Tips for eating more plants

Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables

Tips for eating more plants

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Okinawa

It’s hard to ignore that plant-based eating has become more of the mainstream, rather than on the fringes. That doesn’t mean that people are committing to vegetarian or vegan diets; instead, there’s an increase of people incorporating meals-without-meat into their regular routine. The increased interest comes from a number of reasons, including health, environmental impacts and cost.

Maybe you’re curious about incorporating more plants into your or your family’s diet. Luckily for you, there are so many plant-based recipes, cookbooks and options to explore today. As someone who grew up on a meat-and-potatoes meal plan, I understand the challenge of trying something new and convincing others in your house to come along with you for the journey.

If more plant-based eating is a big change to your regular eating and cooking routine, my biggest advice is to start small and be open. Rather than looking at it like a restriction—what you’re giving up—look at it as an opportunity to try a new type of food or cooking technique.

While I am not a nutritionist and I recommend speaking with your doctor if you have any questions about what works best for you, here are a few tips that worked in our house to get more plants into our diet.

Set the right tone. Rather than replacing meat with something else, start with a mindset of trying a new ingredient or food. For example, maybe you want to make cauliflower tacos (one of my favorite dishes, with a coconut milk batter and crunchy slaw). Don’t preface the meal with explaining that you’re never going to make pork carnitas or your kids’ favorite beef “Taco Tuesday” meal. Rather than creating a mood of something being taken away, add a positive and fun spin to it, like we are adding something new and different instead.

Take any opportunity to add some fruits or vegetables. When we took a trip to Slovenia we noticed how vegetables were a main addition to their breakfasts. Vegetables? They would roast peppers, onions, eggplant etc. and serve it with eggs, just like your favorite hash browns or breakfast potatoes. It inspired me to think, why not vegetables at breakfast? So, I try to sneak in some wherever I can, whether it’s a breakfast sandwich with arugula or spinach or even adding a small breakfast salad to a plate of eggs and bacon.

This also can apply to a meat and cheese or charcuterie board. While your snackers might not eat many of the carrots, cucumbers or peppers you sliced up, there’s a much greater chance they will eat some if they are on the board than if they are not. Just make it part of your routine to always squeeze in fruits and vegetables.

Commit to one plant-based meal a week. Rather than completely rework all your routines, favorite recipes and patterns, start with just one meal a week, such as the #MeatlessMonday movement.

Get creative with what’s in your pantry. In my efforts to reduce my trips to the grocery store, I’ve noticed how easy it is to have a plant-based meal when I just get creative with pantry staples. Beans, vegetables, pasta and grains make great soups or bowls. While it might not be the most mind-blowingly delicious meal, it could save you a trip to the store and use up what is in the pantry.

Take a risk with a new item. Maybe the idea of cooking tofu, tempeh or even Beyond Meat is intimidating. I totally get that, but what’s the harm in giving it a try? Grabbing a new item is motivating to try a new dish. (I have struggled with making tofu at home in a way that I like, so I often look for it at restaurants because I like how they prepare it. I do really like tempeh at home, it’s savory, chewy and different.)

Smoothies are an easy way to get more plants in your diet. I always have a bag of fresh spinach or kale in my fridge for smoothies. Yes, green smoothies are maybe a little bit of a fad, but it’s the easiest and fastest way for me to get greens in for the day. I also love my breakfast routine and the idea of drinking my breakfast really ruins my mood, so I opt for a smoothie bowl, spooning a couple tablespoons of homemade granola on top.

Keep protein in mind. One complaint of a meal without meat is that you’re not fully satisfied. While this might take some getting used to (consider what it means to feel satisfied), I always try to keep protein in mind and where we are getting it if we aren’t having meat. This is where beans, grains, nuts etc. become important.

I know it can be hard to believe, but small changes really can add up to big impact. Maybe making a huge change to your diet works for you, but maybe it doesn’t. Just remember that every little thing you do towards giving yourself and your family more fresh fruits, vegetables and other plant-based ingredients does make a difference—to you, your health, your wallet and the planet.


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