More Ideas for Increasing Plant-based Menus

January 1, 2013 in Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Become familiar with whole grains. Dr. Grandmas’ recipe section contains a large selection of recipes using wheat berries; try some; you may discover a new favorite ingredient. Quinoa is in a special category of grains, as it contains the all the essential amino acids. Therefore, it is considered a complete protein source. When eating legumes (beans, lentils, and peas); whole soy foods (tofu, tempeh, soy milk); nuts and nut butters; seeds and seed butters; whole grains and vegetables, we need to realize that we’re getting considerable protein and if we remember to get a variety, we will not only reduce our risk for certain diseases, but increase our health. The rational for how this happens is not just the lower fat that is found in plant products, but in addition, their increased fiber, micronutrients and phytonutrients.

Certainly, if you decide to be a strict vegan (vegetarian with no animal products), you should take a vitamin B12 supplement; pay attention to your calcium intake and be sure that you’re getting adequate vitamin D. But if you’re going to include any animal products (eggs, milk, cheese, or fish) or meat sparingly and less frequently, then you don’t need to be so concerned.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that one easy way to move toward plant-based diet is to begin making recipes that make meat a seasoning instead of the main event. For example, you can make a stir-fry, or a casserole where the main ingredients are vegetables and grains, with just small pieces of meat. The following are a few examples. Bean burritos made with a whole-wheat tortilla, is an easy way to serve meatless, but if you’re in a hurry, add a tiny bit of fish or meat for flavor. Pita sandwiches filled with hummus and veggies can be quick and very tasty. Try a little store-bought tapenade (olive spread), or easily make your own (2). The tapenade really escalates the taste quotient; I’ve just recently decided that tapenade is a new staple in my fridge. Martha Stewart shares recipes for 21 Vegetarian Lunch Sandwich Recipes, which is just one of the thousands of websites that shares recipes. Just flip through a few recipes and you’ll be surprised how it stimulates ideas that you can then come up with yourself.

Minestrone soup is another favorite old recipe. Make it with whole grain pasta, beans, and vegetables. Do we think of it as vegetarian? It really doesn’t need meat, unless you must have it. And if you do decide to include meat, it will not be the ‘main event’ – just a little flavorful seasoning. There are so many different recipes; you’ll have to choose your favorite, whether prepared with a slow cooker or stove it will be warm, nutritious and delicious. Note: Watch the amount of salt in the recipe you choose.

The last hint is that you begin developing a new ‘have on hand’ list of ingredients. I almost always have frozen vegetables as a back up. Red and green sweet peppers; mushrooms; lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, celery, apples, oranges, grapefruit, are usually in the refrigerator. The pantry contains onions, sweet yams, and many canned products. Just to make it a little easier for faster meals, I often have onions, chopped and stored in a freezer bag. The chopping happens one time and is used several times. Also, greens are often washed and cut up and put in a gallon zip lock bag with a white paper towel in the bottom. The idea is that you come up with your own ways of managing the vegetables to make it as easy as possible.

I’m sending my very best wishes for a beautiful New Year – a year filled with good health. If you’re striving to eat a diet that is higher in plant-based foods, and you discover some new hint, share it with all of us. I know I’d love to hear what you discover.