There has been increasing interest and research around the health benefits of eating more plants in your diet.
For some, a plant-based diet may sound intimidating, like you have to be this weird vegan and live off of salads in order to be plant-based.
But, my friends, you don’t have to go completely vegan to make a positive impact on your health – and you have WAY more options to eat than just lettuce!
While there are benefits to eating a whole foods vegan diet, anyone can benefit from eating more plants, no matter where you’re at on your journey.
This blog post gives you some creative and simple tips on how to include more plants in your diet. Have fun with it and get started today!
Benefits Of Eating Plants
First, let’s cover why eating more plants can be so beneficial.
A plant-based diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts and seeds. These foods are naturally packed with nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber which all play an important role in your health.
The focus is on fueling your body with more nutrient dense foods. In the process, you are decreasing processed and refined foods, animal products, saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet.
A plant-based diet has been shown to improve inflammation, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and weight management 1, 2.
In addition, a plant-based diet has the potential to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis), certain cancers, and may even increase your life span 2, 3, 4, 5!
Sounds pretty good, right? But, that’s not all. Eating more plants can also improve your gut health which is key to a healthy immune system and has a great impact on your overall health.
These are just a few reasons why eating more plants can help power your health. Ready to make an upgrade to your current eating habits? The following are 15 tips to get you started.
15 Tips For Eating More Plants
1. Veg Out Your Pizza
Who doesn’t love pizza? While your pizza doesn’t have to look like a rainbow, swapping out the cheese and processed meats for a yummy sauce with a bunch of veggies makes this meal a much healthier option.
Try adding mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, pineapple, bell pepper with a homemade pesto or tomato sauce on whole wheat crust. Your waistline and arteries will thank you.
2. Sneak Plants Into Your Smoothies
You are probably used to having fruit in your smoothies, but this is a great opportunity to get some more veggies in your diet! Cauliflower rice and leafy greens like spinach and kale are great additions.
Trust me, you don’t taste the greens and they add so much heart healthy nutritional value to your smoothie. A much better option than a lot of the sugary fruit, fruit juice, and frozen yogurt smoothies you’ll often find.
Check out this yummy Blueberry Energy Smoothie recipe.
3. Plant Power Your Oatmeal
I’m not talking about the instant oatmeal packets full of added sugar, sodium, and artificial flavors. But, it doesn’t have to be steel cut oats either. Just regular Quaker oats will do.
Add berries, sliced banana or cut up apples, along with cinnamon, your favorite nuts or seeds (walnuts, pecans, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds) and plant based milk. You can also drizzle a little nut butter on top and add a touch of real maple syrup.
Now you’ve turned an already healthy high fiber meal into a plant packed super breakfast.
Not into traditional oatmeal and prefer a more savory breakfast? I have the perfect oatmeal recipe for you! Try this Savory Golden Oats recipe.
4. Use Plant-Based Swaps For Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
There are so many plant-based alternatives out there now. Be bold and try something new.
Try replacing cow’s milk with your favorite plant-based milk: unsweetened soy, almond, macadamia, hemp, and coconut to name a few.
My favorite is soy because it is the highest in protein and, well, I just love soy. Just make sure it’s organic or non-GMO. They all taste a little different, so find one that works for you.
There are vegan cheeses out there, but they are more processed and typically the main ingredient is oil. So, not the healthiest of swaps.
Some of them use cashew nuts as the first/main ingredient, such as the Nuts For Cheese brand. My favorite is the chipotle cheddar which is more of a spreadable occasional treat as it is still high in fat.
There are many easy recipes for using cashews and nutritional yeast as a base to make your own nut based cheese, adding that creamy texture and cheesy flavor.
There are many swaps that you can use to replace eggs in recipes. One of my go-to swaps is using flaxseeds. All you do is mix 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 Tbsp water, whisk and allow to thicken for 5 minutes. You can also use chia seeds (same combo, but let sit for 10 minutes).
Another good egg replacer is using pureed fruit like unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana (1/4 cup=1 egg).
If you happen to have a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) laying around, you can use 3 Tbsp of the chickpea liquid and whisk until frothy. The fancy name for this is called “aquafaba.”
There are also many choices out there for meat alternatives these days. Ideally, it is recommended to swap out meat for a less processed plant protein source like tofu, tempeh, soy milk, edamame, lentils, and beans.
In addition, you can increase protein with a small amount of nuts and seeds, nut butters, tahini, nutritional yeast, quinoa, whole grains, vegetables, and spirulina.
You can also find black bean, nut, or veggie burgers, seitan (a complete protein made from wheat gluten), and other meat alternatives.
Alternatives like Beyond burger, or Impossible burger can be good transitional options because they taste more similar to meat, however they are a lot higher in fat than other veggie options.
5. Add Herbs & Spices For Flavor
Utilizing onions and garlic as well as herbs and spices can be a great way to not only add a ton of flavor (without the salt), but also pump up the volume on your plant intake.
Because herbs and spices come from plants, they are also full of antioxidants and phytochemicals, making them a healthy addition to any meal.
Basil and oregano are great in Italian dishes, and for a Mexican flare add cumin, chili powder, paprika, and maybe a dash of cayenne.
I love adding ginger to Asian or Indian type dishes along with garlic, red pepper flakes, curry powder, and turmeric. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and pumpkin spice are great additions to oatmeal, overnight oats, smoothies or in baking.
6. Make Your Snacks Count
Find an opportunity to add more veggies and fruit to your snacks. Make it easier by prepping ahead of time so they’re ready to go.
A few examples are cutting up bell pepper (capsicum), radishes, or jicama to pair with hummus. You can also add a fruit like strawberries, pineapple, mango or dried apricots with a handful of walnuts, almonds, dry roasted soy nuts, or a plant based yogurt.
Add some nut butter to an apple or celery sticks. Heat already shelled edamame and squeeze some lemon with a sprinkle of coconut aminos for flavor. Be creative!
7. Use Fruit As The Base Of Your Desserts
I can’t think of a more fun way to add more fruit to your diet. Desserts are usually high in calories, fat, and sugar and contain few nutrients.
But, when you use fruit as your base you are adding fiber and increasing the nutritional value. All the pleasure without the guilt!
You can easily take frozen fruit, add it to the blender with a splash of juice or water and you have your own fruit sorbet.
My favorite is taking frozen bananas (cut in 1″ slices), adding it to a blender with some vanilla extract and cacao powder for a chocolate banana frozen treat.
Use fruit like apples, berries, or peaches for your baked desserts or make zucchini muffins or bread.
8. Explore Your Local Farmer’s Market
Shopping at your local farmer’s market can be a great way to check out fresh, seasonal, and local fruits and vegetables. This isn’t always the case, but you often find cheaper prices than in the supermarket which is a bonus.
It’s also a good opportunity to try out a new fruit or vegetable. Mix it up for diversity. This is how I tried dragon fruit for the first time. Fun!
9. Make Vegetable Noodles
Veggie pasta anyone? Using vegetables in place of regular pasta noodles is another fun way to get more veggies in. Zucchini is a popular choice for making noodles, but you can also use sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, cucumber, or other summer/winter squashes.
I recommend getting a spiralizer which makes the process easier. You can boil or sauté them and then add your favorite sauce. Many vegetables require very little cooking time, however sweet potatoes would take a little longer.
10. Add A Handful Of Microgreens
These small unpretentious sprout looking things are actually loaded with beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients. Who knew adding a few sprouts to your meal would pack in so many benefits?
Broccoli sprouts or microgreens (the first stages of the broccoli plant) contain a concentrated amount of a beneficial phytochemical called sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane has been shown to fight cancer cells, improve brain health, diabetes, and other inflammatory conditions6.
Let’s load up on the microgreens! They can be an easy addition to any sandwich, wrap, salad or even on top of your soups to give you a healthy boost.
11. Use A Plant Spread
Try using pesto to add in some yummy basil, garlic, pine nuts or walnuts. There are pesto recipes made with olive oil or without using any oil. It’s a great addition to bread, pizza, and pasta. I just love pesto!
You can also try making “mayo” using silken tofu instead of eggs and oil. Not only is it super easy to make, but it’s a great way to add creaminess as well as some plant protein without the added fat.
12. Dress Up Your Dish With Tahini or Cashew Sauce
When I started eating vegan, I realized how amazing the combo of cashews and nutritional yeast were in making a delicious creamy cheese substitute.
I enjoy this recipe Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce which uses these two ingredients. Craving comfort food? Also try this vegan Mac and Cheese recipe.
Tahini (sesame seed paste) is also a great addition to your bowls, vegetables, or salad dressings.
13. Beans, Lentils, And More Beans
Seriously, beans and lentils are a plant powered protein source that I would recommend including in your diet on a daily basis.
Not only are they naturally low in fat and calories, but they are loaded with fiber, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and phytochemicals. And they are cheap and easy to prepare!
Instead of ground beef, use black or pinto beans in your tacos. Add chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or black beans to your salad, pasta, or in buddha bowls. Include hummus in your snacks. Beans are great in chili and in veggie burgers.
Lentils make a good base for soups, stews, and salads. My favorite is making a red lentil curry. So good and satisfying.
If you’re not used to eating beans or lentils, start slow with small amounts and then work your tolerance up. Your gut bacteria are getting used to all of this amazing fiber. Take some Beano and enjoy!
14. Add More Plants To Your Favorite Dishes
It’s easy to start off with just adding more plants to your favorite dishes. Find ways to “plant up” (instead of beef up) your meals whether it’s tacos, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, stir-fries, etc.
Swap out the meat in your dish for a plant based protein (tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, seitan). Experiment and have fun with it!
15. Meatless Mondays
There’s always Meatless Mondays. If you’re plant-based curious and still eating meat every day, then this is a good place to start.
Committing to just one day out of the week to eat 100% plant-based is not only doable, but beneficial to your body.
I challenge you to try one new vegan recipe a week and on that day try to find swaps for your normal dairy, eggs, and meat that you consume.
Try a new vegetable or fruit. Make quinoa for the first time. Explore using different herbs and spices to kick up the flavor to your food. Marinate tofu and put it in the air fryer and add it to your stir-fry. Make your Mondays count!
Plant-Based Starter Guide
It really becomes an addiction. Eating more plants just feels good! As I mentioned before, no matter where you are at on this journey, you can feel confident that eating more plants will benefit your health.
I hope you find these 15 tips helpful. If you’d like more guidance, I developed this free resource which includes tips on how to get started on a plant-based diet, a pantry makeover guide, meal planning tips, and a 5 day meal plan with recipes and grocery list. Enjoy your free download!
- About the Author
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Maria Tointon, RDN, LDN is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist with over 20 years of experience and a passion for helping others achieve their health goals through plant based nutrition.
1 thought on “Eating More Plants”
You are the best!!!! So much healthier as a result of your research, diligence, and recommendations. Feel like 100 bucks!!!!!!