Take the 21-Day Plant-Strong Challenge!

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There is momentum building behind the idea that eating a plant-based diet can help prevent and ease a host of health conditions, from high blood pressure and heart disease, to diabetes and excess weight. There is even evidence that eating a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of cancer.

In fact, doctors and caregivers at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco and Oakland are so convinced of the benefits of a plant-based diet that they are challenging each other to a Plant Power Challenge this month. Participants pledge to a whole-foods plant-based diet for 21 days straight.

This means eliminating not only meat, but eggs, dairy and all other foods that come from animals. A plant-based diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes (beans, lentils and peas) with little-to-no processing.

Many people are discouraged, though, by the idea that plant-based eating is too much work. To help make it easier, I’m sharing a few of my favorite tips for how to make healthy cooking fun, easy, and quick.

Do Plenty of Prep

When you have lots of healthy food at hand, it’s much easier not to fall off the plant-based diet wagon. Stock up on these basics ahead of time:

  • Oats
  • Berries
  • Grains e.g. quinoa, bulgur, farro, rice (brown, black, red preferred)
  • Dried or canned beans
  • Nuts (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds)
  • Hummus
  • Beans
  • Prewashed baby greens, arugula
  • Root vegetables (try different colors of sweet potatoes, parsnips)
  • Avocado
  • Lemons, vinegar, olive oil for dressings
  • Whole grain bread (I like Dave’s Killer 21 Grain/Seed Bread)
  • Peanut/nut butters
  • Whole grain pasta

Prepare in Advance

Make a few big pans of basics and you can mix and mach them all week. My suggestions for a week’s menu:

  1. 3 batches of grains  – a rice cooker really helps!
  2. A sheet pan full of roasted root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips)
  3. Vinaigrettes, pesto, and other sauces

Menu Ideas

Breakfast: oats with fresh berries and some nuts for protein; green smoothies with nuts/nut butter; tofu scramble (can be made once and served later in week)

Lunch: make it easy! Grain bowls, repurposed leftovers, and hummus+veggie combinations are my staples. Use cooked tofu or beans on a bed of mixed baby greens for a salad, with grains for added satiety and texture. Make grain bowls and use different dressings and sauces to add variety.

Dinner: Follow along with the dishes I’m cooking in week 1 and week 2.

If you find yourself feeling hungry, add more fiber and plant-based protein like beans, tofu, and nuts, and don’t skimp on healthy fats like avocados, oils and nut butters.

Likewise, if food seems bland without meat, add some spice and texture. Smoked paprika/ Spanish pimenton and ground cumin are two good choices to add “meaty” depth to your food, while eggplant and mushrooms are vegetables with satisfying texture.

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