We all know eating your veggies is good for you. Let’s focus on some other reasons to incorporate more plant-based foods and meals into your life, even if you aren’t giving up meat.
I’ve always been fascinated with plant-based cooking. Since I’m lactose intolerant, and therefore don’t eat dairy, I often use vegan recipes as a way to satisfy my cheesy, creamy cravings.
Even if you aren’t all about going meatless, eating more plant-based foods and the occasional plant-based meals bring plenty of benefits. Here are just a few.
1. It’s affordable
Let’s be real. What’s more affordable: fresh produce, bulk grains and some canned beans or fresh meat? Despite what you might see at a local restaurant (for some reason, vegan dishes always seem to be pricey) buying raw ingredients and preparing a meal at home is more affordable when the emphasis is on plants, grains and legumes as opposed to meat.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe I used to make chickpea salad for lunch. I eat it on a piece of toasted bread, with some extra mayo (can easily do vegan mayo, if you’d like) and some leafy greens.
- 2 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 3 tablespoons mayo of your choice
- 1 tablespoon mustard of your choice
- 1 tablespoon horseradish (optional)
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup chopped bell peppers
- 1 tsp of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder
- Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Drain and rinse chickpeas. Use a pastry cutter or potato masher to smash in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.
That’s it! Seriously!
How easy is that? It takes five minutes, and I use it as a quick and easy lunch while I’m working during the week. It’s full of protein (thanks chickpeas) and veggies. It’s an easy swap to make — instead of tuna, chicken or egg, use chickpeas!
2. It’s better for the environment
Believe it or not, eating more plant-based helps the environment. Here’s one example, a comparison of the resources used to produce dairy milk verses popular plant-based milk alternatives. By far, dairy milk produces more emissions, uses more land and more water than any of the plant-based milk alternatives.
It’s not hard to tell — animals take more resources to raise than plants. By eating less meat, and being selective about where and how you obtain that meat, you can help support a more economical food cycle.
To further optimize your plant-based eating, consider starting a compost pile. Particularly useful if you have a garden, compost is a great way to eliminate waste. Read more about how compost helps you and the environment in my post “Zero Waste Kitchen”.
3. It’s delicious – despite what some people say
All that said, plant-based dishes CAN be and ARE delicious. There are a multitude of ways to learn to cook vegetables in delicious ways. Some of my favorite real-life inspiration comes from a restaurant in my area called Industrial Eats. They can take a humble vegetable and elevate it into a dish unto itself, not a mere side.
Perhaps that’s the key — we must treat plants like the stars that they are, instead of an obligatory side dish “for our health.” YES vegetables are good for you, but that doesn’t mean they have to taste bad! It’s okay to enjoy a vegetable dish, to fancy it up.
It’s time to break the association of a vegetable as simply being a tasteless item you eat for the sake of health. Where’s the fun, the enjoyment in that? Vegetables can (and often are) as delicious as any other dish you can have. Though make no mistake — I’m not suggesting you throw out all your dry pasta and replace it with spaghetti squash. It’s about integrating vegetables into your meals, so maybe adding some extra eggplant, zuchinni, mushrooms or tomatoes to your pasta instead. Or, enjoy your pasta exactly as you’d like it, with a tasty roasted vegetable dish on the side.
4. Plant-based is a great practice in mindful eating
Strengthen your immune system, fill your body with essential minerals, vitamins and nutrients without spending hundreds of dollars on fancy powders, shakes and diets. Diet culture will try to tell you that you need to purchase special products to be healthy. That’s not true. Unless specifically directed by a doctor or dietitian to follow a certain diet, and include/exclude certain foods, eating more plant-based is only going to help, not harm, you.
Of course, we know that everyone is different. That’s good! This is not about being extreme or exclusive. It’s about being concious about what you’re consuming, how you’re consuming it and what it took to produce it.
Grocery shopping can be a dissociative experience. We don’t see the months that went into growing that head of cauliflower, all we see are dozens of individually wrapped heads of cauliflower in the produce section. Just like we don’t see the slaughterhouse, all we see is the ruby red steaks. Being mindful of our food, where it comes from, and how that process ultimately effects what we put in our body requires a conscious effort. Though I believe, it’s one that begets a deeper appreciation for the farm workers who are out 6 days a week, in rain, heat and falling ash (I’m in California, ok) to put food on our tables.
How to get started eating more plant-based
Sometimes the best way to make a lasting change is to start slowly. Adding more vegetables to your meals, making them the centerpiece instead of meat, is one simple change. Here are some other ways.
Vegan blogs that will change your cooking and your life
Here are four of my favorite vegan guides to get started incorporating more plant-based eating into your life. Cooking vegan dishes will broaden your knowledge of cooking, ingredients, flavors and how to make the most out of what you have. Take a look at each of their websites. I’ve highlighted a dish from each that looked particularly appealing!
A Virtual Vegan — Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
So many delicious comfort food recipes. Inventive and tasty. Also see these Sweet Potato Biscuits.
It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken — Stuffed Acorn Squash
My go-to source for plant-based cheeses. The mac-n-cheese powder is a staple for me!
Vegan Richa — Cajun Spiced Black Bean Quinoa Burger
I’m a big fan of a good veggie burger. See also this Za’atar Spiced Chickpea burger!
Cookie and Kate — Veggie Sesame Noodles
A vegetarian blog that produces lots of great plant-based recipes as well. Check out this Layered Panzanella, to eat your veggies and your bread too!
Plant-based cooking requires a wide knowledge of ingredients and creativity in the kitchen. Cooking plant-based limits what you can use but it also expands your abilities, making you use the most of what you have in new ways. You may surprise yourself with what you can create when your options change from what you are accustomed to!
How do you feel about eating plant-based? What did you learn today? Let me know in the comments below!