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Plant Based Eating: the beginner’s guide

by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.

One of the main reasons people hesitate to eat plant-based is because (at first) it can take more time and energy to prepare. We feel ya! When you start to change your mindset around food and how you are going to meal plan/shop/prep/cook it can take time. Here we are going to look at simple ways you can incorporate small changes and ensure you are getting all the right nutrients in your plant-based meals.

No Meat? No Problem!

As mentioned here, when moving plant-forward,  most wonder where their protein is coming from. The good news is that there are lots of easy, tasty ways to get in those grams. Here are a few to add to your shopping list:

  • Peanut butter or any nut butter: Make sure you glance at the label and choose the one that has very little added sugar. Enjoy as a snack with a crunchy fruit or veggie, toss in your smoothie, melt and drizzle over whole-grain pancakes, or grab a spoonful when you’re in a hurry. Two tablespoons will serve you 8 grams of protein.
  • Chickpeas: Enjoy these creamed in hummus, salted and roasted for a crunchy snack, or rinsed straight from the can on your salad. With 14.5 grams in one cup you can add of the protein fast!
  • Edamame: Many forget that this green gem has 18.5 grams of protein in a cup. Warm them up as a side or even add to your green salad.
  • Tofu: Get creative and get 10 grams for every ½ cup. You can cube and serve in a stir-fry, or even make your smoothie extra creamy and add some in the blender. Tofu has a very mild taste so you can add it to so many dishes.
  • Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, all.the.seeds! Toast ‘em, roast ‘em, eat ‘em up! Averaging 5 grams for every 3 tablespoons.
  • Oats: Yes, technically a grain but one cup of old fashioned oats has 7 grams of protein in 1 cup. In the morning heat up some oats in almond milk, top with blueberries, walnuts, and flaxseed for about 15 grams of protein in a bowl!

Start Simple But Don’t Stay There

In the first few weeks of a more plant-focused way of eating, start easy. Instead of thinking about what you can’t have focus on what you want to ADD to your day.Make one meal a day completely meat-free is a simple way to add more produce to your day. For many, lunch is easiest because you are usually cooking for yourself. Here are some quick plant-based lunch ideas;

  • Salad: An obvious first choice as it is likely you’ve made a salad before. However, before it gets boring, explore all the toppings. Add protein with edamame, tofu, seeds, and all the fruits and veggies you can think to add – the more colorful the better!
  • Wrap: Grab a tortilla, hummus, and some sliced veggies for a quick wrap. You can also fill your wrap with lentils, black beans, and salsa for a twist to a classic.
  • Lunchable: Make your kids jealous with your own tasty lunchable. Whole grain crackers, a few slices of cheese, and then load up those veggies!
  • Potatoes: Easy peasy! Sweet potatoes topped with walnuts or a regular potato topped with steamed broccoli and sunflower seeds. All quick options whether you are dining at your desk or while your kids chow down as well.

Focus on the Basics

Planning and prepping is key when you start to put plants first on your plate. Research has shown that people who plan their meals not only see short term returns on their effort but are more successful in the long term.

  • Take time each week to sit down and look at your calendar. Plot out your meals, from breakfast to dinner and don’t forget the snacks! By having an outline for your week you are more likely to reach for the foods you’ve planned and prepped. Plan your meals, make your shopping list, and go!
  • Slice and dice: Eating plant-based can require a little more prep work so set time aside to wash, slice, and prep as many fruits and veggies as you can. Also, place your produce at eye level in the fridge for easy access.
  • Do your best: Some days are going to be easier than others to up your produce intake, and other days… nope. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are raising humans and have others things that happen on the daily, when you find yourself feeling frustrated or lacking motivation take a deep breath and look back at your plan. You’ve got this! Remember this isn’t just for your health today but for years to come!

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