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Quick and Easy Ways to Eat More Plants

Let’s take a look at some easy, quick ways to cut back on the amount of meat we eat and switch to enjoying a more plant-based diet, as painlessly as possible.

This is Week 5 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This week, Becky Alexander, local food writer and Herts Ad columnist, gives us simple steps to eat a more plant-based diet (and love it!).

We are a nation of animal lovers – dogs are family members, we put out seeds for the birds, and sign petitions to save pandas. But when it comes to the animals sold to be eaten, we seem, in the UK, to turn a blind eye. We like to think the chickens we eat roam happily under apple trees and our cows explore beautiful Scottish Highlands, but this is not the case for the vast majority of animals eaten in the UK. Industrial meat farming is very problematic.

Meat also contributes to climate change. Did you know that producing one joint of beef accounts for 85kg of carbon pollution – the same as flying from London to Paris?

“We like to think the chickens eat roam happily under apple trees…but this is not the case..”

I get the challenges: Life is busy. We all need to eat three meals a day. We need decent quality protein and a good range of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. What if the kids/partner don’t like vegetarian food? Or you love ham sandwiches? Yet we all need to find a way to eat more plants and less meat.

So, what’s the answer? I think a few, simple steps will help.

1. Eat plants at lunchtime

How about switching to veggie lunches? You can make that swap without impacting on evening meals (if that is a barrier to you). There are so many options – salads, soups, wraps, dips, things on toast, nut butters, falafel, hummus, black bean burritos… there are so many ways to get protein into your lunch without meat and fish. 

2. Start with 5 plant-based meal ideas

Some easy lunch options are: beans on toast; tomato and butterbean soup; scrambled tofu with pesto (for recipe see below); black beans mashed into wraps with tomato and pepper; roast vegetables with lentils. You only need 5 new lunch ideas and that’s midweek sorted! I really like the grilled tofu banh mi sold by Taste of Vietnam on Thursday lunchtimes.

 Banh Mi from Taste of Vietnam. Photo: Taste of Vietnam

3. Drop the meat and fish Mon-Thurs

How about saving your meat and fish cooking for the weekend, and eat vegetarian or vegan food Monday-Thursday? Keep the meals that matter to your family, like roast on a Sunday, fish on a Friday? Old-fashioned, perhaps, but affordable. No-one needs red meat every day, and imported beef is particularly bad environmentally.

4. Discover quick and convenient plant-based store cupboard staples

Tins/jars of cooked beluga lentils, juicy butterbeans, red chickpeas, creamy Borlotti beans… there is so much choice now. These are ready to eat so perfect for easy summer cooking. If you are aiming for a veggie meal rather than vegan, add grilled halloumi or scatter over your favourite crumbly cheese, add leaves, slices of pepper and radish and you have a meal fit for Instagram that is packed with flavour and protein. 

5. Be inspired by recipe books

Invest in a new cookery book if you need a couple of new ideas for evening meals. The Green Roasting Tin, Bosh!, and One Pot, Pan, Planet are great books for creative vegan and vegetarian meals. 

6. Choose plants when you’re out

When eating out, choose a plant-based option. Everywhere has great choice now and this is an easy way to try something new. Megan’s do a very nice Earth Bowl and Lussmanns do a great Chargrilled cauliflower with chimichurri. Turkish and Indian food lends itself to plant cooking with flavour. Wagamamma is brilliant for vegan options for choosy teens – but they do use a lot of imported products. Why not try Tabure’s signature Stuffed Courgette Flowers and their Fava Truffle Hummus? A chef really shows their talent when cooking with plants (cooking steaks is basic to them).

If you’ve been thinking about trying to eat more plants, it’s time to take that step. Buy just one thing different this week in your supermarket shop that will make one of your lunches plant-based –  perhaps a simple swap from tuna to baked beans on your baked potato, or a tin of black beans or cooked lentils on your salad instead of chicken. Better yet, why not make it some tofu and give my easy recipe a go. Enjoy!

Becky’s Quick and Easy Scrambled Tofu

100 g firm tofu

1 tsp pesto (green or red)

splash rapeseed oil

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. 
  2. Add the tofu and break up using a wooden spoon. Add the pesto and stir to break up the tofu further and to mix the ingredients. Cook for 2-3 minutes until any liquid is reduced and serve on hot toast.

For more plant-based meal ideas and free recipes visit Becky’s website.

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Becky’s inspiring advice to choose the “Eat More Plants” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog on solar panels by Will Tucker.

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