Plant-Powered Cooking

As a registered dietitian and food and nutrition journalist, I am asked on a nearly everyday basis to dole out my best diet advice. When I answer, “eat more whole plants,” most people are relieved to discover they can improve their health by following such simple advice. You see, as The Plant-Powered Dietitian, I am all for meeting people where they’re at and all for simply encouraging more plant foods into the American diet. A plant-powered diet leaves room for a spectrum of dietary preferences and observances, ranging from vegans (those who do not eat any animal foods) to lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who allow for dairy and eggs in their diet) to pescetarian (those who allow for fish) to flexitarians (those who eat small amounts of animal foods).

Unfortunately, one key challenge for many people to adopt a more plant-based style of eating involves cooking, an activity that is already waning in household kitchens across the country. While it’s true that vegetarian cooking can take a bit more time, as there is more preparation and chopping, it’s a common misconception that all plant-based meals are laborious and complicated. And let’s not forget the old cliché that vegetarian eating is about as hip and tasty as munching on alfalfa sprouts and granola. But in reality, there is much more choice than less choice when it comes to plant-based eating. It’s a road to adventure and discovery. Instead of thinking about all the things you can’t have at a plant-based meal, think of all the things you can have: a rainbow of delicious fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Try one of these five simple cooking strategies to power up with plants:

1.        Unleash plant-powered proteins. Stock your pantry with a variety of canned beans, such as chickpeas, adzuki, kidney, black, cannellini, and pinto beans, for a quick addition to your menu any day of the week.

2.       Enjoy whole grain goodness. Throw half a cup of uncooked whole grains such as barley or quinoa into vegetable soup while it’s simmering. Or buy a rice cooker, and use it every week to cook up brown rice and other whole grains, such as spelt and bulgar. Just pour in the grain, add the required amount of water, set the timer, and walk away.

3.       Fall in love with vegetables. Mix vegetables into your favorite casseroles – try peas or squash in your macaroni and cheese or broccoli and kale in your lasagna.

4.      Use nature’s perfect sweetener. Use the natural sweetness of fruits to sweeten breads, cookies, and desserts, while gaining a serving of antioxidant-rich fruit.

5.       Embrace plant fats. Instead of turning to bottled salad dressings, which are often full of added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats, dress your salads with a simple vinaigrette using a basic formula of one part extra virgin olive oil with two parts lemon juice or vinegar, plus herbs and spices as desired.

For even more information on plant-powered cooking, you can join my 14-day Go Plant Power Challenge, staring on August 5th. Join by simply clicking “LIKE” on the Go Plant Power Facebook Page which will host the 14 days of alerts with recipes and other helpful tips. By the end of the 14th day, you will possess the tools to change your diet and health for the better.

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