Over the past few years, there has been a huge growth in plant-based products. Dietitians all over the world are rejoicing that (finally!) word has gotten around that eating more plants is key to leading a healthy lifestyle. Yet, the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables has hardly increased at all, despite their nutritious benefits.
Let’s look at how you can eat more plants while keeping mealtime delicious as ever.
If you want to add more plants to your diet, it’s good to go straight to the source: fresh vegetables and fruits such as avocados! They contain nature-made vitamins and minerals, and it’s simpler to work more plants into your diet than you may think.
To begin, let’s clear the air around some common misconceptions about eating more plants and plant-powered meals.
The beauty of eating more plants is that it follows the dietary guidelines for all kinds of eating styles, including individuals who eat the typical American diet, Mediterranean, and vegetarian eating patterns. Are you trying to follow a gluten-free diet, kosher, or some other style of eating that suits your lifestyle? When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the more the merrier for every eating pattern or lifestyle!
Fruits and veggies will never make it onto your plate if they don’t make it into your grocery cart first. Before heading to the grocery store, find plant-powered recipes and build a shopping list to keep yourself organized and accountable. Bring a reusable shopping bag specifically designated to fill with fruits and veggies and head to the produce aisle first.
As a dietitian, I’ve counseled people for many years about eating more salad. Some people groan because they assume salad tastes terrible! The good news is that almost any of your favorite foods can be turned into a salad you’ll love.
Here’s the formula: Think of your favorite meal. Chop all the ingredients for that meal into bite-sized pieces. Add your favorite chopped veggies. And last but never to be forgotten — add avocado!
For example, this Avocado Thai Noodle Crunch Salad hits the spot when you’re craving takeout. Or, if you’re a burger fanatic, grill up a patty and chop together with your most-loved toppings, such as avocado, tomato, onion, or pickles on a bed of spring greens or spinach. Whatever you like to eat, there’s a way to eat it with more plants.
With these myths debunked, it’s time for some fun. Here are some creative and easy tips to eat more plants at every meal — without getting bored!
Salads don’t need to be in a bowl, or even include leafy greens (though I always encourage them). Take these three recipes:
Just because a salad doesn’t have salad greens doesn’t mean it’s short on fruits and veggies! Mashed avocado is a fantastic base for deli salads, with the added bonus of a fluffy, whipped texture. For example, this Avocado Potato Salad makes for a light, yet satisfying, snack. The same goes for this Avocado Egg Salad. Try baking your own vegetable chips — made with thinly sliced sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, or carrots — to dip into deli salads.
And remember: A diet powered by plants still needs plenty of healthy fats. Double up by adding avocados, which contain unsaturated fats that help the body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
What’s so good about good fats? The body needs some dietary fat to help with the absorption of nutrients. Good fats do not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. One-third of a medium avocado contains 6 grams of naturally good fat. Learn more about the good fats in avocados here.
Many families have beloved weekly mealtime traditions centering around comfort foods: Taco Tuesday, pizza night, Sunday brunch, etc. You don’t need to give up these special occasions to make room for fruits and veggies. You can work plants right into the agenda.
For example, shake up taco night with a fresh Avocado Layered Taco Salad. On pizza night, experiment with a variety of fresh toppings (such as chicken and avocado!). For Sunday brunch, try avocado toast with berries on top, or an Egg White Omelet With Avocado, Spring Vegetables, and Prosciutto. Have the kids join in on the action to get firsthand experience preparing meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, which encourages a lifetime of healthy choices.
Avocados are one plant you don’t have to struggle to fit into your diet. Their mild, nutty flavor goes with every taste profile: salty, sweet, sour — you name it! Plus, depending on the ripeness of the avocado, you can have a firm texture (good for dicing on top of salads, fish, or meats) or a smooth, creamy texture that blends into smoothies and spreads in seconds. If you’re not sure how to make a good pick, here’s what to look for at the store:
While leading a healthy lifestyle may seem complicated on the outside, I find it’s all about simplification. If you want to eat more plant-based foods, fresh vegetables, and fruits, such as avocado, are always a good place to start.
For more delicious plant-powered recipes, head over to The Salad Bar.
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