Exciting new foods to keep your menu from running on repeat
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
As the old saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.” So to add some sass to your diet, here are some unfamiliar vegan-friendly foods you should put on your shopping hit list.
While there’s nothing wrong with falling back on key healthy vegan staples like beans and quinoa, if you can recite your daily menu by heart, it might be time for a grocery cart shake-up. It’s a new year, so what better time to not only excite your taste buds, but to also load up on all key nutrients necessary for optimal health? In fact, researchers at Harvard and New York University found that individuals who consumed a greater variety of healthy foods tended to have less body fat and were at lower risk for metabolic syndrome (a cluster of concerns, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, associated with heart disease) than those who adhered to more limited eating plans. So it’s time to think beyond the tofu, and smash out of a food rut by making a New Year’s resolution to welcome these new foods into your kitchen.
Try these steps toward making this year the most exciting vegan eating year ever.
Each week seek out an unfamiliar food to add to your shopping cart. Everything from teff to tempeh can jazz up your diet with exciting tastes.
Work at incorporating bold flavours such as miso, fiery mustard, chipotle chili peppers, sauerkraut, and hoisin sauce into your meals and snacks more often.
The web is now saturated with vegan-friendly food blogs that are great resources for new recipe inspiration.
Seek out vegan-centric restaurants that can give you ideas for using plant foods in unexpected ways. Cajun seitan sandwich, anyone?
For different tastes and better nutrition, it’s time to bring these newfangled edibles into your culinary repertoire.
When it comes to your choice of nut butters, consider spreading the love to seeds. Made by grinding up the seeds of the sun-worshipping plant, sunflower butter has a consistency and flavour remarkably similar to that of ye olde peanut butter. It also tends to be a more economical choice than options such as almond butter.
Nutrition bonus: On top of providing up to 7 g of protein in a 2 Tbsp (30 mL) serving, sunflower butter is a good source of magnesium—a benevolent mineral linked to a lower risk for heart disease.
In the kitchen: Naturally, you can slather it on toast, but also try sunflower butter in smoothies, sauces, salad dressings, and homemade energy foods including bars and balls.
Named after the whale caviar it resembles, this remarkable legume has striking jet-black skin and is blissfully less earthy tasting than more common green and brown lentils. Another advantage is its cooking time: only 20 minutes in a pot of simmering water until slightly tender. No presoak required.
Nutrition bonus: These gems are nutritional goldmines with high amounts of protein (about 12 g in each 1/4 cup/60 mL serving), fibre, vitamins, minerals, and even some of the same type of age-avenging antioxidants found in dark berries.
In the kitchen: Since they hold their lens-like shape when cooked and absorb flavours beautifully, black beluga lentils are a superb mush-free addition to salads, stir-fries, grain bowls, and soups. Or use them as a stuffing for tacos and burritos.
Also called celeriac, frumpy celery root is exactly what its moniker claims it to be: the bulbous root of a celery plant. What this ugly duckling of the vegetable world lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for with a creamy white flesh that tastes like a love child of parsley and celery. Choose small to medium roots that are firm, heavy for their size, and free of soft spots, especially on the bottom.
Nutrition bonus: Celery root is especially rich in vitamin K, a nutrient that may help lessen diabetes risk by improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose metabolism.
In the kitchen: Celery root must be peeled generously with a sharp knife prior to eating. Grated or thinly sliced celery root can be added raw to salads or slaws. It’s also commonly used in puréed soups, as part of a roasted vegetable medley, or as an alternative to mashed potatoes.
Cherished in Japan, these noodles are made from gluten-free buckwheat flour and have a distinctive nutty flavour. They look like flat spaghetti and are light beige to dark brown-grey in colour. Often soba is made with a mixture of wheat and buckwheat flour. But for those sensitive to gluten, 100 percent buckwheat soba noodles are available.
Nutrition bonus: Buckwheat flour is a source of several essential vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, iron, and manganese.
In the kitchen: You can cook soba the same way you would prepare any other kind of pasta: in a large amount of salted boiling water until the pasta is al dente. Just watch the clock, as soba noodles tend to be quick cooking. Soba noodles are a natural fit for any Asian-style noodle, salad, or stir-fry dish, but you can also use them with other preparations such as meat sauces. They’re also a great addition to brothy soups.
While still largely an unknown in most Canadian households, sorghum is an important grain for nourishment in many parts of Africa and India. The beige grains are slightly larger than quinoa and have a great chewy texture with a slightly sweet flavour.
Nutrition bonus: You can count on sorghum to infuse your diet with phosphorus, a mineral involved in bone formation and energy production, and antioxidants (found in the bran layer) that may help quell inflammation.
In the kitchen: Sorghum is one of the slower cooking grains, so it’s a good idea to soak them in water for several hours before simmering to hasten the cooking time. Use in salads like tabouleh, grain bowls, veggie burgers, and soups. Whole grain sorghum flour can find a home in baked goods, homemade flatbreads, and pancake batter.