Upon learning that I eat a whole food plant based diet, most people say oh, I could never do that! They dismiss it and go back to eating how they normally eat which is often the standard American diet of animal proteins, too much fat, and empty calorie foods. There is a continuum, or spectrum of good eating and tipping yourself over the the healthier side is easier than you think. Tipping your self to the healthy side is also doing the environment a huge favor, so big win/win here. Breakfast is such an easy meal to go plant based. Whole grain flax blueberry pancakes with fruit compote, oatmeal with fresh fruit and flax, low fat granola with fruit and almond milk, quinoa/fruit porridge, and smoothies galore all make up a great way to start the day and it's easy to go plant based, high fiber, and feel great even without coffee (though I love my cup of decaf a day!) Lunch is a no brainer as well since it is so easy to make a veggie wrap, a big salad, some lentil soup, a veggie quinoa dish or a veggie burger.
If you are just now trying to eat more plant based, and you decide to go for it on breakfast and lunch, you will have covered 4-6 veggie servings by the time you are finished with lunch. That's a pretty nice start considering the eggs, bacon, toast, burger, or turkey sandwich have gotten you nowhere on the fruit/veggie pyramid. Per government guidelines, though I would argue the more the better, a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, needs nine servings, or about 5 cups per day (2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables). For most fresh or cooked vegetables and fruits, 1 cup is just what you would put in a household measuring cup. Are you getting even the government guidelines? Only 25% of people were meeting the guidelines when they were only five servings and now they are recommending 9 servings. Yikes! I am not bragging, just stating the facts, but I probably have 12-15 servings a day.
Dinner is where I sometimes still get tripped up because everyone in my family likes plant based, but they all like different things. Meat based dinners were a lot easier to get everyone to agree on! I have been plant based for over a year, and I still pause some days to figure out dinner. I pause for a shorter period than I did a year ago, but I do pause. The organic rotisserie chicken was so easy, as was grilling burgers and pork chops (ugh). The kids would gobble them up and I would feel good about them "getting their protein". I know now that they were getting way too much protein, from not the right sources. These days, our go-to dinners are lentil soups, quinoa/red pepper/edamame/corn salads, pasta with veggie sauces, quinoa stuffed peppers, cooked or raw veggie platters with rice and beans and maybe some organic chicken or fish for my older son if he hasn't had any in a while (he still won't eat beans, lentils, tofu. He likes Beyond Meat which is the only sub I use that is a "fake meat", but he gets sick of so I still do a small amount of animal protein for him.) Dinners are vibrantly colored and nutritionally rich and diverse. I love looking at the table with all of these colorful foods on there. These dinners are work though, and I have figured out some tricks that have been SO helpful.
First, I bought a fruit and vegetable chopper from Sur La Table. This doohickey makes me so freaking happy. It works as both a mandoline and a dicer and has cut my chopping time down to probably 1/3 of what it was before. Did I mention that I am in love with this thing? I also bought a kale de-stemmer and it works great and is fun to use. The boys will de-stem all day with this thing! Finally, I got a bigger salad spinner since we eat so many salads. The grand total was $60 and they have brought me great joy, oh the little things.... Having great knives also goes a long way. You can get carpal tunnel chopping the amount of veggies that I chop! Good knives help! Splitting a butternut squash with a dull knife stinks. So get your knives sharpened or get a fun colored new one that you will look forward to using, versus wanting to turn it on yourself when you have chopped your 3rd kabocha squash!.
Second trick is to plan ahead and make your grains in the beginning of the week. Make a bunch of brown rice and quinoa on Sunday or Monday, so you won't have to make small batches all week long. Also, while you have the chopper out chop tons of carrots, peppers, celery, onions and other veggies that will keep in the fridge for a few days. They will be there, so you will be inspired to use them after all of your hard work! Also make a huge pot of soup in the beginning of the week so you have it all week. By Thurs, you come home from work and say, forget making soup, and you order pizza. Make it at the top of the week and enjoy all week. Also involved in planning, is figuring out a menu for the week. If you make roasted veggies on Monday and add them to your hot quinoa dish that night, you can add them to your salad the next day, and a sauce the day after that. It really helps if you plan the week out. I have to get better at this. I am more of a wing it gal, but it wastes time!
Third trick is to get that fruit and veggie tray out on the table before dinner every single evening. Vary up what you put on there, or don't. Mine usually consists of cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes, and carrots. I know the kids like all these things and will eat them all. They are starving so they will eat them. Plus, they now actually like them! If there's great fruit in season I'll put it out as well. I'll put out an orange, strawberries and some blueberries or blackberries as well. This is an appetizer I can definitely wrap my head around. By the time they go into eating their dinner they've had three or four servings of fruit and vegetables.
Fourth trick is when you have totally had it, buy the vegetables chopped up already. Trader Joe's has lots of these. They are a lot more expensive, may not be organic, and they may not be exactly as you want them. However, if you buy them, you will eat them, and every once in a while you just need a break!! Go to Whole Foods and get all your veggies from the salad bar and bring them home and make a salad or, go to Grow in Manhattan beach and get one of their pre-made plant-based salads from the deli case. Every once in a while you just need a break. The break can still be plant based and healthful though.
The last one isn't really a trick, it's a reframing of how you think about dinner. It's so ingrained in us to think meat, starch, vegetable. Stop that! Dinner can be a beautiful vegetable tray, a bowl of beans and roasted veggies, and some quinoa. Or, dinner can consist of a hearty bean chili or lentil soup and a big veggie salad. Reframe you're thinking about what constitutes dinner. If you are in your 40's, we all grew up eating the same way. Too people are getting sick in their 40s with cancer or dying from heart attacks. Maybe if we could reframe how we think and serve meals, our kids will think about eating differently too and we can decrease their chances of disease. We can also increase their chances of living on an earth that is sustainable. Meat is not sustainable. Factory farming is a cruel mess and it is the one of the biggest detriments to the environment right now. Rethink your meals!!!
Recipe of the week.... Jamie Oliver's Briam. Serve over brown rice or quinoa. Yum!!!