If you want to eat a more plant-based diet, but you’re not sure how, these simple ideas will get you started.
Thinking about eating a plant-based diet can be intimidating for some people. Chances are your favorite foods (or perhaps all the meals you can think of) are centered around meat, eggs, cheese, butter, or cream, and you’re left wondering what you WOULD be able to eat?
In case you haven’t figured me out yet, I’m on the slow and steady path to plant-based eating. If you plotted my plant-based journey on a graph over time, with a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet at the top and the Standard American Diet (SAD) with extra ice cream at the bottom, it would look like one of the mutual funds graphs they show you at the bank. There’s an over-all upward trend with lots of dips (old habits, celebrations, and PMS) in between. Despite all these dips (not eating enough greens, eating too much cake, eating too much cheese, eating at too many restaurants, not drinking enough water, skipping breakfast, drinking coffee all day, etc…), I continue to make progress in my plant-based journey because I made huge progress in these four areas and I continue to work at them (especially numbers 1 and 4).
1. Eat More Beans and Lentils
Instead of thinking about how to replace the meat on your plate, focus on finding new hearty vegetarian recipes that you love: bean burritos, black bean quasadillas, refried bean or hummus wraps, black bean soup, bean or lentil chili, chana masala, lentil dal, tofu stirfry, veggie burgers, tofu scramble… the possibilities are endless. Most of these dishes are are very simple and can be made with pantry ingredients. Opening a can of beans is so much easier than cooking or carving chicken, and so much better for you, the environment, and the chicken.
2. Bake without Eggs
You can make your own flax eggs or you can purchase an egg substitute (like The Neat Egg, which is made from chickpea flour and ground flax) and these bind wonderfully in baked loaves, cakes, and muffins. Making flax eggs might sound intimidating, but it couldn’t be easier. You mix together 1 Tbsp of ground flax (which you can buy or you can grind your own fresh) and a couple Tbsps of water, let it sit for a few minutes, and it will thicken into something that looks kind of like egg white with brown flecks. You’ll be reducing the saturated fat and cholesterol in your recipe AND adding Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber to your baked goods with ground flax seed. Win-Win.
3. Try different Plant Milks
There are so many options: soy, hemp, flax, oat, rice, almond, cashew, pea, and coconut, and each has their own unique flavor and consistency. You can make your own relatively easy, and people who make their own seem to really prefer it. We have nut allergies, so soy milk is a staple in our house. We buy different brands, unsweetened and sweetened (organic when possible). Coconut milk is another staple in our cupboard that we use to make creamy curries, sauces, and soups. You can substitute any plant milk for cows milk in BAKING, SMOOTHIES, or OATMEAL, or try getting your next Starbucks drink made with soy, almond, or coconut milk.
4. Snack on Fruits and Veggies
Keep lots of fruits and veggies on hand, prepped and ready to go. Pack them in your lunch bag, take them in the car, and eat them. They are full of water, fiber and phytochemicals that your body needs, and if you snack on them, you’ll eat less holiday baking, pretzels, and fast food.
If you implement these suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to eating more plants, without feeling like you’ve changed everything about the way you eat or given up your favorite foods. I actually hope you find new favorites in the process.
If you do make an effort in any of these areas after reading this article, share your experience with us in the comments below.