10 Super Easy Plant-Based Tips
Following or moving towards a full on plant-based diet can be a difficult journey fraught with road blocks and frustration along the way. When I look back, I wish someone had given me some tips to make that journey easier. So, in that spirit, the following 10 super easy plant-based tips are yours:
Add Flavor to Your Greens
Plant-based diets emphasize greens but there’s only so many salads one can eat before boredom sets in, especially in the fall and winter when it’s cool and you’re craving warmth. To that end, consider placing 1/3 cup of low or no salt added vegetable broth (Plantstrong makes a delicious version available at Whole Foods), 1 minced garlic clove and 1 teaspoon white miso in a saucepan. Heat to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Add 6-8 cups chopped greens (Lacinto kale – with the stems removed and discarded – is ideal). Sauté for 1 minute, turn off the heat, and cover for 3-4 minutes to allow the greens to wilt. Serve.
Don’t Fall for Spray Oils
Cooking spray oils are every bit as unhealthy as their siblings in a bottle or jar although you may not realize that by reading the “Nutrition Facts” label of spray oils (see the label for Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Spray below). Look at the serving size (typically 1/3 of a second or 0.25 grams) as a starter. Then, look at the calories (typically 0) and the servings per container (usually between 450-600 per 5-6 ounce can). Now ask yourself how can spray oils have 0 calories per serving? Who really sprays oil for 1/3 of a second? Is a 1/3 of a second spray even possible?
Food labeling laws allow the food manufacturers to put 0 calories because the serving size is one quarter of one gram. The reality is that a 5 ounce spray can of olive oil contains more than 140 grams of fat while a 6 ounce spray can of canola oil contains 175 grams of fat, of which 14 grams are saturated.
Beware of Coconut/Coconut Oil
Although coconut and coconut products have received a lot of press lately, it is important to know coconut is high in fat, and in particular saturated fat. One medium sized coconut (about 14 ounces) has 133 grams of fat, of which 118 is saturated. 3 tablespoons (about 1/2 ounce) of unsweetened shredded coconut has 9 grams of fat, of which 8 grams are saturated.
1/4 cup of coconut milk contains 14 grams of fat, of which 12 grams are saturated fat.
Of all the things learned through the years, my one constant is to read food labels. First, check out the ingredients followed by the nutritional information. Pay attention to any added sugar, oils, and additives. And, if something doesn’t make sense (why does a 5 ounce spray can of oil have a nutritional label that says there are 0 calories?), ask why and do the research to find out what’s behind that label.
Invest in a Few Good Cookbooks
There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of vegan cookbooks, many that offer not so healthy recipes. When I see a cup of sugar or a 1/2 cup of oil in a recipe, I shy away because I’m not interested in refined sugar and replacing butter and eggs with copious amounts of oil. As for sugar, there are some recipes for special occasions when I may use a very small amount of organic sugar but those times are rare. I prefer to use cookbooks that offer healthy recipes that emphasize whole food plant based cooking and baking. Consider “Now Not to Die Cookbook,” “How Not to Diet,” “The Engine 2 Cookbook, and the “Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook.” All offer simple, easy to follow, nutritious recipes for delicious food.
Follow a Few Websites
Some of my favorite websites include “Monkey and Me Kitchen Adventures” (www.monkeyandmekitchenadventrues.com), “Nutrition Facts” (www.nutritionfacts.org), “PlantStrong” (www.plantstrong.com), and Vegan 8 (www.thevegan8.com).
Make Your own Salad Dressings
Salad dressings were a mystery mixture to me until I found Monkey and Me Kitchen Adventures (link above) who taught me how to make delicious and creamy plant-based salad dressings without oils, refined sugar, and no highly processed ingredients. Try the “Oil Free French Dressing,” the “Oil-Free Italian Parmesan,” and the “Oil Free Creamy Garlic Dressing.”
Focus on Daily Routines
Someone told me that it’s not what you eat once a year or even once a month; instead it’s what you eat day in and day out that’s important. In other words, focus on daily habits. Don’t sweat the annual piece of birthday cake or the piece of grilled fish enjoyed last month.
Find a Savory Spice Blend and Use Often
I used to have a cabinet full of spices that I rarely used because I didn’t really know how to enhance the flavor of food. One of the key flavoring components of my cooking is to add spices – both fresh and dried. My favorite savory spice blend is called “Savory Spice Blend” from the “How Not To Diet Cookbook.” A blend of nutritional yeast, onion powder, dried parsley, basil, thyme, garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, turmeric, and celery seed. Once a month, I make a double batch and use generously in soups, pasta dishes, casseroles, and sauces.
If you don’t want to make your own, find a savory spice blend at the grocery or spice store.
Make a Fruit Bowl Every Morning
If you asked my husband what I do first thing in the morning after a cup of coffee, he would say “she chops, chops, chops” and there is truth to that statement. Every morning, I make a bowl of fresh fruit that includes a variety of berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries), pineapple, papaya, melon (cantaloupe, honey dew), oranges, apples, plums, peaches nectarines, apricots and whatever fruit is in season or on hand. And, every day that bowl serves as an important part of breakfast and snacking. Having that bowl on the table makes it easy to have a healthy snack and get lots of nutritious vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber every day.