Plant-based eating

There is more and more discussion of the need for us all to eat a sustainable diet and many people are adopting plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, including health, ethical and environmental reasons.

In general, a sustainable diet is one that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal-sourced foods, such as meat and dairy foods. It is not necessary to exclude any food groups to have a sustainable diet.

Plant-based meals can be delicious and filling. In addition plant-based meals are often less expensive than meat-based meals. A plant-based meal could contain vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and fruits.

oats2Examples of simple plant-based meals

  • Muesli or porridge with fruit and/or nuts
  • Toast with bananas, peanut butter  or avocado
  • Oatcakes with homous
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Black bean chilli with rice
  • Risotto with mushrooms
  • Pasta with pesto, olives or sun-dried tomatoes

Plant food groups have been found to be the most protective against diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. To optimize health it is important to eat a wide variety of plant foods in order to obtain sufficient vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-chemicals (plant nutrients).

A plant-based diet need not result in nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients most likely to be lacking from a plant-based diet are iron, vitamin B12 and calcium, but we don’t need to eat a lot of meat and dairy foods to obtain these nutrients. For example, eating meat just three times a week, along with a good variety of grains, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables, enables us to avoid iron deficiency.

Plant-based eating is easy and inexpensive. Choose simple, everyday foods and make just a few changes to your favourite recipes – for example, try quorn mince in your spaghetti bolognaise sauce (my husband has never noticed that I changed to quorn mince…shhh!).

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health


Choose healthy fats

Did you know that we need to have some fat in our diet to maintain our health?

Our bodies need some fats to fulfil all sorts of physical and metabolic functions, so we should not aim for a no-fat diet or a very low body fat percentage, either of which could be a detriment to our health.

Although the media often tells us that we would be better off with a low-fat  diet, we are actually better of when we choose to eat ‘healthy fats’ rather than ‘unhealthy fats’.


Monounsaturated fats: the healthiest fats

These fats are found in all nuts and seeds, avocados, olives and olive oil, rapeseed/canola oil. Eat these foods to your heart’s content.

Mediterranean diets, the traditional form of eating in Italy, Greece, and Spain, use olive oil in most of their cooking and salad dressing and these people have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.


Polyunsaturated fats: think fish

To maintain our health we need polyunsaturated fats that contain omega 3 essential fatty acids. To obtain these fats we can eat oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards (tinned fish is cheap and just as healthy). Fresh tuna is also beneficial (though not tinned tuna). Cooking with or walnut oil or flaxseed/linseed oil will also contribute omega 3 fatty acids to your diet – useful to know if you are vegetarian or vegan. Eat oily fish (baked or grilled) once a week for good health.

Polyunsaturated fats are also found in other oils like sunflower, corn and soya oils but these oils are not essential for good health. Indeed, having too much polyunsaturated fat in the diet could contribute to health problems like arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Never re-use polyunsaturated fats for frying as they could be converted to trans-fats (see below).

Saturated fats and trans-fats: the unhealthiest fats

Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animal products, like meat and dairy foods (cheese, butter, lard, cream, ghee). Saturated fats are also found in coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil, which is often used in snack foods such as pastries, pies, cakes and biscuits).

Trans-fats or hydrogenated fats are processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils that have been heat-treated to make them thick and this process turns them into a substance that is not beneficial for our health. These fats re often found in processed foods like pastries, cakes, biscuits, doughnuts and fast food

Tips for reducing the amount of fat in your diet.

All fats are high-energy foods (contain lots of calories) so reducing the amount of all fats we eat can help us to maintain our weight and our health

  • Use small amounts of olive or rapeseed oil for cooking and salads if you are watching your weight
  • Try spreading avocado or nut butters on your toast or bread (instead of butter or spread)
  • Choose smaller portions of dairy foods – including milk, yoghurt, fromage frais and cheese
  • Choose leaner cuts of meats, such as beef, chicken and turkey, and cut off any visible fat
  • Avoid fried foods – use healthier cooking methods (grill, bake, roast, steam or poach your food)
  • Eat fewer crisps, chips, takeaways, pastries and chocolate

Recent research has questioned whether reducing fat in the diet is really necessary. While the role of fat in the diet may be unclear, it is obvious that our eating habits and lifestyles have changed in the last few decades, including more snacking and a more sedentary lifestyle.

Fat may or may not be a contributor to our looming health crisis, but it is possible that by choosing healthier fats, there will be associated reductions in the amount of calories and sugar we are eating (fewer snack foods also means a lower-sugar and lower-calorie diet). Overall, healthy fats, less sugar and fewer calories are likely to be beneficial to your health.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

Food Myth: Eat meat for protein

True or false? You need to eat meat to get protein

False – There’s plenty of protein in plant foods. It’s a popular view that you need to eat meat to obtain protein, however this is far from the truth. Protein exists in many plant-based foods and in appreciable quantities. While you may not want to eat a vegetarian diet 24/7, some meat-free days may help your health and your finances.

The UK recommendations for protein are about 40g a day for women (weighing about 65kg and between 19-50 years old) and 50g a day for men (80kg and 19-50 years old). Most people get plenty of protein from eating a balanced diet, even when the diet does not contain meat everyday (see further details below).

Eggs contain perfect quality protein against which all other proteins are measured. Protein quality is a reflection of the number and balance of essential amino acids (protein building blocks) present.

  • One 50g egg ~ 6g protein

Dairy foods are great sources of protein.

  • 1 cup of reduced fat milk ~ 9g protein
  • 200g/7oz of low fat yoghurt ~ 13g protein
  • 40g/1½oz of cheese (hard variety such as cheddar) ~ 9g protein

Fish & seafood are excellent sources of protein (pesco-vegetarians eat fish, but not meat)

  • 100g/3½oz white fish (cooked) ~ 25g of protein
  • 100g/3½oz prawns/shrimp (cooked) ~ 24g protein
  • 100g/3½oz squid/octopus (cooked) ~ 21g protein

Legumes (pulses) are great sources of protein.

  • ½ cup baked beans in tomato sauce ~ 7g protein
  • ½ cup canned, drained cannellini beans ~ 8g protein
  • 2/3 cup cooked red lentils ~ 9g protein
  • 1 cup cooked split peas ~ 12g protein
  • 1 cup cooked soy beans ~ 23g protein
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) tofu (raw) ~ 12g protein
  • 1 cup light soy milk ~ 5g protein

Breakfast cereals, breads and grains are surprisingly high in protein, and the relatively high protein content of wheat is one of the reasons it has become such a widely grown staple food crop.

  • ¾ cup Special K Original ~ 6g protein
  • ¾ cup All-Bran ~ 7g protein
  • ¼ cup raw traditional rolled oats ~ 3g protein
  • 1 slice soy and linseed bread ~ 6g protein
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice ~ 5g protein
  • 1 cup cooked pasta ~ 7g protein
  • 1 cup cooked soba/buckwheat noodles ~ 9g protein
  • 1 cup cooked pearl barley ~ 6g protein
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa ~ 4g protein

Nuts and seeds are super nutritious foods that also contain protein.

  • A small handful (30g/1oz) of most nuts or seeds ~ 5g protein

Example meat-free menu

  • ½ cup oats 6g
  • 1 cup milk 9g
  • 2 slices soy and linseed bread 12g
  • 20g cheese 5g
  • 1 cup soba noodles 9g
  • 100g tofu 12g
  • 1 tub yoghurt 13g
  • 30g mixed nuts 5g


So, you don’t need to eat meat to get enough protein because it is easily available from plant foods. Meat does provide other important nutrients (including iron, zinc and vitamin B12) more efficiently than plant foods, which is why our health benefits from eating a variety of foods during the week.

Start the NEW YEAR with a promise to eat a wider variety of foods and enjoy meat-free mondays this year.

Adpated from article –