Eating plant-based meals doesn’t mean you have to give up meat—the key is to include meat as a side dish or condiment instead of the main entrée.  Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and a variety of plant protein sources such as beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy are the mainstays of plant-based eating. Studies show that plant-based diets tend to be rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by including a variety of plant-based foods in your diet.

Here are some ideas for preparing plant-based meals:

  1. Make veggies the center of your plate or main course. Each serving of vegetables provides antioxidants, fiber and potassium, which support a healthy heart.
    • Grate: Transform cauliflower into rice.  Use a box grater or simply pulse the cauliflower in the food processor until it turns into rice-like grains. You can also buy cauliflower rice in the produce or frozen foods department.  Make a pizza crust, stir-fry or salad with the cauliflower rice.
    • Stuff: Use bell peppers, lettuce leaves, avocados, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, or potatoes as a shell for stuffing. Fill the veggie shell with hearty whole grains, lean protein, fresh herbs, and low-fat sharp shredded cheese for a robust flavor.
    • Spiralize: Use a julienne peeler, mandolin slicer or spiralizer to cut your veggies (zucchini, cucumber, sweet potato, carrots) into noodles. Add flavor, texture, and color by replacing pasta and noodles with spiralized veggies in your salads, soups, casseroles, stir-fry, or Asian noodle dishes.
  2. Choose a plant-based protein. Beans, lentils, peas, soy, nuts, seeds, and tofu are plant proteins that are lower in saturated fat and may increase satiety.  Many of these plant proteins have other beneficial nutrients like fiber, minerals, healthy fats, and phytochemicals.
    • Replace animal protein (meats, poultry) with plant-based proteins such as beans, soy and lentils a few times a week.
    • Look for bean, lentil or pea protein-based pastas, burgers, soups, or plant-based milk with 6g or more of protein per serving.
    • Use vegetarian crumbles for your favorite chili, spaghetti sauce, wraps, or tacos.
    • Keep low-sodium canned beans, frozen and steamed soy, lentils, and peas to add to salads, wraps, soups, tacos or pasta, or to serve as a side dish. A ½ cup of beans is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and provides as much protein as one ounce of meat, without the saturated fat.
  3. Go with whole grains. Expand your whole grain choices beyond whole wheat, corn, brown rice, and oats.  There’s a whole world of grains out there which you may have never heard of such as ancient grains. Quinoa, amaranth, millet, farro, kamut, freekeh, barley, bulgur, einkorn, sorghum, spelt, and teff are ancient grains that are packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Cooking ancient grains is similar to cooking rice. Follow package directions for grain to liquid ratio. Place dry grain in a saucepan with water or low-sodium broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until tender and the liquid is absorbed.
    • Look for ancient grains in the rice aisle and frozen foods at Meijer. Be creative and adventurous and try one new grain per week.
    • Save time by using quick-cooking whole grains like quinoa, instant brown rice, or barley.
    • Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa, or sorghum.
    • Enjoy whole grain salads made with quinoa, farro, barley, or whole grain pasta.
    • Make a healthy wrap with a whole grain flour tortilla, lower sodium lunchmeat, reduced fat cheese, and veggies.
    • Use whole grain brown rice, quinoa or pasta as a base for a meal in a bowl, tossed in soup, or stir-fry.
    • Add whole grains to your meals without cooking, simply by choosing whole grain breads, breakfast cereals, or granola.

Follow these tips next time you make a plant-based meal and you can find more recipes here.

Read More