Plant Forward: Ten Easy Ways to Incorporate Plants Throughout Your Day
Hi friends- welcome (or welcome back) to the blog!
Today’s topic is so near and dear to my own heart: Plant. Forward. I cannot even begin to explain to you how revolutionary this concept is to health and nutrition.
It is so straight-forward that I honestly can’t believe that it took this long to put a name to it.
Incorporate. Plants. Throughout. Your. Day. That’s it. That’s the concept. No weighing your food, no counting your macronutrients, no crazy diet trends to follow. There is NOTHING simpler than following a plant forward diet and there are IMMENSE benefits for those who are trying to improve their health.
You would think someone saying “eat your vegetables” would be the last thing that you need to hear. HOWEVER, according to the CDC, only 9.3% of Americans are meeting the standard for daily vegetable intake.
**Cries in Dietitian**
I mean, 9.3%? Really? Seriously???
Okay let me start out by saying, I am completely (COMPLETELY) aware that not everyone has access to fresh produce. I get it. I am sure that this percentage put out by the CDC does not account for income, living conditions, what have you. We can definitely get into food insecurity at some point (also ALWAYS know that you can reach out to me via email if you are struggling with food insecurity and I can point you towards some resources). However, for this specific post- I am targeting those of you who have the ability to access fresh (or even frozen!) produce but you just find yourself constantly going back to your turkey, cheese, and mayo sandwich. Please. Let’s fix it. I am begging you.
So, anyways, plant forward. Let’s talk about why it can be helpful to you. Whenever I counsel people for nutrition, I ask them to give me an idea of what their day looks like. It usually goes something like this:
· Breakfast: Bagel with cream cheese or bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich (a lot of times people are skipping breakfast all together)
· Lunch: A sandwich from the deli typically with meat, cheese, condiments, lettuce, and tomato
· Snack: cookies, candy, or some 3 PM sweet treat
· Dinner: Source of protein (chicken, fish, steak, etc.), sometimes a pasta dish, some sort of potato or a side dish of corn or broccoli
So okay, not the worst day I have ever seen but it definitely needs some work. The majority of the calories in this day are coming from some sort of carbohydrate-heavy, processed food. There is a major deficit in fiber, micronutrients, and healthy fat.
The whole point of a plant forward diet is that you want to include vegetables (and other sources of plants including fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds) wherever possible in order to increase your intake of fiber and micronutrients which can lessen your risk of disease, contribute to weight loss, and increase your overall well-being.
Plant forward is all about what you can add to your diet, rather than what you need to take away. If you are thinking “wow, that daily food intake sounds a lot like me” or “hmm I haven’t had a vegetable since those Veggie Straws I bought six months ago”, you’re in luck. I have listed out TEN of my favorite ways to incorporate plants throughout your day!!
Ten Easy Ways to Incorporate Plants Throughout Your Day:
1. Add Greens into Your Smoothie
If you have been following my Instagram (@saltandsagenutrition) for a while, you know I love a green smoothie. I personally feel as though this is the easiest way to sneak greens in during your day (real greens- not greens powder PLEASE). The flavors of fruits, nut butters, and almond milks all blend together to mask the taste of any green that you decide to add.
I recommend using spinach or kale in your smoothies- but you can be creative here! Add any greens that you have on hand. Try to add about two cups of whichever leafy green you are using so that you pack a full two servings of veggies into your smoothies. Pro tip: Blend the greens with your liquid (water, almond milk, etc.) until smooth and THEN add the rest of your ingredients. This makes more room in the blender and will ensure that you do not have any leafy green pieces in your smoothie.
2. Add Veggies to Your Sandwich at Lunch Time
It can be really easy to get into the habit of making a sandwich at lunch time that only consists of bread, protein, and maybe a condiment. Sandwiches are one of my FAVORITE ways to sneak veggies in during the day. Try to make it a goal to include 4-5 vegetables on your sandwich at lunch time (whether you are making the sandwich at home or ordering from a deli).
Here is a list of some of my favorite vegetables to include on sandwiches:
- Lettuce, spinach, kale
- Shredded carrot
- Herbs such as cilantro, parsley, or dill
3. Go for a Vegetable/Broth-Based Soup Rather Than a Cream-Based Soup
Vegetable soups are traditionally made with a base of celery, onion, and carrot (a mirepoix). If you are making your own soup, you can start with a mirepoix and add other vegetables such as canned tomatoes, spinach, kale, mushrooms, or peppers. Loading up your soups with tons of veggies is an easy way to make a hearty meal very nutrient-dense. Bonus points if you use a plant-based source of protein in your soups such as lentils or black beans!
4. Enjoy Vegetables at Snack Time
Snack time does not need to set you back on your journey towards a healthier lifestyle. In fact, snacks are encouraged! Opting for fresh vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery, cucumber slices, or slices of bell peppers is an easy way to keep you full throughout the day while filling up on fiber and micronutrients. Pair these vegetables with a hummus or a Greek yogurt dip for some protein to tide you over in the afternoon. This is a perfect snack to replace your afternoon sugary treat!
5. Roast Vegetables to Make a Flavorful Side Dish
One of the easiest ways to include vegetables in your diet- make them taste good!! DUH!! I find that roasting vegetables adds the best flavor and makes it easy to eat lots of veggies at mealtimes. I typically coat vegetables with 2-3 Tbsp olive oil and then season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes- or until crispy!
My favorite vegetables to roast are:
- Brussels Sprouts
6. Vegetable Toast
A lot of times when we think of toast, we think of a sweet combination such as peanut butter and honey or jelly. But toast is actually a great way to squeeze in some vegetables! Here is how I typically make mine:
I start with a spread: either ¼ avocado or 2 Tbsp of hummus. Then, I top it with various vegetables/herbs. Here are some of my favorites to add onto toast:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red bell pepper
- Cilantro/ parsley/ dill
- Sliced cucumber
7. Add Vegetables to Your Morning Eggs to Make an Omelet
If you are someone who enjoys eggs for breakfast in the morning, try adding some vegetables in to make an omelet! Sauté your vegetables for a few minutes until they start to soften and then pour eggs over your veggies and serve once eggs are cooked through. You can add a little bit of cheese in the middle (I like goat cheese or feta because it is less processed) for some flavor!
Here is a list of vegetables that I like to add to my omelets:
8. Try to Make a “Seven Veggie Salad”
Obviously, salads are a great way to include fresh produce into your diet. However, when people make a salad they often stop after adding only two or three vegetables. So, I came up with something called the “Seven Veggie Salad” method (need to trademark that- do not steal it).
This method encourages you to include at least seven different types of vegetables in your salads. You do not have to include a large amount of each vegetable (couple slices of cucumber here, a few cherry tomatoes there- you get the picture). By including so many different types of vegetables, you challenge yourself to try new things all while “eating the rainbow” and including a diverse array of micronutrients- which we LOVE!
Here is a (long) list of vegetables you can choose for this method:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Shredded Brussels sprouts
- Snap peas
- Water chestnuts
- Green beans
- Hearts of Palm
- Swiss Chard
9. Incorporate Vegetables into Pasta Dishes
Pasta is a great place to incorporate vegetables (especially in the summertime). There are literally hundreds of recipes for summer pasta and veggie dishes and the limit really does not exist on the combinations that you can create. When making a pasta and vegetable dish my number one tip is to make about HALF of the pasta you would usually make and fill the rest of the bowl with vegetables (this is so you can avoid having a huge plate of pasta with, like, three cherry tomatoes on it). The whole point is that we are increasing our plant intake and replacing calories from carbohydrate-dense meals with calories that come from fiber and micronutrients (from our plants).
Here are some easy ways to incorporate vegetables into your pasta dishes:
- Spaghetti with tomatoes and basil
- Make my spinach walnut pesto (2+ servings of vegetables right in the sauce)- listed under recipes on the blog
- Mac and Cheese made with Butternut Squash and Broccoli
- Cold pasta salad with chopped cucumber, tomato, peppers, onions, and spinach
10. Choose a Plant-Based Source of Protein
The last piece of the plant forward diet that I LOVE is that it is not all about the vegetables. You can include plants as your source of protein as well. Not only are plant-based sources of protein higher in fiber than animal sources of protein, but they are also more sustainable and oftentimes cheaper. This is not to say that you should never have animal proteins (if you do consume them) but replacing these proteins with plants a few times per week can have a profound impact on your health.
Here are my favorite sources of plant-based proteins and a few ways that I like to use them:
- Garbanzo Beans
o Add garbanzo beans into salads
o Seasoned and roasted as a snack
o Chickpea salad sandwich
- Black Beans
o Add black beans to your omelet to make a southwest breakfast!
o Blend black beans in a food processor with cilantro, spices, and olive oil to make a black bean dip for vegetables
o Black bean brownies- recipe is on my Instagram page!
o Love adding lentils into soups
o Sprinkle them over salads
o Add tofu to your pesto sauce
o Drain, season, and bake tofu at 350 for 25-30 minutes until crispy!
o Grill tofu and serve with chimichurri sauce
o Edamame is my favorite just plain as a snack!!
o Add edamame to your salads
o Blend edamame into hummus- recipe is on my website under recipes tab!
So, those are a few of my favorite tips. I hope you found this post helpful and I hope you are inspired to join the plant forward lifestyle- it’s a good one! As always, if you have ANY questions, you are interested in a customized meal plan, or if you would just like to chat about anything nutrition related, I am here to help! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Talk soon friends xoxo