Tips for eating a more plant-centered diet in 2023
You can make positive changes in your life at any time, but there’s something about the new year and the calendar resetting which provides a hard line for lifestyle adjustments. As we enter 2023, you may be looking for ways to change up the foods in your pantry and experiment with more plant-based cuisine. Sure, you could go buy a big bag of carrots and make plans to convert your backyard into a sprawling garden, but sometimes lasting changes need a little help getting established.
Some of us have a strained relationship with vegetables, a combination of cultural pressure, negative prior experiences, and simply not finding the right foods or preparation strategies for our particular palate. If that describes you even a little bit, you’re not alone, luckily there are some simple ways to add some greenery to your plate without totally upending your life or abandoning your favorite dishes.
GIVE YOUR OLD ENEMIES A CHANCE
Before we tread too far off the beaten path, it’s worth revisiting some of the foods you tried when you were young, even and especially if you disliked them. It’s well documented that food preferences evolve throughout your lifetime and it’s just possible that the vegetables you hated when you were nine might be among your new favorite foods.
Brussel’s sprouts are the horror of children everywhere. They’re the sort of vegetable that people seem to dislike on vibes alone. That said, no vegetable has ever had a glow up like Brussel’s sprouts. The thing is, if you tried them when you were a kid and didn’t like them, there was a reason for that.
Brussel’s sprouts contain chemical compounds which make them bitter, and some methods of cooking can enhance those characteristics. Luckily, for kids and adults everywhere, growers have spent years developing new varieties with better flavor profiles. The Brussel’s sprouts of your youth are not the ones you’ll find in stores today. If you do give them another chance, and you should, you can’t go wrong with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and parmesan. Maybe a little red pepper flake if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s simple and it’s delicious.
TRY SOME PLANT-BASED MEAT ALTERNATIVES
There has never been a better time to try plant-based meats. In recent years, the industry has gone through a revolution resulting in dozens of foods, many of which are available from your local grocer or favorite fast-food joints. If you’re new to plant-based meats, here are a few products you might try.
- Beyond Meat: Beyond offers burgers both at the grocery store and at the drive-up. You can buy them two at a time for an intimate dinner or by the case if you’re planning for a barbecue. In addition to burgers, Beyond makes meatballs, sausages, and countless other veggie-based products.
- Impossible: One of Beyond’s biggest competitors, Impossible offers a similar suite of products and is the foundation of Burger King’s veggie Whopper.
- Daring: this brand focuses on producing convincing plant-based chicken in a variety of flavors. You can choose from plain, Cajun, lemon, or breaded.
- Yummy dinosaur nuggets: Yummy isn’t a strictly plant-based company but they’re a well-known name in chicken nuggets. Recently, they began offering a plant-based version of their famous dinosaur shaped nuggets. Just because you’re eating healthier doesn’t mean you can’t feed your inner child.
The same tricks which work on kids can also work on us. There are a number of creative ways to hide vegetables inside familiar foods so you can get all the nutrition you’re seeking without compromising fun or flavor. Some things you might try include:
- Make a veggie-based pasta sauce: A simple combination of sundried tomatoes, a rough made with a plant-based milk, and nutritional yeast makes a delicious tomato-based sauce. The nutritional yeast fortifies it with extra vitamins and gives it a rich cheesy flavor.
- Make a breakfast smoothie: There is perhaps no easier way to pack vegetables and fruits into your diet than with smoothies. Throw a handful of your favorite fruits and vegetables in a blender alone, or with some fruit juice or milk, then top off with a scoop of peanut butter for extra protein. The smoothie possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the produce available at your local grocer. And don’t forget the freezer section—it’s a great option when fresh fruits are out of season.
- Bake something tasty: Zucchini bread is an easy and delicious way to sneak some vegetables into your snack time and it highlights the possibilities for using veggies in our baking. Muffins, cakes, and breads can all drop calories and gain valuable fiber and nutrients when we swap in smashed beans or shredded veggies for oils or eggs. Experiment to see what pairs well with your favorite treats.
Whatever strategy you choose, we wish you luck on your budding friendship with vegetables. And remember, the goal is to feel good, enjoy eating, and get a few more vegetables in your mouth. Your body doesn’t care if you pretend that carrot is an all-beef patty on the way to your tummy. Happy snacking!