Plant-based diets seem to be trending right now thanks to the number of documentaries currently available on Netflix. Documentaries like Fork Over Knives, The Game Changers, and What the Health are powerful enough to sway the biggest carnivores to a more peaceful plate. There are many benefits to adopting a plant-based lifestyle, including reducing your environmental footprint, lowering your risk of heart-related illnesses, helping with weight loss, and lowering your cancer risk. To reap the benefits and sustain a meat-free way of life you must do it wisely, so start with these smart plant-based cooking tips!
Think About This Before You Go Plant-Based
- Decide what plant-based means for you and your family. You may decide to make the change to vegan (excluding all animal products from diet and clothing) or plant-based (a diet that focuses on incorporating more plant-based whole foods and less refined grains and sugars) or just incorporate more vegetables and plant-based protein into your regular diet.
- A plant-based diet should include plants! Going vegan has never been easier with all of the faux meat and dairy alternatives now available at the grocery store, but merely swapping for these processed meat-free products will not improve your health. Protein is important, but the vitamins, minerals and fiber from plants are what help reduce your cancer risk and improve your heart health.
- It is hard to go cold tofurkey when you start! Instead of jumping right into it, start slowly and find out what works for you. Add more legumes, nuts, tofu, tempeh, and vegetables to your recipes. Finding recipes that you enjoy and keep you satisfied is critical to sustaining this new way of eating.
How To Start Plant-Based Cooking
Choose Produce not Processed
When you go plant-based it’s tempting to fill your plate with more carbs or soy products that mimic the texture and taste of meat, but the benefits of a plant-based diet come from PLANTS! It’s easy to choose comfort foods that are vegan (pasta, rice, processed crackers, chips, Oreos) but that does not mean these are healthier choices.
I have been plant-based for 25 years, but eating a healthy plant-based diet hasn’t always been a part of my lifestyle. In the beginning, I replaced meat with things like pasta, rice, and french fries. As I transitioned from college life to adulthood, I realized that my so-called healthy lifestyle wasn’t so healthy. When I transitioned from a junkatarian to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, my life changed. I lost 20 pounds, my skin cleared up and I had a lot more energy.
Add ingredients that boost the umami taste of your food
Umami is often referred to as our fifth taste. It is the savory flavor that comes from glutamate which is an amino acid found in certain foods.
Vegan Sources of Umami – soy sauce or coconut aminos, seaweed, miso, mushrooms, tomatoes, nutritional yeast
Choose Soy Wisely
Soy is a great source of protein and offers some potential health benefits, but… not all soy is good soy. Many of the meat alternatives contain soy protein isolate which chemically engineered to “isolate” the protein. This process strips out all of the other nutrients and bacteria needed for digestion. If you are worried about the effects of consuming soy, check out this article that addresses the current research about soy.
Pick minimally processed soy such as tempeh, tofu, miso and edamame. When you can, choose organic or non-GMO soy products.
Find the Best Plant-Based Protein Sources
- Tofu, tempeh, edamame
- Seeds – chia, sesame, hemp pumpkin
Finding non-dairy options for your favorite foods has never been easier. Some of my favorites include:
- Coconut Whipped Cream
- Cashew Cream – add it to soups and sauces.
- Nutritional Yeast – add it to your food to give you a cheesy flavor. It’s also great sprinkled on popcorn. The best part about nutritional yeast is that it is a great source of protein and B Vitamins.
- Nut Cheese – vegan parmesan
Add Good Fats for flavor
The days of the low-fat no-fat diet fads are a thing of the past. Adding healthy fats to your diet not only satiates you but also gives you energy and promotes cell growth. According to a recent study from the American Heart Association, people who consume more mono-unsaturated fatty acids from plants had a 16 percent lower risk of death from heart disease compared to those who consumed animal-based mono-unsaturated fatty acids.
Plant-Based Sources of Mono-UnSaturated Fatty Acids
- Avocado Toast with Pickled Red Onions
- Nuts & Nut Butters
- Blueberry Banana Almond Butter Smoothie
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Create your own infused olive oils and drizzle it over your favorite rice or pasta dish.
- Seeds (Flax & Chia are a great source of protein and have many health benefits)
Tasty recipes to start your plant-based journey
- BBQ Tempeh Sandwich
- Walnut Burgers
- Buffalo Cauliflower
- Bean Burritos
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Chickpeas and Tahini
Resources For Plant-Based Cooking
If you are interested in adding more plant-based meals into your life, starting with a subscription box might be a great way to start. They are perfect for busy people and help you learn the basics of plant-based cooking techniques and flavor combinations.
Meal Kits like Home Chef, Green Chef, Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, and Hello Fresh offer veggie options. All of the ingredients and easy step by step instructions arrive at your door so you can begin plant-based cooking!