I am not a vegetarian, nor flexitarian (someone who rarely eats fish or meat); I love all the food groups in the dietary triangle too much to skip any. Speaking of which, did you hear that my region in Belgium, Flanders, is the first to update this antiquated food pyramid and reverse it? Let me tell you about it.
I can no longer stand by and proclaim the environmental issues and animal suffering is not my problem. I aim daily to make better choices in my food sourcing and want to contribute in my own way. One way to this is to eat a few days a week vegetarian and focus on organic farming, I have some simple steps and recipes how to achieve that.
THE FOOD PYRAMID – is a triangular diagram representing the optimal number of servings to be eaten each day from each of the basic food groups. The first pyramid was published in Sweden in 1974. The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes as similar structure with objective to prevent obesity, chronic disease and dental caries. The USDA pyramid was created in 1992 and has 6 horizontal sections, last updated in 2005. In these traditional pyramids, the larger sections are bread, cereal, rice and pasta on the bottom. Fruit and vegetables are shared, as are milk and cheese with poultry and meat, fish, eggs and nuts. The smallest tip of those pyramids are oils, fat and sweets. There is MUCH controversy about this and The Flanders Food Institute went ahead and not only turned the pyramid upside down, it removed and added items. Today they recommend: starting with drinking a lot of water. Next are vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole wheat cereals, pulses, potatoes and natural fats. A little bit of fish, poultry, an egg, bit of cheese or milk are fine. Eat sparingly red meat and animal fats. Outside of this pyramid are sweets ( chocolate, cake, candy) sugary and alcoholic drinks, processed foods and meats, junk food i.e. processed fats and salt. That’s a HUGE change and one that makes a lot of sense with what we know today in the field of nutrition and health care.
EAT MORE VEG – this is not new, of course not, but I am still astonished how little vegetables people eat. Mostly I hear complaints about disliking certain vegetables which brings to back to how we educate our kids. Growing up with a professional chef as a dad, and known for his use of vegetables in particular, I can objectively say I ate balanced meals, slightly more often meat than fish. However my brother would tell you a complete different story. Where I ate and tried everything, he was notorious for refusing food for no simpler reason because food touched each other or he didn’t like it. As an adult in his 40ties he does not eat more than 6 maybe 7 food items, he basically eats the same things everyday. I don’t mean to throw you under the bus , my dearest bro, but it makes me wonder WHY with the same upbringing, how can we be soo different. And mostly can one LEARN to LIKE vegetables when you hate them at first? I think to a certain point one can, as a child I didn’t care much for fish and I love it now because I kept trying it.
3 BASIC STEPS TO VEGETARIAN MEAL – it is easy! Please do not throw your hands up in the air and roll your eyes at me; vegetarian meals do not need to be complicated, take a lot of time to prepare nor involve tasteless, plywood textured foods!
STEP ONE – select about 4 vegetables and one fruit to be part of your meal. Choose a cereal, grain, pulse, seed or pasta to accompany the veg. The combo’s are endless.
STEP TWO – Ask yourself if you are making a hot or cold meal? How will you assemble the dish? Steaming and braising vegetables we all do it, so let’s shake it up a bit. For example you can:
- STUFF a vegetable with seeds, pulses or grains.
- Make a SALAD with fruit and vegetables, mix and match your seasonal colours.
- FRITTERS and FRIES are amazing comfort food, and easy to make.
(Dust halloumi cheese sticks with some chickpea flour and flash fry, serve with a dip)
- Make a savoury PIE.
- Make an oven CASSEROLE or LASAGNA but replace rich ingredients with a veggie alternatives
- Find an ALTERNATIVE way to a normal sandwich, try Naan! or make vegetable gnocchi! Make a vegetable crepes with savoury filling.
- Try all in ONE POT – easy, fast and yummy!
STEP THREE – Make a DIP as a sauce to tie it all together. Get our your blender and experiment; remember you need a vegetable for taste and colour, a fresh herb for flavour, some olive oil to make it smooth and lemon of lime juice for a little zing. Season well with salt and pepper. Add any dairy or substitute for dairy to blend it all together.
What is your favourite vegetarian meal?