31 Easy Ways to Eat More Plants: Celebrating National Vegetarian Awareness Month

31 Days in October, 31 Healthy Eating Ideas… Coincidence? I think Not!

October is National Vegetarian Awareness Month. It’s a great time to focus on incorporating more plant-based foods into every meal and snack.  As part of my relationship with Silk (I’m a #SilkBlogger, one of two RDs on the team), I’m bringing you this post chock full of easy ideas to help you get more good stuff.

Why Aim for More Plants?

Eating more plants is a good choice for your health and the environment.  Plants are loaded with beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, and other nutrients your body needs to feel energetic, keep your digestion going “smoothly”, and fill you up. Eating more plants is environmentally friendly because it helps reduce your carbon footprint – it’s a more sustainable way of eating that you can feel good about.

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And for all the non-vegetarians, (like me), don’t worry, you don’t have to be “meat-free” to reap the benefits of eating plant-based. It’s all about balance. I love incorporating the two together. Use your eggs, fish, and meat as an ingredient in the dishes.

Improving your health can be as simple as adding an extra serving or two of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, or soy each day.  So how can you do that in a way that’s quick and easy?

Here are 31 easy ways to eat more plants everyday:

  1. Add up to 1 cup of canned pumpkin puree to your favorite pancake or waffle recipe.
  2. Blend meat with mushrooms.  Mushrooms add fiber, potassium, and Vitamin D.  You can either swap the meat out completely like in these grilled caprese portabello caps , or you can blend them with ground meat to make meatballs.  When I make them I usually swap out 50% of the ground beef for mushrooms, but you can use up to 80% mushrooms if you’d like.
  3. Make an almond milk latte.  Try almond milk with your coffee. Silk PureAlmond Unsweetened has only 30 calories per serving which is less than half the calories of skim milk.  Plus it’s saturated fat and cholesterol-free.
  4. Make vegetables the focus of your meal instead of just an afterthought. Head to your local farmers market and look for something that grabs your interest. Acorn squash is one of my favorites.  Try it roasted and stuffed with whole grains and other veggies
  5. Legume and vegetable soups and stews are wonderful at this time of year.  They’re warm and filling – perfect for a cold night.
  6. Substitute cauliflower for cream as shown in this butternut squash soup with cauliflower cream.  You’ll save on saturated fat and calories, and get all the nutrient benefits of cauliflower.
  7. Incorporate vegetables/beans into traditionally meat-heavy dishes.  I loaded these sloppy joes with beans and veggies.  They still taste like a favorite comfort food, but each sandwich has a full serving of vegetables and lots of fiber.
  8. Make your oatmeal with new Silk Pumpkin Spice soymilk for a fabulous fall oatmeal without any artificial colors or flavors. Non-dairy milks add flavor, calcium, and protein.
  9. BLD – eggs with any veggies you have on hand make a quick and easy meal any time of day. I love mushrooms, tomato, onion, and spinach.
  10. Swap beans for meat in a salad or pasta for an easy weekday lunch or dinner.  The beans will help you feel full while reducing your intake of fats and cholesterol.  They’re heart-healthy and support good digestion thanks to their fiber content.  Just one cup of Garbanzo beans has 12 grams of fiber, about half your daily needs.
  11. Add vegetables and fruits to baked goods – my carrot quinoa bread is full of apples, carrots, nuts, and whole grains.  Tasty, filling, and good for you.
  12. Spice up a humdrum vegetable tray by serving your guests something fun and creative. My baked parmesan zucchini fries are delicious, especially with marinara or tzatziki.
  13. Make a vegetarian entrée. I like this tortilla lasagna which is a new take on the traditional noodle and cheese dish.  This one has lots of vegetables and beans, and it’s great for a group because you can prepare it ahead of time.
  14. Kids (and plenty of grown-ups) love to dip things.  Dip veggies into guacamole, black bean dip, and salsa (OK and a few tortilla chips too!)
  15. Try quince! These caramelized quinces make a delicious fruit-centered dessert. Quince is in season right now.  It looks and tastes like a cross between a pear and an apple, but make sure you cook it – it’s inedible raw.
  16. As the weather gets cooler, sip on Silk chocolate soymilk or dark chocolate Almond milk warmed up for an instant chocolately cocoa.
  17. Incorporate tofu into your meals.   Unlike most plant proteins, soy protein is “complete”, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – in sufficient quantities to meet your body’s requirements. Try this recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Tofu Mushrooms and Hazelnuts.
  18. Pumpkin drinks don’t have to be served hot. Try a pumpkin pie smoothie.
  19. Stock up your pantry when you see canned fruits and vegetables on sale.  Canned fruits work well in smoothies and canned vegetables (think artichokes, mushrooms, and tomatoes) make a quick and easy weeknight pasta.
  20. Fill your tuna salad with vegetables. Start by swapping out the mayo for hummus and then add chopped spinach, celery, cherry tomatoes, and avocados.  Stuff the tuna into a whole wheat pita pocket and add more leafy greens for a satisfying, nutritionally balanced sandwich.
  21. Serve fruit for dessert. Fall and winter bring an abundance of apples and pears. Try making a fruit cobbler. I love apple cranberry crisp.
  22. Break out your slow cooker.  Lentils, beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables all cook beautifully in a crock pot.  Plus, portions are usually large, so you can cook once and eat twice. Make an entire portion of vegetable stew and freeze half for a busy weeknight when you don’t have time to cook.
  23. Make your own veggie burgers.  Instead of buying pre-made veggie burgers, I prefer to make mine with beets, sweet potato, and black beans. Make a big batch and freeze extras for later.
  24. Mason jar salads.  Try making a layered salad in a mason jar to keep all the vegetables fresh and crisp.  Put the dressing in the bottom of the jar and add your firmer, heartier vegetables next (broccoli, cabbage, radishes, beans, onions).  Then put in your leafy greens, grains, and fruit.  Seal up the jar and store in the fridge.  When you’re ready to eat, give the jar a couple of good shakes to distribute the dressing. Enjoy!
  25. Sneak beans into brownies.  It may sound crazy, but it really works! These black bean brownies are dense, fudgy, and delicious – you’d never know what the “secret ingredient” was unless someone told you.
  26. Prepare overnight muesli for breakfast.  Make it ahead of time by combining 1 C Silk soy yogurt with 1/2 C dried oats.  In the morning, enjoy the cereal with your favorite fruits (dry or frozen both work wonderfully) and nuts/seeds.
  27. Need some “crunchy” in your life? Snack on healthy homemade chips.  Try making your own beet, sweet potato, or kale chips.
  28. Be inspired by ethnic cuisines.  Many cultures throughout the world focus on plant-based diets that are linked with lower instances of heart disease and diabetes.  Try an Indian lentil daal or a stir-fry of all your vegetables.  Enjoy the dishes with brown rice or another grain of your choice.
  29. Roast your vegetables.  Roasted veggies are one of my favorite fall side dishes.  I love that you can throw just about any type of vegetable in a dish and roast them in the oven.  Their flavor develops and all the natural sweetness of the vegetables becomes really prominent.  Some of my favorite vegetables to roast are broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, mushrooms, carrots, and turnips. Try this roasted cauliflower parmesean dish.
  30. Drink your protein!  Smoothies can be an easy way to add fruits and vegetables to your diet at any time of day.  Choose soymilk for plant protein with 50% more calcium than dairy milk.  Check out Silk’s website for delicious and nutritious smoothie recipes.
  31. Above all, focus on incorporating plant foods into your diet in ways that YOU enjoy.  If you’re trying to force yourself to eat something you don’t like, it’s not going to work long-term.  There are a myriad of ways to add vegetables, fruits, soy, and nuts to your meals, so find works for you.  Try new ingredients and cooking methods – don’t be afraid to experiment!

Whew. I hope you like these ideas for how you can get more plant foods into your diet.  What are your favorite ways to incorporate vegetables, fruits, soy, and nuts into your meals?

Disclaimer:  I am one of a handful of Silk Blogger Ambassadors.  Learn more about us here. All opinions contained in this post are my own.

Learn more about Silk and their non-GMO project here.      

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