Meatless Mondays are gaining in popularity and more plant-based options are becoming available wherever you go now. Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be difficult and with some tips and tricks to guide you along the way, you will see more plants being incorporated into your meal plans without even realizing it. Let these tips guide you to a healthier, longer, and energetic life.
Tip #1 – The All or Nothing Approach
You don’t have to do everything all at once. Most people have long-term success when changing their eating habits if they do it slowly. The key is to work at omitting one product at a time. For instance, if you want to completely omit meat from your plate, start by eating less of it on your plate. Make the vegetable the centerpiece of your plate and meat the side dish. By placing the vegetables in the center of your plate, you are visualizing them as the main course and the meat as the side dish. Eventually decrease your meat consumption so you no longer have it on your plate and eat more vegetables whole grains or starches as a side dish. If you eat meat 7 days a week, start to omit it from you plate once a week. When you get comfortable with this, decrease it to 5 days a week and then eventually you are eating meat once a week or once a month. Do what feels comfortable. Not only are you omitting saturated fat off of your plate, you are incorporating more nutrients into your body by consuming more vegetables. You can use this same approach with dairy products and eggs.
Tip #2 – Start Each Meal with a Soup or Salad
This is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your meal. You can decrease the portion of the main plate and just have a side salad or soup with lots of vegetables. Having two different courses allows you to slow down the rate at which you eat your food and enjoy the taste more.
Tip #3 – Feature a Fruit Bowl
If you place a bowl of fruit on your kitchen countertop or table, you are more likely to choose the food that is visible. Keep the fruit bowl interesting by adding lots of colour and adding new fruits to the bowl to try. If you have children, have a display tray of fruit that resembles an animal or something fun that a child can relate to. If a fruit plate is prepared ahead of time, you are more likely to consume the food rather than looking for a high fat, salty snack. It’s also a great way to add more fiber to your diet.
Tip #4 – Spice it Up!
There is a reason why there are so many spices and herbs available to us. If you want to add more flavour to a plant-based meal, then experiment with some spices to add more taste. Try to omit the salt as there is already salt in many plant-based foods. Try some turmeric or ginger in a stir-fry or some cinnamon with some apple on your oatmeal. Nothing spices up a meal more than some herbs like thyme or fresh parsley. Get creative!
Tip #5 – Vegetarian Versions of Your Favourite Meals
Are tacos or macaroni and cheese one of your dinner favourites in your household? Fear not, as there are many delicious recipes available to substitute out the foods in these recipes. For tacos, you can try meal alternative options (try to omit the processed alternatives as they are just as unhealthy) or try something like barley or beans mixed with rice and some vegetables. Top it up with your favourite homemade salsa and guacamole.
Even with macaroni and cheese, you can substitute the dairy cheese with non-dairy milk alternatives, try nutritional yeast (it provides a cheesy flavour), or even a cashew cream mixed with some spices.
Tip #6 – Invest in Some Plant-Based Cookbooks
Even though I rarely use a cookbook anymore (I create most of my own recipes), when you first start out on a plant-based journey, it might be wise to invest in some cook books or start following a blog. When I first started my journey to plant-based eating, it was nice having a cookbook on hand. A plant-based cookbook provides hundreds of options in one place and it’s a great tool to keep in your kitchen. Some of my favourite cookbooks are ‘Plant Pure Nation’ and ‘Oh She Glows’.
Tip #7 – Explore Plant-Based Ingredients
Do you find yourself eating the same vegetables and fruits over and over? When you eat more plant-based foods, you start to research what other foods are out there and available to you. Take a browse through the product section of the grocery store next time you are there to discover new fruits and vegetables and experiment with in new recipes. Not only are you expanding you palate to try new foods, but you are actually incorporating more vitamins and minerals into your body by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. No food contains the same amount or type of nutrients and this is why it’s so important to a variety of produce.
Tip #8 – Stop Worrying About Protein
There is protein in just about every food we eat. In fact, most people are eating TOO much protein which is causing chronic health problems and disease. Be conscious of what you put into your body. Again, try to stay away from the processed vegan and vegetarian alternatives and incorporate more greens, grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds onto your plate. Not only do these foods contain more than enough protein for your daily recommendations, then contain nutrients that you cannot get in animal products. Also, you are consuming less saturated fat which can very high not only in animal products but also processed foods if taken in large quantities. If you are active, simply just eat more of these plant-based foods. The extra calories will have sufficient protein in them to meet your performance needs.
Tip #9 – Do Your Research Outside of the Kitchen
Don’t be afraid to go to a restaurant and try a plant-based meal. Call ahead of time and let them know that you are looking for something plant-based to eat. I have never had a problem with a restaurant or chef not willing to help me out with my dietary needs. In fact, most chefs like to create something different and expand their knowledge of learning about plant-based alternative foods. Give a vegan restaurant a try and in fact, you will be surprised at how tasty the food is and most of all, you will leave the restaurant feeling great, satisfied, and fully energized from eating a healthy plant-based meal.
Tip #10 – Whole Food Emphasis
Plant-based foods are simply just that. They either come from the ground or a tree. There are many vegetarian and vegan alternatives available in grocery stores which is very exciting but it’s important that you keep the emphasis on keeping the food as whole as possible. It’s not to say that you can never consume meat-alternatives but limit your intake. Despite the wide range of healthy and not-so-healthy vegan products on the market, start with the basics: lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The less refined a product is, the more whole it becomes.
Enjoy the journey and remember that it’s YOUR journey.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,