Tips to Help You Eat More Plants

We have a plant problem in the US today and I’m not talking about marijuana. By and large most Americans aren’t eating enough plants in their diets in spite of volumes of studies showing that eating plant-based diets is key for lasting health and weight management because they are loaded with so many vital nutrients our bodies depend on. Part of the issue is that we are a very meat-centric society and many of us just don’t know how to work more vegetables into our cooking routine because we are so used to meals consisting of a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. However, there are many plants that are great sources of protein and can easily stand in for that meat on your plate. Here are some tips to get you started on eating more plants.

Eat something green with every meal

This one is a great rule to live by and will instantly get more plants into your diet. Just add a green vegetable to every meal. This could mean adding spinach to your eggs in the morning, throwing some greens into your sandwich at lunch, and having some kale or green beans with dinner. Having green vegetables with your meals will help fill you up and can buffer against the effects of high-fat meals to a degree.

Practice Meatless Mondays

Commit to eating vegetarian one day a week. This one will require some work on your part because it’s very easy to just resort to carbs, like pasta and bread, and you may need to search for some good recipes. But it’s worth it!

Eat more quinoa

Quinoa has become a wellness buzz food and for good reason. This little seed is a complete protein and is a good source of calcium, lysine, B vitamins, and iron. It’s also gluten free. Prepared like you would rice, quinoa can be flavored pretty much any way and is versatile for use in meals. I’ve used it like rice, made pizza crust with it, made meatless meatballs with it – lots of things!

Make friends with cauliflower

Cauliflower is another versatile plant food that can be used for a large number of things. For example, you can make pizza crust with it, puree it to make an alfredo sauce, or use it as a substitute for rice. These recipes are super easy and are a great way to eat more veggies!

Give vegetable noodles a try

Don’t have a spiralizer? That’s OK! Most grocery stores now carry a variety of vegetable noodles, from squash to zucchini to sweet potato to beets. And the internet is loaded with different recipes for every type of vegetable noodle. You could use spaghetti squash instead of regular noodles as well.

Load your pasta sauce

Marinara and pasta sauces are a great place to hide vegetables, especially if you have picky eaters. You can load your sauces with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, squash – you name it. Keep it chunky or puree it for a smoother sauce. Either way, you just ate way more vegetables!

Drink more smoothies

Smoothies can be another good way to increase the amount of plants you’re consuming on a daily basis. Using fresh or frozen fruit and adding some vegetables like spinach, kale, or cucumber, you can make a powerhouse of a smoothie. Just be careful not to overload your smoothie so you end up with a high calorie treat rather than a healthy snack or meal.

Replace those chips and crackers

There are many healthy plant options you can choose for snacks on the go other than chips and crackers. Nuts, for example, are a great source of protein and fiber. Crunchy chickpeas are also a yummy plant snack on the go and can be bought or made in a variety of different flavors. Carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas are also taken on the go very easily and are great for dipping.

Treat yourself to the cut fruit plate

Many of us balk at the pre-cut fruit platters they sell at the grocery store because they really charge you for the convenience. But, in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile investment if it will make it easier for you to eat healthier.

Replace your bread with greens

Replace your wraps with collard leaves and your tortillas with lettuce cups. You could also use slices of sweet potato or cucumber instead of bread for your sandwiches.

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it is actually quite easy to get more plants into your daily diet. Once you find some recipes you like and work them into your routine with some minimal prep, you’ll be eating plants like you’ve been doing it all along.

Healthy Breakfasts on the Go

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day – that’s not just an old wives’ tale. But, it can be the most challenging meal of the day as we are struggling to get ourselves ready for work, get our kids ready for school, maybe squeeze a workout, or leave earlier to drive the carpool. With everything that we have going on in our busy lives, it can be asking a lot just to eat breakfast let alone make it a healthy one.

Why is Breakfast So Important?

As the first meal of the day,  breakfast literally breaks our fast from the night before while we were sleeping. Once we wake up, if we go too long before we eat, our bodies begin to go into a fight or flight stress response and starvation mode. This elevates the levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, in our bodies. Since our cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the morning anyway, elevating them further this way ensures that your stress hormone levels will be higher than they should be for the rest of your day. Eating within an hour of waking up will prevent this stress response from occurring.

Breakfast is the fuel for our bodies to start our day. Think of it like this: your body, having healed and rejuvenated all night long, is like a nice new car with an empty gas tank in the morning. You wouldn’t put sludgy cheap fuel into your brand new shiny car, right? Likewise, you don’t want to put junk food into your body to fuel your morning. A healthy, balanced breakfast consists of a lean protein and a complex carbohydrate. You can add a healthy fat in there for bonus points as well. The complex carbohydrate is burned for energy but it is absorbed as a slower rate than a simple carbohydrate like a donut or sugary cereal. This slower absorption rate give you even levels of energy throughout your morning and doesn’t spike your blood sugar like a simple carb would. The protein further slows this absorption and provides fuel on it’s own as well. The combination of fiber in your complex carb and protein will leave you feeling fuller longer. A healthy fat added to the mix provides brain food to keep you on top of things as you start your day.

Healthy On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

So now that I’ve bored you with the science, here are some suggestions for healthy breakfasts on the go!

  • Whole grain waffles (I recommend these waffles) with all-natural, no added sugar nut butter (like Teddie). Sprinkle them with some cinnamon or cocoa powder for more of a treat or top them with half a banana or sliced apple.
  • Whole grain toast with low-fat cheese or hummus and half an avocado
  • Smoothie made with plain, low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup of fruit, and 1 cup of spinach. If you like to add protein powder, I recommend this protein powder as it also contains additional vitamins and minerals and is a clean protein.
  • Fried egg folded up in a slice of whole grain toast
  • A banana and nut butter rolled up in a whole wheat wrap or lavash
  •  Egg muffin cups
  • Baked oatmeal muffin cups
  • Overnight oats
  • Coffee Smoothie –  1 cup cold brew or iced coffee, 1/2 cup milk of choice, 1/2 frozen banana, 2 scoops vanilla protein powder, blend and enjoy!
  • Whole grain toast with low-fat ricotta cheese and sliced apple sprinkled with cinnamon
  • 2 hard boiled eggs and a slice of whole grain toast and a piece of fruit
  • Savory quinoa and egg jar – pre-prep a big batch of quinoa and dish it into jars (1/2 cup serving) with whatever veggies you’d like and store in the fridge. In the morning, fry up an egg quickly and toss it in the jar to enjoy on the go. Or prep the whole thing in advance, microwave it for a minute, then go!

 

Got any favorite healthy breakfasts you take on the go? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Roasted Beet, Avocado & Quinoa Salad

With the warm summer months fast approaching, this refreshing and nutritious side dish is bound to be a crowd pleaser at any cookout. What’s more is it looks as good as it tastes! Bright colors like this are a great way to get picky kids to eat something healthy! They can even help mix it all up!

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

For the Salad:

2 cups cooked quinoa

4-5 medium-sized beets, diced and roasted until soft (I suggest par-boiling them first to cut down on cook time)

1 orange bell pepper, diced

2 avocados, cubed

For the Dressing:

3/4 cup fresh cilantro

2-3 limes, juiced

1 orange, juiced

1 tbsp agave nectar

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (may need to add more, depending on flavor and consistency)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. First, prepare the dressing so the flavors can bloom while you prepare the rest of the salad. Combine the cilantro and fruit juices in a blender and blend about 30 seconds until beginning to get smooth and combined. Add the olive oil gradually and the agave nectar and continue to blend until liquified. Add a dash of salt and pepper and place the dressing in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Prepare the quinoa according to the package and roast the beets until soft (you can also just boil them but I find that roasting makes the flavor sweeter).
  3. Allow the quinoa and beets to cool before adding the other salad ingredients. You can place them in the fridge if you’re on a time crunch.
  4. Once the quinoa and the beets have cooled, combine them with the diced pepper and avocado in a large mixing bowl. Remove the dressing from the fridge and give it a good shake to mix it all up again. This is where you want to taste it to make sure that it’s the balance you’re looking for. If not, you can add more oil, salt and pepper, or juice. I leave this up to the chef because some people like things zestier than others.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix together, serve and enjoy!