongside steamed greens and rice (we love brown, black and brown basmati) or wholemeal roti.
- Lentil Bolognese. Simply swap the mince you’d normally use in a Bolognese for tinned lentils, and add plenty of vegetables such as shredded carrot, zucchini, celery and spinach – and herbs to further boost plant diversity. Serve with pulse pasta or protein pasta. Any leftover Bolognese freezes incredibly well, and also works nicely in a jaffle or over roast potato!
- Jackfruit tacos. The inclusion of jackfruit puts a plant-based spin on this Mexican favourite. Found alongside other tinned fruits in most supermarkets, young jackfruit has a similar texture to pulled pork, and its neutral flavour is a great vehicle for spices. Add some kidney beans and Greek yoghurt to boost protein content. If you’re not quite sure how this one works (trust us, it does!) – try this recipe.
Special: For when you have a little more time up your sleeve.
- Quinoa-stuffed capsicums. Filled with a delicious mix of quinoa, lentils and plenty of vegetables, this kind of food will leave you feeling balanced and energised. Serve with a side of steamed greens or a leafy green salad. This recipe has our tick of approval.
- Moussaka. This traditional Palestinian baked eggplant, chickpea and tomato dish is beautifully nourishing. Try it here.
- Cauliflower steaks. For something a little different! Incredibly versatile, cauliflower works well alongside other, punchy flavours. After slicing your cauliflower into 4 cm-thick slices, pan fry in extra-virgin olive oil with some hard herbs like sage, oregano or thyme, S+P and some lemon zest, before roasting in the oven to finish. Try serving with a cannellini bean mash, and top with capers, za’atar (a spice blend containing sumac and sesame seeds), fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon.
- Free-form vegetable + ricotta tart. This one looks really impressive and is a great option when entertaining! This version uses filo pastry for a lighter take – simply brush with extra-virgin olive oil for a crisp result.
For expert dietary support to meet your unique requirements, book your first appointment with one of our wonderful Accredited Practising Dietitians today.
Written by Caitlin Branch, Student Nutritionist, and Amanda Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian.