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Plant Power: How to Get More Plant-Based Nutrition Into Your Diet

The coronavirus pandemic has touched almost every aspect of our lives, including our eating habits. The good news is, not all those changes are bad. According to an article in The Huffington Post, there have been several positive changes, such as an increase in family meals and home baking, and more people are buying locally grown or produced food. One of the changes most likely to improve our health is increased interest in plant-based nutrition.[1]

Some people may have started exploring plant-based foods during the meat shortages in the early days of the pandemic. But even if the refrigerated cases in most supermarkets are full again, that’s no reason to give up on all those lentils and dried beans you bought during the spring lockdowns. Whole-food, plant-based diets are good for you and good for the planet. (Livestock is estimated to contribute to 18 percent of greenhouse gasses.[2])

In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into plant-based foods and plant-based nutrition, give you some ideas for healthy dinner recipes, and even share some inspiration for healthy baking.

 

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

On its face, a plant-based diet is one that puts the focus on foods from plants — not animals.

Of course, not all plant-based foods are healthy foods. (We’re looking at you, potato chips, donuts, and white rice.) Healthy, plant-based nutrition means whole food that’s minimally processed, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These foods provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phyto-nutrients that support your good health. Plant-based diets have been shown to support heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, and cognitive health. They may even help you live longer.[3] 

 

Does Plant-Based Mean Vegan?

A plant-based diet is not necessarily a vegan or vegetarian one. Flexitarians eat meat, just less of it. Some people find eating meat one or two nights a week is a workable healthy meal plan. The real key is eating more whole-food plant-based meals, not eschewing meat completely. 

While meal planning, consider where you can incorporate more vegetables. Stir some tomatoes or greens into your scrambled eggs at breakfast. Change the ratio of meat to veggies in your stir-fry (or substitute tofu or cashews for the meat). Try to use mostly whole grains, or let vegetables impersonate grains. Spiralized zucchini (aka zoodles) can replace pasta; riced cauliflower can stand in for rice. 

 

Healthy Dinner Recipes

Here are three healthy dinner recipes to get you started.

  • This chickpea curry in a tomato-based sauce with carrots and sweet potatoes comes together pretty quickly if you use canned chickpeas. The raita is optional, but a nice touch if you eat dairy.
  • This corn chowder can be made vegan with coconut milk or vegetarian with milk. The corn, celery, and red peppers make a pretty color combination. It’s worth the time to use fresh corn if it’s still in season where you live, but frozen would work, too.
  • This soy-glazed tofu with mushrooms and celery looks divinely savory. Try it on brown rice.

 

What About Dessert?

Sometimes a bowl of grapes, a juicy pear, or a baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon is all the dessert you want, but sometimes you crave more. Here are some ideas for healthy baking projects.

  • This applesauce cake uses heart-healthy olive oil, Greek yogurt, and applesauce. Try it with whole-wheat flour, or if you’re gluten-free, a mixture of half almond flour and half cassava flour.
  • Everyone loves banana bread. This recipe is flexible and can be made with whole wheat or gluten-free flour. It’s sweetened with honey. But the truth is, bananas are sweet enough on their own that you don’t even need to add sweetener to your loaf. I’ve made this sugar-free banana bread recipe before, and it’s excellent! 

 

How do you incorporate more plant-based foods into your family’s meals?

 

References

[1] Crotty L. 4 positive ways the pandemic has changed how we eat. Huffington Post. 2020 Jul 10. Updated 2020 Aug 17. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/positive-ways-pandemic-changed-how-we-eat_l_5f049702c5b61c37e0565505

[2] Lean G. Cow ‘emissions’ more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars. The Independent. 2006 Dec 10. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cow-emissions-more-damaging-to-planet-than-co2-from-cars-427843.html

[3] Lawler M, Kennedy K. 9 scientific benefits of following a plant-based diet. Everyday Health. 2020 Jan 17. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/scientific-benefits-following-plant-based-diet/

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