What Does it Mean to be "Plant-based"?
There’s a common misconception around the dietary term “plant-based,” in that most people think being plant-based means you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Did you know that omnivores can be plant-based too?
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
From a nutritional standpoint, being plant-based means that you eat mostly plants. This is in fact a great way to gauge whether or not you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet! You can still eat animal protein and consider yourself plant-based if you’re eating enough whole, plant-based foods.
Unfortunately, we live in a food culture that’s inundated with processed foods and that prioritizes convenience over health. Because of this, the majority of the population isn’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, which is reflected in modern epidemics like diabetes and obesity.
When you begin to incorporate more plant foods into your diet, regardless of where you’re starting from, you will most likely feel a big difference! You’ll begin to notice you have more energy, better sleep, better digestion, and a greater overall sense of well-being.
Every bite you take is an opportunity to promote health or illness. In the words of Dr. Mark Hyman:
Food is the code that programs your biology.
You can literally upgrade or downgrade your biological software with what you choose to eat.
This is why creating plant-based habits is so important to your long-term health. Eating a serving of fruit or vegetables here and there simply won’t cut it! The good news is that the more nutritious plant foods you eat, the more you will crave them. It’s your body’s way of telling you what it needs.
How To Eat a Plant-Based Diet
6 ways to be more plant-based, regardless of your dietary preferences:
- Fill 2/3 of your plate with veggies.
Consider having more than one vegetable option at a meal for variety and flavor! Stir fries are perfect for dinner and make excellent leftovers for lunch the next day. Fill the remaining 1/3 of your plate with protein, grains, beans/legumes, or a starch.
- Always eat your vegetables first!
If you tend to eat heavy proteins, starches, or dairy first, you’re much more likely to overeat, feel full quickly, and have little to no appetite left for the most nutrient-dense foods on your plate. On the contrary, by eating your vegetables first, you are less likely to overeat and will have less room for not-as-nutritious foods. Eating more vegetables will make you feel lighter overall!
- Swap “snack foods” for fruit.
Popular snack foods are often highly processed, refined carbohydrates with little to no nutrient value. Instead of snacking on things like chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, and the like, eat a serving of fruit instead! Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals and this is a great way to incorporate an extra plant-based food into your diet throughout the day.
- Incorporate a vegetable into every meal.
The standard American diet promotes processed foods throughout the day, and at most, many people are only eating a small serving of vegetables at dinner. This isn’t enough to maintain good health as you age! Find ways to sneak vegetables into every meal – you can add sautéed onions and peppers to your scrambled eggs or top off your toast with half an avocado. Eating a salad at lunch is another great way to ensure this happens. As mentioned before, it’s a good rule of thumb to fill 2/3 of your plate with veggies and eat them first. You can read more about the standard American diet here.
- Eat a large salad four times a week.
Salads are the perfect way to have a more plant-based diet! Avoid salads that are loaded with iceberg lettuce (very little nutrition), cheese, croutons, and highly processed dressing. Instead, focus on building your own – start with a base of mixed greens, add two to three of your favorite chopped vegetables, some light protein like grilled chicken, turkey slices, or hard-boiled egg, and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can add some extra flavor and texture with a sprinkle of nuts, seeds, and/or dried fruit!
- Flavor your vegetables.
Part of the reason so many people aren’t eating enough plant-based foods is because they grew up eating bland, unflavored vegetables, and as an adult they believe they don’t taste good. Not true! Vegetables can be the star of the show when flavored properly. Don’t shy away from spices, herbs, sea salt and healthy fats when cooking plant-based foods – it makes all the difference in the world! Adding olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh lemon juice to any steamed vegetable is a simple and delicious way to upgrade the flavor.
At RollinGreens we prioritize using only the cleanest, plant-based ingredients, organic when possible. Our Taco Packs, Millet Tots and Crispy Cauliflower Wings are vegan and use 10 ingredients or less – they make a great addition to any plant-based meal!
Here are some versatile plant-based recipes you can add to your menu this week!
1 bunch kale
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Wash kale, cut stems off and chop into small pieces and put aside. Cut or tear leaves into small pieces. Warm oil in pan, add ginger, garlic, and salt to taste. Sauté for one minute. Add onion, sauté for a few more minutes. Add kale, stir well and then add a splash of water. Cover and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Check for desired tenderness and serve.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
2 cups cooked grain (brown rice, quinoa, millet)
2/3 cup crushed almonds or walnuts
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 bell peppers (green, red, or yellow)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil or ghee
salt to taste
Sauté onion and garlic with oil for 1 minute. Add celery and sauté for 3 minutes. Mix with remaining ingredients, except peppers and crushed nuts. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off tops of peppers and scoop out insides. Steam peppers until slightly tender. Fill each with stuffing and top with crushed nuts. Place in a casserole dish with 1/8 inch water, bake in the oven for 30 minutes and serve.