No matter which dietary philosophy you follow, plants are your friend. Your plant intake is one of your strongest indicators of health. So, if you want to be happy, healthy and full of beans, increasing your plant intake is the way to go.
Even though we know they're good for us, we're not eating enough plants. It can be easy to include them, if you know a few tips and tricks to make it happen. Here we will share our favorite strategies for boosting the good stuff in your diet, no matter who you are.
What Do We Mean By 'Plant Foods'?
There are a lot of definitions for this. You could make a vegan doughnut, and call it 'plant food'. But for the sake of this article, we're looking at the healthiest plant foods out there. These include:
- Superfoods, such as cacao, maca and algae
- Pseudograins, such as quinoa and buckwheat
Why Boost Your Plant Intake?
So why are plants so important for our diet? Plants are some of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. If you're looking for nutrient rich and low calorie foods, you're looking for plants.
Just some of the reasons for eating more plants include:
- Increasing fiber intake
- Boosting energy levels
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing antioxidant intake
- Feeling fuller on fewer calories
- Correcting mineral deficiencies, such as magnesium
- Increasing vitamin and mineral intake
So, you want to get more goodness into your daily diet. But how do you make it happen? There are plenty of ways – you just need to get creative.
Get Your Smoothie On
Start your morning off right with a serve of vegetables! It might not seem like much, but even just a handful of spinach can make a difference.
You won't even taste the greens, but you'll get a dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Other plants to include are kale, lettuce, algae or even avocado.
Double your dose by adding in some low GI fruits, too. A handful of berries adds a pop of flavor and a dose of antioxidants.
If you want to go full plant mode, you can even add nuts or nut butter into the mix. Superfood powders are the cherry on top - try cacao for a chocolate hit.
Make the Most of Sauces
Sauces are the sneakiest way to add vegetables in. Every mother has done it at some point. When something is in a delicious sauce, we don't look for the ingredients.
Boost up your tomato-based sauce by including plenty of flavorful vegetables. Favorites include mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, carrots and zucchini. If you're particularly fussy, you can blend the vegetables before adding them, for a smoother texture.
Creamy sauces can be just as good for plants. If you want to keep it white, add in some pureed steamed cauliflower. For a bit of color, try blended avocado or broccoli.
Remember Your Beans
Aren't beans the best? They've got protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats all in the one package. They're also a powerhouse plant food, so start adding them in.
You can chuck a few spoonfuls on top of your lunch-time salad for a plant-based protein boost. Blended up with a few extra ingredients, they can make a great dip.
You can even use them in your sweet baking! They can be substituted into recipes, such as cakes and brownies. That way, you can indulge your sweet tooth and still get some good stuff in.
Sprinkle on the Spices
You might think that herbs and spices don't make much of a difference. After all, we only use small amounts. But they are superfoods in disguise.
By including herbs and spices at every meal, you are dramatically increasing your intake of antioxidants. So, get creative!
Add some cinnamon and nutmeg to your sweet dishes. Use basil, oregano and parsley for a Mediterranean feel. Get your Indian on with some turmeric, ginger and curry powder.
Even if you only have a few that you enjoy, they can help increase your plant intake. And you reap the benefits.
Make Plant-Based Snacks
Plants aren't just for salads! Snacks based on plants are not only tasty, but are incredibly nutritious. It's time to have a play in the kitchen.
Make up a homemade trail mix with some nuts, seeds, coconut, cacao nibs and some spices. Make yourself some homemade hummus or baba ghanoush to have with vegetable sticks. Even just a piece of fruit is a good option.
The best part is that plant-based snacks will keep you fuller for longer.
Serve a Salad with Your Mains
It only takes a few minutes to make up a seasonal garden salad. Even in winter, you can chop up some cooled roasted vegetables with some winter greens.
By adding a salad to the table, even if there are already some vegetables on your plate, you'll be increasing your plants. This is because we're more likely to eat something if it's in our sight.
Enjoy a Fruity Dessert
Desserts don't need to be super fancy to be super delicious. Ditch the complex recipes, and go back to the basics of good fruit.
If it's winter, make some baked apples or poached pears with some spices and nuts. In summer, chop up the seasonal fruit and make a fruit salad. Add a spoonful of coconut cream to finish.
Switch Your Carb Choices
Even by choosing your carbohydrates wisely, you can easily boost your plant intake. How often do you eat bread, flour, pasta or rice? Every time is a chance to switch to something even better.
Consider including plant-based flours, such as coconut and banana flours instead of processed wheat. It can take some time to get the ratios right, but it's worth it for the filling factor.
Try pastas made out of buckwheat or legumes. Even switch out your rice for quinoa. It's great for dishes like home-made sushi.
By focusing on plants as the foundation of your diet, you'll experience all of the benefits plants provide. You'll feel more vibrant and energetic every day. So, give plants a go! They won't let you down.