No matter where you stand on the food choice continuum - from omnivore to healthy vegan - we can all agree on one thing: everyone needs to simply get more vegetables, fruits, and whole plant foods on our plates. We need the fiber, and we fare far better against disease with the increase in antioxidants. We create more resilient bodies and brains with the phytonutrition - nutrients abundant in plants - that a diet richer in plant foods provides.
Whether you have been aspiring to eat plant-based for some time or just getting started, we can all use some tips for getting more plants onto our plates in quick and easy fashion. I call it “plantifying” your plate.
With this approach, you let go of the idea that you have to ditch your best-loved dishes and say goodbye to your favorite flavors in the quest of eating more plants. Rather, you start by adding more plants to your current favorites. From there you can replace some of the animal products in these dishes with options that are better for your body and the environment. You nudge out the old undesirables with fresh ideas in the form of healthful additions.
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Here are some examples - as seen (and embellished upon) in the short video included below. And if you – like me, an admitted lazy cook – find that your eyes glaze over when a recipe has a long list of ingredients, then these simple methods of adding more fresh vegetables and greens to everyday foods – “plantifying” your plate and getting your green on – will have instant appeal.
1. Know When to Fold ‘Em
Even if greens aren’t your cup of tea, here is a way to work more of them in that doesn’t have you feeling like you must consume mountains of salad or piles of steamed strange-looking plants. Fold handfuls of finely shredded cabbage, chopped spinach, Swiss chard, or kale into brown rice, other freshly cooked whole grains, or pasta. Warmed by the hot grains, the greens will slightly wilt the vegetable, adding a little crunch, color, and all the goods that come with greens. You can start with adding a little and work your way up to more greens.
2. Nutrify Pasta
This is an offshoot of idea #1, folding greens into grains. Drain cooked pasta and fold in baby spinach or basil leaves.
3. Stir Them Into the Pot
Drop handfuls of baby kale, baby spinach or torn leaves of romaine into a pot of hot soup or chili, stirring briefly to cook before serving.
4. Blend In
Smoothies are a classic, easy way to sneak in more greens. Place a small amount of frozen or fresh fruit into a high powered blender, splash in some water or plant-milk, add a couple of handfuls of mild tasting greens such as baby kale, and blend.
5. Beyond the Beef
Bulgur wheat has a crumbly, chewy texture reminiscent of ground beef or turkey, making it the perfect plant-based replacement for animal products in your favorite chili or spaghetti sauce. Not only that, but bulgur cooks up quickly, making it an easy addition. You can start by replacing part of the meat called for with cooked bulgur and gradually increase until the animal products are out of the picture - or jump in all the way from the start. Chili largely gets its flavor from the seasonings, tomato, beans, and other ingredients anyway so you can retain the essence of chili - the same with spaghetti sauce. If you’d like to replicate the beefy flavor, there are plant-based meat analogs available in markets everywhere that specifically resemble ground beef, yet include no animal products. And, if you are gluten-free, you can substitute quinoa for the bulgur.
6. Think Outside the Salad Bowl
Often, while prepping a meal, I’ll start in on some vegetables straight out of the fridge. By the time everything is officially ready to serve for lunch or dinner, I’ll have noshed on a big carrot, ¼ a head of cabbage, or a few chunks of sweet bell pepper or sugar snap peas. There’s a salad. It just didn’t look like one. ‘Salad’ doesn’t have to mean all prepped up and pretty in a bowl.
7. Better Baked Goods
Fold whole kernels of cooked corn and/or chopped red and green peppers into corn bread batter before baking. It lends extra flavor, a fiesta feel and color, more texture - and more whole plant foods to your plate!
8. Go Whole - Bit by Bit
If you prefer white rice and pasta as opposed to whole grain varieties, it’s because it’s what you are used to. Plantify pots of rice or pasta by swapping out half of the white variety for whole grains. You’ll barely notice the taste difference, and you can work your way up to a greater percentage of whole grains from there.
How do you make sure that you have enough veggies in your diet? Are there any sneaky ways we haven't covered here? Let us know about your experience and any tips in the comment section below.
Lani on CBS talking about Plantifying Your Plate
You’ll find dozens of ideas for easy meal prep, crowd pleasers and can’t-misses recipes, simple recipe templates, additional swap-out ideas and more in The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight.
About the Author
Lani Muelrath, MA, an award-winning teacher, best-selling author, and popular speaker well known for her expertise in mindful, plant-based, active living - a message she carries to people around the country through her books, talks, and television appearances.
Lani is the author of The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight (VegNews Magazine Top Media Pick 2015) and Fit Quickies: 5-Minute Workouts (2013). She has been featured on ABC-TV and CBS-TV; in Prevention magazine, USA Today, and The Saturday Evening Post.
Lani is a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Graduate as well as a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, with Specialty Certifications in Body-Mind Therapies, Behavior Change, and Advanced Fitness Nutrition. She is associate faculty in Health at Butte College, where her book has been adopted as required text. Lani is currently working on her next book on vegan living and mindfulness coming out in 2017.
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