Doing the food shop has never been high on many peoples’ list of favourite things to do, but since the start of the pandemic visiting the local supermarket has become a real source of anxiety for many; not only are you often faced with a queue, but once you’re inside a lot of the foods that normally make their way into your shopping basket are gone from the shelves which can make meal planning tricky. This doesn’t have to negatively impact your nutritional intake though; you just need to know how to make the most of the foods available.
The foods we choose to eat dictate the nutritional quality of our diet; if your diet fails to provide you with enough of the nutrients your body needs to function properly this can impact on your health and overall wellbeing.
It can be harder to tick certain nutrient boxes on a 100 per cent plant-based diet, (vegan diets are often lacking in vitamin B12 and vitamin D) and the ways you might normally rely on to get your fill might be harder to access at the moment - understanding how to make the most out of the foods that are available is key to meeting your dietary needs.
Which foods are key in plant-based diets?
Luckily, many staples of the plant-based diet are available canned and dried and when put together in the right way can offer an abundant source of nutrients required to help the body function optimally.
Frozen fruit and vegetables
Frozen foods are a valuable source of nutrients, especially vegetables and fruits which can be used in many different meals. Particularly beneficial frozen foods include peas, mixed vegetables, spinach, soya beans, berries and avocado; their nutritional value is often on a par with fresh counterparts given the short time between picking and freezing.
Basics such as Flora margarine and other plant-based spreads are useful to keep in stock and can be often be frozen to save trips to the supermarket. These foods are also fortified with vitamin D which is really important during the lockdown as many people may not have access to outside space to get their daily dose. This micronutrient is not just important for bones and teeth but also has a role to play in immunity.
Dried spices are a lifesaver when creating simple meals as they not only enhance the flavour of any dish but also add essential minerals such as calcium , iron and magnesium . These foods are also relatively inexpensive so grab a nice range when you visit the supermarket and be sure to include spice mixes which are a great way to flavour foods such as beans, pulses, lentils and tofu.
Stock cubes are also a good idea to keep in the cupboard. Dried mushrooms are also useful if you can get hold of fresh ones as they make a tasty stock rich in umami which acts as a great ingredient for dishes like risotto or plant-based soups and stews.
What are the store cupboard essentials?
These are just a few of the store cupboard foods you can include in your shopping basket to maximise your nutritional intake and use to create simple dishes. Some of these foods are also useful to add flavour and richness to basic dishes.
*Canned beans, pulses, lentils
*Dried rice, noodles and pasta
*Canned tomatoes and other vegetables such as sweetcorn
*Nuts and seeds
*Jarred ready-to-cook sauces
*Soy sauce and sriracha
*Plant-based milk (ambient and fortified)
*Bottled lemon/lime juice
*Dried mushrooms and vegan stock cubes
*Frozen fruit and vegetables
*Margarine and other fortified food products
Foods you didn't know you can freeze
While there are many frozen foods that are useful to keep to hand, there are others that can be frozen from fresh to make mealtimes quicker or to preserve them when they are just about to turn bad.
*Avocados: cut them in half, squeeze with lemon juice and store in Ziploc bags.
*Cooked rice: leave to cool and then store in a container straight away.
*Nuts: keep for longer in the freezer as the oils do not go rancid (good for those just close to their use-by date)
*Ripe bananas: peel first, store in Ziplock bags and keep for smoothies or healthy puddings.
*Plant-based spreads like margarine: these can often be frozen and kept in stock for cooking or baking
Useful recipe substitutes
If you fall short of certain key basics to simple dishes, then there are alternatives which come in the form of dried foods. These are just a few useful examples:
*Ginger: 1/4 tsp dried ginger for every one tbsp fresh root
*Garlic: 1/8 tsp garlic powder for one clove
*Onion: 1 tbsp dried onion for one small onion
*Chilli powder: 1/2 tsp dried chilli powder for one fresh chilli
Two simple plant-based store cupboard recipes
The following dishes are good examples of how to put basic plant-based store cupboard ingredients together to create simple and nutritious dishes. These dishes can also be cooked in bulk and frozen.