Embracing a plant-based diet without being vegan

One of the most popular diet trends right now is including more plant-based foods and many are choosing to become vegan. The reason is many studies show diets that are abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds are consistent with lower rates of chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  This makes sense as one of the components of the western diet that is believed to contribute to heart disease includes increased intake of saturated fat, which is present in animal fats.  Also, as more of the population is becoming aware of environmental issues many are choosing to eat less meat because it is better for the environment.

When you first hear about a strictly plant-based diet it seems extreme, especially if you are a dedicated omnivore. I know when I first started to read the research I was overwhelmed, but then I started to read more information just encouraging you to eat more plants and less meat.  That was something I could embrace.  To be honest I had tried being vegan, but at this point in my life when I have a family to cook for and children that are constantly changing their tastes, it was just too stressful.  I also get a lot of joy out of sharing one meal with my family and I was afraid I would constantly be eating a separate meal.  For me it just made more sense to have a diet that is high in plants and low in animals.  Below are some small steps I have taken to consciously include more plants in my diet:

  1. Try and have at least 1 vegan meal per day.  I will be honest and I probably meet this 4 days per week, but it is a work in progress and a couple of years ago I likely was not even eating 1 vegan meal per week.
  2. Include plant-based protein in foods that you may not notice the difference. Many times I start my day with a smoothie. I realized that I could use either fortified soy milk or protein fortified nut milk in place of cow’s milk and I did not notice the difference. Below is the recipe for my favorite morning smoothie.
  3. Embrace beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Beans are easy to add to salads and soups as a plant-based protein. Nuts and seeds can be added to salads and vegetable stir fry to give a crunchy texture and add protein. Legumes, such as lentils, are very versatile. They can be added to rice dishes and I find that they can replace meat in soups, stews, and chili. Lentils are also quick cooking.
  4. Using the principles of my earlier post on “how to build a dinner” one can deconstruct meals to make them appropriate for either meat-eater or a non-meat eater. We have a family friend that comes to dinner weekly that is vegan. I utilize the build a meal concept to serve something that pleases everyone. I have served stir fry bowls, Mexican rice bowls, baked potato bar, pasta bar, and vegan chili bar. When doing this you want to make sure that the staple dish is vegan and then you can have extra toppings like cheese or meat that omnivores can use to customize their dish, but there are plenty of vegan toppings so the vegan at the table does not feel like they are eating air.  Refer to previous post https://amyreednutrition.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/how-to-build-a-dinner/
  5. Use the above ideas to start a meatless meal night for the family.

Over the last few years it has become easier for me to incorporate more plant-based meals.  Who knows, one day when I am no longer cook for the family I may decide to be vegan because research shows that it does not matter at what point in your life you become vegan because there are health benefits seen at every age. However, for now, I will just eat more plants and less meat.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

8 ounces of fortified soy milk or protein fortified nut milk

1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter

1 banana

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

Place in blender and blend until smooth.  If you like a slushie consistency then add a few ice cubes when blending.

 

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