Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD
How to add more plants to your diet in a delicious way today
Besides being vibrant in color and healthy for both body and mind, plant-based foods are delicious in many forms (1,2). And unlike popular belief, eating salads are not the only way to enjoy plant-based foods in a nutritious way. From snack time to mealtime, there are many ways to consume more plant-based foods in your diet each day. Read below to learn more about a few of these flavorful ways you can try today.
Plant-based dips, sauces, and dressings
Besides dipping some veggies like sliced bell peppers, broccoli, or baby carrots in a delicious dip like Greek yogurt-based dip with dill, there are also dips and dressings made from plants. These include dips like hummus that are essentially blended chickpeas, or bean dips that are full of fiber and flavor.
And a plant-based dip you may have not tried yet are the delicious, creamy dips from Field and Farmer that contain fiber-rich ingredients like cannellini beans and cauliflower in their base. These dips come in fun flavors like Spinach Artichoke, Buffalo, and Queso, to name a few. The Spinach Artichoke dip tastes just like its namesake and is yummy with your favorite raw veggies, crackers, tortillas chips, baguette bread, or on its own with a
spoon! And if you like spicy flavor, try the Buffalo which contains aged cayenne red peppers and has a taste reminiscent of fresh roasted red peppers.
Field and Farmer also offers dressings too like Caesar, honey mustard,
and vinaigrettes, for example that add an extra dose of plant-based benefit to your salads. You can also enjoy these dressings as a marinade for your favorite proteins or as a sauce over your protein entrees for an extra dose of flavor.
Veggie-based soups and sandwiches
No matter what time of year, a good veggie-based soup can be a tasty way to add veggies to your diet. Fresh veggies like sliced carrots, onions, or shredded cabbage can taste great when sauteed with a bit of olive oil or butter and added to your favorite stock with your preferred protein and spices. Or you can add frozen veggie blends like corn and lima beans or peas and carrots for example to your stock and protein. I like to add a few dried bay leaves and simmer my soup for at least an hour on low to medium heat to bring out the flavors in the soup before serving.
If you prefer a thick and creamy soup texture, you can blend broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, or cooked carrots and combine with herbs and spices like curry powder, garlic, or simply salt and pepper for a filling meal or snack. Blend veggies with shredded cheese or your favorite milk product or Greek yogurt for extra protein content.
When it comes to sandwiches, you can either dress your cold sandwiches with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, or avocado, for example, or create a protein from plants. This means you could mash up black beans and combine with mashed tofu, rice, or other grains and spices, saute in a pan, and create a fiber and flavor-rich burger alternative.
Fruity and savory smoothies
Adding a smoothie to your routine as a breakfast, snack, or post-workout treat can be an easy-to-digest and convenient way to fit plants into your day. Blend some berries and plant-based milk with your favorite sweetener and/or spices, or enjoy a savory smoothie chock full of veggies. Add soy milk, protein powder, or protein-rich additions like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt to make your smoothie more filling and balanced.
Check out my newest cookbook, The Healthy Bariatric Smoothies Recipe Book, to provide you with an array of lower sugar fruity, refreshing, creamy, and savory smoothie recipes that are easy to make.
Fruity dessert options
You can also add fruit to your dessert or enjoy as your dessert for extra plant-based benefit. For example, you could add blueberries to muffin mix, slice fruit over some whole-grain bread with cream cheese or yogurt dip, or enjoy fruit crisps like apple, peach, strawberry, or other berries sprinkled with chopped nuts for a fiber-rich dessert. Another option is to blend frozen fruit with a bit of water for a homemade sorbet. Finally, if you want to enjoy the fruit or its own to create a decadent dessert, you can slice strawberries or peaches and top with a bit of whipped cream, or slice a banana and drizzle with some dark chocolate sauce.
Final tips for adding plant-based foods into your diet
Besides the tips above, you can also add fruit and vegetables to meals and snacks by:
Adding diced and chopped onions, peppers, or tomatoes to eggs for a yummy omelet creation. Saute the veggies first with a bit of butter or oil for about 5 minutes or so to soften before adding in eggs to enhance their flavor.
Topping oatmeal or yogurt with berries, sliced bananas, and/or fiber-rich nuts, seeds, or granola.
Saute diced peppers and onions and add to your favorite ground protein for added fiber to your burger creations.
Roast sliced carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli, for example with a bit of olive oil for a delicious side dish to just about any meal.
Add spiralized squash or zucchini for an extra dose of fiber with pasta night.
For the most budget-friendly and tasty produce, choose those that are in season. Use the seasonal produce guide from the United States Department of Agriculture for tips on choosing the produce in harvest at each season.
You can plan recipes around which produce is in season to make your meals more interesting and to expand your palate when it comes to plant-based foods. You can try one new fruit or vegetable each week and prepare it in different ways like roasting, stir-frying, raw, or steamed to find out which method you prefer. There is no one way or “right” way to enjoy produce. The way that tastes best to you and helps you eat more fiber and nutrients in your diet is the way that is right for you.
The possibilities for adding plants to your daily routine are endless. I hope these ideas help you to add more fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other grains to your diet today.
Rajaram S, Jones J, Lee GJ. (November 2019) "Plant-Based Dietary Patterns, Plant Foods, and Age-Related Cognitive Decline." Adv Nutr., 1:10(Suppl_4):S422-S436. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz081. PMID: 31728502; PMCID: PMC6855948.
Satija, A., & Hu, F. B. (2018). "Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health." Trends in cardiovascular medicine, 28(7), 437–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2018.02.004