These days we are bombarded with so much information about what and how we should (and shouldn’t) eat. It comes from everywhere: mainstream media; social media; friends; family; strangers.
There’s so much information; so much advice, that healthy eating has, it seems to me, acquired a veneer of difficulty. It can feel that if we’re not eating special, expensive foods, eliminating something or following a strict set of rules, we must not be doing it right. If the way we eat doesn’t have a label or a name, we might feel a bit left out.
A label that is bandied about a lot right now is ‘plant-based’. A plant-based diet, we are told, is the answer to a long and healthy life.
But what does this term actually mean? Many people assume it means a vegetarian or vegan diet. But who says that’s what it means? There’s no definition; there’s no rule around what ‘plant based’ means.
I’m keen to break down this idea of plant-based as just one kind of eating pattern. I believe I eat a plant-based diet myself. I am neither vegetarian nor vegan. But I do eat a lot of plants. At least half of every plate of food I eat is plants, in various forms. But my plates also contain fish, eggs and cheese and, sometimes, meat.
This is in line with healthy people around the planet, and a hallmark of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be a meat-free diet. It doesn’t have to be a vegan diet. It just has to be mostly plants.
A plant-based diet also doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.
And to that end, whatever your flavour of plant-based diet, good old-fashioned potatoes are a useful plant to include.
Potatoes are nutritious, value-for-money and versatile; and of course they’re a natural whole food. ‘Whole foods’ is another important buzz phrase in health circles, along with ‘real food’. Potatoes are real and whole: an unprocessed, natural wonder. Where the grain-based carbohydrate options are typically processed – as they have to be – potatoes are not. Potatoes are gluten-free, dairy-free, allergy-friendly and vegan.
As old-fashioned foods go, potatoes fit a lot of modern food trends.
And all trends – from fashion to food – go in circles. It’s interesting to see baked potato ‘spud huts’ popping up again, a trend I last enjoyed as a student. In those days there was no Instagram to show off our food. Now there is, it’s time to showcase the spud as a whole-food, plant food hero.