Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: To-fu or not To-fu – Smart ways to adopt plant-based eating

Plant-based eating has become one of the largest food and health trends of the past few years, which, as a dietitian, I’m delighted to see. Aside from being delicious, plant-based protein choices are typically lower in saturated fats, higher in fibre, and can be more sustainable for the environment. You can’t deny the health benefits of vegetarian or vegan eating when it’s done properly, because there are many benefits!

However, that doesn’t mean that we need to adopt a strict new lifestyle to reap the rewards. It’s up to you what kind of commitment you want to make. Many of us probably wouldn’t fare well on a strictly vegan diet (me included!), but we could make small steps to better our health, and the planet’s. Most of us eat 21 meals each week – is there opportunity for you to make one or two more of those meals meatless?

Plate of tofu and veggies.

Looking to include more meatless ingredients in your meal rotation? Tofu could be that quick-and-easy staple your family is looking for!

If meatless eating is a new ballgame for you, it doesn’t need to be a complicated affair; try simple items like vegetarian chili, tofu stir fry, lentil soup, homemade black bean burgers, or falafel. You could also be more adventurous and include things like TVP (textured vegetable protein), seitan (made from the protein gluten), or tempeh (a fermented soy product). I don’t usually recommend the “fake meat” products which are highly processed, usually pack a dose of sodium (and are expensive). As always, fill your plates with delicious vegetables and whole grains to make these meals as satisfying as possible.

Tofu, in particular, is one of those foods that people decidedly dislike before they’ve had a chance to try it. I get it, it’s bland, spongy, and there are so many types – it can be intimidating to make for the first time. With the right techniques, like pressing out the excess moisture, and using a delicious marinade, it just might be that quick-and-easy staple your family is looking for!

Amelia’s Tofu “Un-Recipe”

Ingredients:

  • 1 block extra firm tofu (454 g)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch

Marinade (or use another favorite marinade recipe):

  • 1 tsp oil of choice (sesame, canola, olive)
  • 2 Tbsp cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock (or use water if none on hand)
  • 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (or use extra stock for lower sodium)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar (or honey, molasses, maple syrup)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (or a hefty pinch of garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (or a pinch of ground ginger)
  • Optional: Hot sauce, to taste. (Or use black or cayenne pepper for lower sodium)

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or with lightly oiling. Tofu can also be cooked by pan frying over medium heat or even bbq-ing, 5-8 minutes per side, if that suits you better. Tofu can also be eaten raw; uncooked marinated tofu is a yummy addition to a green or pasta salad.
  2. Open tofu package and drain excess water, dry the surface of the tofu with a clean towel. Slice the tofu widthwise in 1cm (3/4 inch) slices. Slice each slice into 2 triangles.
  3. Lay the triangles between two clean, dry kitchen towels and press firmly to remove any excess moisture, removing moisture allows the tofu to soak up delicious flavour!
  4. Mix marinade ingredients in a dish and add tofu, ensuring all pieces are covered, and let sit at least 20 minutes, turning halfway through to coat. During this time you can chop veggies and start to prepare your side dishes.
  5. After 15 minutes, drain excess liquid (if any) and add cornstarch, tossing to coat evenly.
  6. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake 40 minutes, flipping tofu after 20 minutes.

My favorite way to enjoy baked tofu is dipped in a spicy peanut sauce and served alongside some colorful veggies and roasted potato chunks.

Have you tried incorporating vegetarian mealtimes in your household? Let us know in the comments what it’s like for you to eat off the “meaten” path!

Amelia Gallant

About Amelia Gallant

Amelia is a Primary Care Dietitian living and working in Fort St. John. Born and raised near St. John's, Newfoundland, she made her cross-country journey to northern BC in 2017 and is delighted to see comforts of home in the kindness of the people she meets and their love of the outdoors - even in the long and snowy winters. Forever a foodie, Amelia's the one at your dinner table trying to snap the perfect picture, or trying to replicate the latest food trends in her kitchen. As a dietitian, she hopes to simplify the mixed nutrition messaging and help people re-learn to enjoy their eating experience while supporting their healthy living goals.

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Foodie Friday: Lentils

Lentil health and nutrition infographic

Lentils, health, and nutrition

As the cold weather moves in, it’s so satisfying to warm up with a bowl of something hot. Chilies, soups, and stews are a staple for many families and can be a great source of nutrition if done right. By pairing the veggies of your choice with a source of protein and fibre, you can have a complete meal ready and on the table in no time at all!

In a past blog post, I spoke about my love for the Oh She Glows food blog. I recently made their Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup and was not disappointed!

This soup is a great example of a hearty, delicious, complete meal that contains no meat; in fact, it contains no animal products at all! Going “meatless” for one or two meals a week is a great way to challenge yourself and your family to explore new flavours and try new recipes. Reducing consumption of meat, red meat in particular, may also lower your risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers.

Lentils are one of my favourite meatless sources of protein. One serving (100g) of lentils contains the same amount of protein as one serving of steak (26g), but with only 1.5g of fat (the steak has 18g), 18g of fibre, and half of your daily recommendation of folate and iron! If you’re hooked on lentils after trying this Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup, head on over to lentils.ca for more recipes and lentil-related nutrition tips.

Red lentils

Lentils are a great meatless source of protein!

Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup

From: Oh She Glows

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (280 g) diced onion (1 medium/large)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup (140 g) uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (for a kick of heat!)
  • 1 (5 oz/140 g) package baby spinach
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.
  2. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, salt, and plenty of pepper. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne, if desired, to taste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil.
  4. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, for about 18 to 22 minutes, until the lentils are fluffy and tender.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Add the lime juice to taste. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted bread and lime wedges.
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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