Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company, but all opinions are our own.
We want to start by making one thing clear: we don’t think everyone has to be vegan, or even vegetarian for that matter.
As intuitive eaters and plant-forward dietitians, our goal is to help you eat the foods that simply make you feel your best. And that’s different for everybody.
But the truth is, whether you are a vegetarian, pescatarian, a meat eater, or a combination of all three, there’s usually room to add more nutritious plant-based foods into your diet.
Research suggests that a higher intake of plant-based foods — think whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. — can be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and even diabetes. One of the reasons for this is plant-based foods are chock full of fiber. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who ate foods rich in fiber, amounting to about 16 grams per day, had a 12% lower risk of coronary heart disease and an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those eating 7.7g of fiber or less daily. Plant-based eating also has environmental advantages. That’s because eating these types of foods can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which can help preserve the planet.
One of the biggest challenges for getting people to eat more plant-based is that they don’t know where to start. Often our patients come to us stuck in a broccoli rut, or they may not be quite sure how to get more whole grains into their day. Here are 5 creative ways to eat more plant-based foods on the daily:
1. Sneak in more vegetables: Vegetables don’t have to be limited to salad and stir fry. I love adding veggies to things like burritos, and even as the toppings on my pizza. You can also sneak them into dishes in the form of cauliflower rice (just pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice) or spiralized noodles . Vegetables also make the perfect base for smoothies and soup . (If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up here to get a copy of our free 7-Days of Smoothies ebook). The Dietary Guidelines suggests eating 2.5 cups of veggies per day.
2. Eat fruit for dessert. Fruit is perfect for dessert because you get the sweet flavor without the blood sugar spike thanks to the fiber. One of our favorite dessert recipes is simply baked fruit topped with nutmeg, cinnamon and whipped cream. We have a fancier version of that recipe here. Need more ideas? Check out our fruit kabobs, peaches and (coconut) cream popsicles (see below!) and our DIY strawberry frozen Greek yogurt. The Dietary Guidelines recommends 2 cups of fruit per day.
3. Just Add Oats. We love oats because they are super cost effective and incredibly nutritious. This whole grain supplies 4 grams of fiber per serving, along with B vitamin thiamin, phosphorous and magnesium. Plus it is low in fat, saturated fat, and both sodium and cholesterol free. Also, the soluble fiber in oatmeal may slow the rate that in which food leaves the stomach, which may help you feel full longer. One of our favorite oatmeal recipes include this apple-berry breakfast bake we recently made with in collaboration with Quaker. As a 100% whole grain, oats are a great option any time of day!
4. Eat more beans. Beans are often overlooked as a nutritious food, but they are one of our absolute favs. Lentils, for example, contain about 16 grams of dietary fiber per cup, which is 24% of the recommended daily value. They also contain about 18 grams of lean protein. Try using beans as the base of tacos, in your salad, or pureed into a dip. We have a ton of great bean recipes on our site, including this garlic roasted red beet hummus. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.5 cups of beans per week.
5. Don’t skimp on the nuts and seeds. Many people are afraid of nuts and seeds because of their high fat content, but we try to highlight that these foods contain healthy fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s true, nuts and seeds do have more calories per gram when compared to carbs and proteins, so aim to keep your portion of nuts and seeds to about ¼ cup per serving. We love adding seeds to our smoothies and breakfast grain bowls.
And there you have it folks! Five ways to include more plant-based foods into your diet. What about you…what are your favorite ways to eat more plants? Let us know in the comments below!