Plant-Based Eating — 10 Easy Tips to Make Love To Plants, Not War With Meat
No matter where you fall in the dietary spectrum —Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Paleo —your life-long goal should be to make a shift in your diet that will focus on getting all the amazing, nutritionally dense, disease fighting health benefits plants give you.
Take a look at your current diet. What does it look like? How much animal based —meat, dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt), eggs —food are you eating? Is it 3-6x’s a day? Do you eat at LEAST 5-9 full servings of vegetables a day? Better yet, are half of your vegetables raw?
Your nutritional goal should be personal to you, what makes your body feel good and what will work best for you right now. The goal is not for you to create a dietary box you simply check off (vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc) while your health suffers. Instead your goal is to focus on incorporating everyday changes that involve you and your family eating MORE PLANTS, and LESS animal products.
Meatless Monday anyone? Something as simple as changing how you eat for ONE day, is a great way to push you and your family outside your comfort zone and find new, delicious, and different ways to eat. By starting with changing one day, it makes it a manageable and fun change for everyone involved.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is re-learning our meal planning. We have old habits and thinking processes for how to prepare a meal. Many of us grow up learning that meat and potatoes are a staple meal combo that’s cemented into our way of life. But if you focus on filling your plate with plant foods first — zucchini, peas, kale, fresh greens— and then build around it, that starts a shift in how we fill up most of our plate.
Here are 10 Tips for “beefing” up your plant-based plate – pun intended : )
- Seize the Veggie Day! Start your day out right with veggies at breakfast. Try fun, low-sugar, green plant-based smoothies, oatmeal with walnuts and berries, bean and veggie burritos, or omelets loaded with organic onions, broccoli, and peppers. This not only increases your vegetable intake, but easily reduces your animal-based protein (meat, milk, or cheese) consumption as well!
- Keep it simple — Not everything needs to be complicated or involve hours of prepping! Dinner can be as simple as (VEGGIE) chili made in the crockpot, a hummus-and-nuts topped salad, or a black bean, veggie loaded burrito! Don’t try something completely new on the most stressful day of the week. Instead, play around with different food choices and recipes on the weekends or whatever days you have more time to enjoy it and not stress out about it!
- Try Meatless Monday — why not start the week with a fun challenge and positive change? No matter what your goal is for meat, having one day a week without it is a positive and easy choice. Back to picking the days that work for you though, if Monday’s aren’t a good day, there’s nothing wrong with meatless Thursdays!
- Shop the produce section first — start planning your meals around what vegetables you will be eating instead of what protein. This starts with focusing you’re shopping to the perimeter of the grocery store. Making this the focus instantly changes how you view your plate and what you are putting into your body. What vegetables are in season, what looks fresh, on sale, what are you craving or looks appealing to you? Start filling up your cart and start meal planning around it. For example: if onions, spinach, and tomatoes are hitting all the right spots, use these to make a stir-fry and pile it on top of quinoa for a delicious plant-centered meal. This will also help you resist temptation to fill your cart with less than nutritious foods because your cart is filled with delicious nutritious vegetables, and your mind is focused on healthy eating!
- Use meat as a condiment, not a main course — a first step to upping your plants and cutting down on your animal food can be as simple as using meat as flavoring/condiment instead of the main event! This is very commonly seen with ethnic dishes —curries, stir-fries, stews, pasta dishes, salads and more. The dishes flavors are enhanced with a small amount of meat, which is added to a pile of fresh veggies, grains, and delicious spices. Instead of pounds of meat, buy one chicken breast or serving of seafood and use that to make a whole meal for everyone.
- Have plant-based choices in your pantry — if your pantry has it, you will cook it. But if you have to constantly run out to the store because you don’t have an ingredient, your plant-based changes will never take root, pun intended again! Many plant-based foods including beans, lentils, quinoa, millet, olive oil, spices, and canned tomatoes or artichokes are shelf stable, convenient, and economical.
- Mix up the spices— take home tricks from your favorite ethnic restaurants. They know how to make veggie-based meals right and taste amazing! The combo’s of vegetables, spices, and sauces can make any meal delicious. Start paying attention to flavors you love and try recreating these at home!
- Get adventurous, this is your treasure hunt! Instead of focusing on what you “can’t” have, focus on discovering everything that you “want or can” have and enjoy. There is a whole rainbow of plants out there with different flavors, textures, colors, varieties — all with endless health benefits waiting for you to try. Find what plant foods makes you excited to eat them! Don’t stop after trying something once; keep playing with spices and different varieties to find what you enjoy.
- Find new twists for your favorite dishes—keep the discoveries coming with this simple trick: flip your favorite dinner to a veggie focus but still keep the premise of the food you love! Love tacos? Try using beans instead of beef — same seasonings, one simple swap! Love pizza? Try my favorite pizza recipe. Love pasta? Cut the noodles in half, and add extra veggies and nuts in place of the meat. Love the cheesy creaminess of fettucine alfredo? Cut the cheese yet keep the comfort with my vegan recipe.
- Ask your closest friends and family for their favorite recipes! This may seem obvious but many people don’t ask for help or ideas when they are first trying something new. Don’t be afraid to ask — you will be amazed at the wonderful ideas you can get from what other people prepare for meals. Plus, you gain a support system for new and creative ideas when your food choices have become stale and boring.
Remember: You, your body, and the planet — will never regret each time you choose incorporate plant-based eating. There is no downside. Just take it one choice at a time!
Do you have some simple swaps or suggestions you can share? What do you do to get more plants into your diet? How do you help make positive impacts on the environment?