This is one of my health goals for 2020. Plant-based foods are not only good for you; full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (chemical compounds produced by plants that have health benefits) and fibre, but they’re also better for the environment than red meat and dairy (I included a couple articles below about the impact of the meat and dairy industry on the environment).
You may be thinking, but what about protein? Will I feel full without eating meat? Plant-based foods are actually a great source of protein, and when you combine a whole grain with a legume, you get all the essential amino acids that your body needs.
Also, plant foods are high in fibre and water, which not only makes them easy to digest (meat and dairy can be hard on the digestive system), but your stomach sends a signal to your brain that you are full, so you don’t feel the need to overeat.
I consider myself a healthy eater, but I have to make a conscious effort to reach for plants first especially when it comes to snacks. First, I have to set myself up for success by having fruits and veggies at eye level in the fridge; washed, chopped and ready to go. It takes a bit of effort, but so worth it! If they’re right there, I’ll grab an apple with nut butter, or carrots with hummus. If you’re craving something sweet, a couple dates with toasted coconut will definitely satisfy the sweet tooth, and because of the fibre, won’t spike your blood sugar; leaving you feeling satisfied opposed to reaching for more sugar.
When it comes to my main meals, I try to eat plant-based for breakfast and lunch. I typically have a smoothie with banana, kale and blueberries, and a healthy muffin made with oat flour, or a power ball with nut butter, flax, and hemp seeds. I love eating chia pudding with coconut milk, and topping it with homemade granola and fresh berries.
For lunch, I like to make warm veggie bowls with whatever leftover roast veggies I have on hand, like broccoli and sweet potato, topped with fresh greens, avocado, hemp seeds, chick peas, and tahini dressing. I may add some whole grains like farro or quinoa that I prepared on the weekend. So good, and so satisfying!
Breakfast and lunch is easy, but I find it a bit more challenging to eat plant-based for dinner, mainly because I live with three boys who love meat. I’m starting small, and aiming to do a Meatless Monday every week. This past Monday was a success. I made my typical Mexican Taco Bowl, but instead of using ground turkey or chicken, I made Lentil-Walnut Taco “meat,” and it was delicious (my hubby & kids liked it too)! I included the recipe below, and I encourage you to try it. If we all reduce our consumption of meat and dairy just a little bit, it will make a difference when it comes to our environment.
Over the next few months, I’ll be experimenting with tempeh, tofu, and legumes to make vegetarian versions of classic dinner favourites. It also doesn't have to be complicated, tonight I’m making a red curry stew with bell pepper, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, diced tomatoes, and coconut milk. The original recipe calls for leftover chicken, but it doesn't need it. The more you get used to cooking without meat, you’ll realize how satisfying plant-based recipes can be!
Mexican Taco Bowl with Lentil-Walnut “Meat”
For the meat:
1 cup uncooked green lentils (you will use 1 ¾ cups cooked)
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted (raw pecans or cashews work too)
1 tbsp taco seasoning
1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
For the bowl:
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tbsp taco seasoning
1 cup frozen corn, thawed and cooked
Roasted sweet potato (optional)
Coleslaw or Julienned Cabbage
Avocado, diced, or homemade guac*
Hot sauce (optional)
Plantain chips, crumbled on top (optional)
*Simply mash avocado with lime and salt (I also add a spoon of Greek yogurt to make it creamy)!
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
To make the “meat” (this can be done the day before to save time):
Cook the lentils according to package instructions (typically takes 25-30 minutes).
Preheat oven to 300F. Spread walnuts onto a rimmed baking sheet, and toast for 10-15 minutes, watching closely, until lightly golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Add 1 ¾ cups of cooked lentils (you’ll have about the same amount leftover for another recipe) and all the walnuts to a food processor and pulse until chopped (leave some texture). Stir or pulse in 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning, the water and oil until combined. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Saute the peppers, jalapeno and onions until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the taco meat, corn and another ½ tbsp of taco seasoning, and stir until combined. Cover, and turn heat down low to keep warm.
While your meat mixture stays warm, prepare your bowl toppings.
Fill each bowl with as much greens and cabbage as you like. Add a big scoop of the meat mixture. Top with guac, salsa, feta cheese, and cilantro. Mix to combine. Enjoy!