Plant-based is a popular term right now, isn’t it? Much like “self-care” I see it getting thrown around a lot and eliciting some eye rolls. Personally though, I am digging the term because it’s a health-focused way of eating that does not feel restrictive.
For example, at last night’s Super Bowl Party, my friend Danielle served her husband’s authentic Italian meatballs as part of the spread. If I had been labeling my diet “vegan” or “vegetarian,” I would have felt compelled to pass. But y’all- authentic Italian meatballs?! I couldn’t say no to that and I’m so glad I didn’t- they were delicious! It was probably the only meat I’ve eaten in over two weeks, but that didn’t bother me a bit. I’m a rule follower by nature and if I had been focused on eating vegetarian or vegan, my mind would have been questioning whether I “could have” one or not. But plant-based? Plant-based to me is a simple, healthy-eating guideline without the restriction, much like Michael Pollan’s advice: eat food, not too much, mostly plants (still one of my favorite books).
It’s been a fun switch up to my eating habits and I’ve gained some knowledge along the way. Here are the top five thing I’ve learned while eating more plant-based.
ONE: Plant-based is not the same as vegetarian.
Eating plant-based does not necessarily mean you are a vegetarian and being a vegetarian does not necessarily mean you are eating plant-based. Plant-based refers to a diet that focuses around eating whole foods derived from plants such as fruits, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. I use this definition to guide my food choices because vegetarian could also mean eating chips, pasta, and bread for every meal, which really doesn’t fit the definition or goal of a plant-based diet.
Vegan Mac ‘n Cheese from the How Not to Die Cookbook // Roasted Brussels // Sweet Potato with Black Bean Hummus and Salsa
TWO: It can take your body time to adjust.
I made the mistake of eating too many beans one day and man, my stomach hurt. David felt like he could eat a ton at meals and still felt hungry with meat. Now, I am in a rhythm and know how many beans is too many, and I’m feeling great (not-bloated, energetic kind of great). And David said to me last week that his body must have adjusted somehow because now he’s satisfied from the meals and feeling good, too.
THREE: Plant-based eating is less expensive.
Sure, if you’re buying all the super food powders and such, it’s going to add up, but generally speaking, beans and rice are cheaper than meat, especially if you’re buying the high-quality, local, pasture-raised stuff. This was not an initial reason for me to focus on more plant-based eating, but it’s been a welcomed side effect. I’d say on average we’ve seen a $30-$40 reduction in our weekly grocery bill.
Homemade Pizza with Mushrooms, Onions, and Peppers
FOUR: Menu planning and meal prep is essential.
Veggies dipped in hummus is a quick and easy snack, but for the most, I find that I have to plan and prep to avoid spending an hour or two in the kitchen every day. Plant-based meals take time to, well, prep the plants, which often means washing, chopping, roasting, etc. It’s taken a little adjusting and I’ve learned a few shortcuts along the way (make spice mixes ahead of time, make a big batch of grains to use all week, blend up a dressing or sauce to use all week long to make almost any food combo into a meal, etc). If you have other tips, please send them to me!
FIVE: Eating more plants is always a good thing.
I think experimenting with your eating habits is smart. I probably won’t ever do the whole30, but for those that do, I think it’s awesome! How are we supposed to know what makes us feel our best unless we try new things? I’m also a firm believer that all bodies are different and people can thrive on different diets. I may be eating more vegetarian/plant-based meals, but I don’t have a strong opinion on what YOU should be eating. I am happy to share my journey and experience and I do believe that however you define your diet, eating more plants is almost always a good thing.
Baked Sweet Potato with Sauteed Black Beans, Corn, and Onions, Guacamole, Salsa, and Cilantro
I’m finding a lot of recipes I like online through Minimalist Baker, Cookie + Kate, Oh She Glows, and Pinch of Yum. My go-to cookbooks at the moment are Oh She Glows Everyday and How Not to Die Cookbook. I like both (though How Not to Die is salt-free and I find I have to add a sprinkle of salt or a splash of hot sauce to many of the recipes). I also want to check out Thug Kitchen Cookbook from the library because I’ve heard good things about!
I’m on the lookout for more plant-based recipes and cookbooks- which are you favorites?