Northern Health ----- Healthy Living in the North

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

Amelia Grant

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?

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!

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

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:

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.

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.

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!

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.

After 15 minutes, drain excess liquid (if any) and add cornstarch, tossing to coat evenly.

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 what it’s like for you to eat off the “meaten” path! Visit blog.northernhealth.ca/healthy-eating/foodie-Friday-to-fu-or-not-to-fu-smart-ways-to-adopt-plant-based-eating.