There are many opinions on which style of eating is best. As Registered Dietitians, we focus on evidence-based research. When you’re looking at plant based eating, the scientific evidence is clear that a plant based diet is beneficial for preventing and managing chronic disease, living a longer life, and decreasing your carbon footprint.
So what is a Plant Based Diet?
A plant based diet focuses on consuming minimally processed whole foods that come from plants, not to be confused with a vegan or vegetarian diet. Vegan diets exclude all animal products, while vegetarian diets exclude meat. Plant based eating is more flexible and can include animal products, however a majority of the foods will come from plants.
So when did the plant based movement come about?
This isn’t new. Eating more plant-based foods is something we’ve been hearing about our entire lives. ‘
“Eat your fruits and veggies! Whole grains can lower cholesterol! Beans are good for digestion! Nuts are beneficial for heart health!”
Plant based eating has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, cognitive decline, obesity and depression.
You may be wondering, how do I begin?
Focus on consuming more whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products like tofu and tempeh. This may include having two or three meatless dinners per week to start. The goal is reduce consumption of fried foods, processed meat and red meat, sugar and sugar sweetened beverages, and fast food.
If you’re interested in preparing more plant-based meals at home, talk to your dietitian about a personal cooking lesson.
Here are two recipes to get you started on the journey of eating more plant-based meals:
One-Dish Mexican Quinoa
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and jalapeno, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in avocado, lime juice and cilantro.
- Serve immediately.
Recipe inspired by: https://damndelicious.net/2014/04/09/one-pan-mexican-quinoa/
Spaghetti With Lentils and Marinara
- ½ cup dry lentils (French green lentils or regular brown lentils), or 1 ½ cups cooked lentils (leftover or from a can, rinsed and drained)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled but left whole
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 8 ounces whole-grain pasta (or 12 ounces, if you like your pasta less saucy than mine)
- Optional garnishes: grated Parmesan or vegan parm and/or chopped fresh basil
- To cook the lentils, first pick through the lentils for rocks and then rinse them in a mesh colander. In a small saucepan, combine the lentils, bay leaf, garlic, salt and broth.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the lentils are cooked through and tender, which will take somewhere between 20 to 35 minutes. Drain the lentils, discard the bay leaf and garlic, and set the pot aside, uncovered.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot and set it aside.
- Stir the marinara into the lentils and warm them together over medium heat. Divide pasta into bowls, top with warm marinara and lentils, and garnish with Parmesan and/or chopped fresh basil, if you’d like. Serve warm. Leftovers will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
Recipe inspired by: https://cookieandkate.com/hearty-spaghetti-with-lentils-marinara/