Building a Plant-Embracing Diet

We're about three months into the New Year and many of us pledged to eat healthier in 2019. How's that going? Some might be powering through in ways that leave most of us wondering how they do it. Others might not have noticed because we just found the bottom of that last pint of Ben & Jerry's. If you're in that powering through group, congratulations … this post isn't really for you. Or rather, you're probably already checking these boxes and more. Head off and reward yourself with something healthy like a piece of fruit or thoughts of spring.

For the rest of us, let's admit that eating healthier really does involve a bit of a change in approach and it's not always easy. You want to eat healthier, but looking at the grocery store in the middle of winter leaves you wondering which vegetables to even bother with and by the time you've made up your mind, it feels like there's no time to actually make anything. Sometimes it feels a little insane, not unlike this hilarious video from The Onion on the Perfect One-Pot, Six-Pan, 10-Wok, 25-Baking Sheet Dinner.

So rather than tell you the 800 steps to perfect eating, I'm going to take a little time to cover a few categories of quick dinner categories that lend themselves especially well to helping you eat healthier by having plant-focused meals (that mostly also include meat). Pick and choose your favorite and know that most of these recipes are flexible enough to let you choose your favorite protein sources, vegetables, and seasonings, so you can make and enjoy them by using your own preferences as a guide.

Pizza / Italian

Italian cuisine is one of the most convenient options when it comes to working more plant-based ingredients into your menus. Tossing more tomatoes with your pasta or adding spinach and garlic to your pizza generally means more smiles around the table. And if you are looking for quick options, choosing items like flatbread and naan as crusts for pizza, using unusual ingredients to create your own fusion cuisine, or skipping boiling for some of your pasta dishes can save you time and sometimes even calories!

Some fun pizza and other Italian cuisine plant-embracing recipes from our archives include:

Stir-Fry

Because stir-fries really are just lots of stuff cut into roughly the same shape and cooked together quickly, they lend themselves easily to the addition of lots of vegetables … and flavor! And lest you think there are veggies that are off limits in stir-fries, know that one of my favorite add-ons to a stir-fry are cherry or grape tomatoes near the end of the cooking cycle. They are amazing. Oh, and they also happen to be good for you.

Some great veggie-packed stir-fry recipes from our archives include:

Bowls

Bowl meals are easy and convenient because they can often be inspired by just looking in your refrigerator! Shred a few carrots, slice some cucumbers, sauté some peppers, onions, and chicken … and you've already got most of what goes into a dinner bowl. And if you have noticed we've been taking a bit of a trip around the world on our healthier eating adventures so far, good on you for noticing Mixing things up and exploring the cuisines of different countries can keep things interesting while taking advantage of cultures who rely less on animal-based ingredients to bring flavor and excitement to the table. But if you are wanting some inspiring ideas for some great meals you can nestle into a bowl and enjoy right now, we've got you covered!

Sandwiches & Tacos

If you've come to view sandwiches and tacos as bread or tortilla filled with just meat and cheese, you've left your tastebuds wanting more. Vegetables are an excellent complement to those heavier items and make your meal downright beautiful. If you are noticing some stunning color in the recipes being shared here, you are catching onto one of the key ways to work more plant-based foods into your routine. Every day, I try to make sure I eat most of the colors of the rainbow from morning until night. Give it a try and you'll be surprised at how many fruits and vegetables work their way into your meals!

Salads

Of course, salads are definitely a great way to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. But lest you be ready to wander away because you are concerned about being tasked with eating "rabbit food", consider some of these gorgeous salads that work meat-based protein and loads of both raw and cooked items into main dish salads that impress everyone who tries them. Which brings us to yet another bit of advice about mixing things up in your menus: Don't ignore flavor. If you reduce the amount of meat or oil you are using in a dish, work some flavor highlights like nuts, shallots, and vinegars back into the dish to keep things interesting. If all you do is remove some of cuisine's biggest flavor powerhouses, your tastebuds will be left wondering where it all went. Keep it interesting, tasty, and beautiful!

And that's hardly the end of plant-embracing food categories. Everything from soups and stews to casseroles and even meatloaf can be tweaked to share or even shift focus from meat to vegetables without sacrificing flavor. Give a few of the recipes above and find out what works best for you. After all, incorporating more vegetables into your diet isn't something that you should be seeking to do for a month or two. This should be the start of a lifelong journey of better eating.

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