Where’s the Beef(less) Options? Your Guide to Plant-Based Eating

vegetablesWhether you’ve heard about the many health benefits of plant-based eating, are concerned about the environment or you’re simply interested in expanding your culinary expertise, making the decision to eat a plant-based diet is a popular New Year’s resolution. And we’re here to help guide you through it with tips and recipes. And be sure to check back with us each Monday through January as we introduce recipes for “Meatless Mondays!”

For a lot of people, the idea of eliminating meat seems impossible. You may feel overwhelmed with what to buy or what to cook. You’ve become accustomed to a certain lifestyle in which meat is a staple, and well, change is hard. But thanks to the ever-growing popularity of vegan diets, it’s easier than ever to eat plant-based meals.

Plant-Based Eating: Where to Start

To get you started, we’re sharing six tips to help your transition to a plant-based diet.

1. Faux meats and cheeses can help you curb cravings. Even with so many great plant-based meals, we know that sometimes you just want a piece of bacon or slice of cheese. The good news is, there are a ton of delicious faux meats and cheeses on the market so you don’t have to go without. Meat replacements can be really helpful — particularly when starting a plant-based diet. Just remember to treat them as training wheels and work towards eating a diet that consists primarily of whole foods you cook at home, since some of these faux foods can be high in sodium or preservatives.

2. Try plant-based protein sources. Yes, you CAN in fact get enough protein from a plant-based diet. Additionally, with plant-based proteins, you’ll often find additional benefits including fiber or phytonutrients not found in meat. Check out this list of 20 plant-based protein options.

3. Eat what you love. (It’s so much more than salad, we promise). One of the biggest misconceptions about plant-based diets is that you’ll be eating salads constantly. The truth is, you can eat burgers, pasta, tacos, pizza — even sushi. It’s all in the preparation. Plant-Based Cooking is a great source of recipes for every palette and occasion. If you’re craving a spicy chicken sandwich, don’t tell yourself you can’t have it — simply find a recipe for a spicy tempeh sandwich instead. Continue to eat the flavors and foods that you love — just without the meat.

4. Many of your favorite dishes can be made vegan. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make your mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies or grandma’s cheesy lasagna vegan with just a few easy substitutions. So hang on to those recipe cards, and start making some of these simple swaps.

5. Dining out is easier than you think. With vegan (or plant-based) diets growing in popularity, many cities have vegan restaurants, and almost all restaurants have at least one or two vegan items on the menu. Don’t see something that’s plant-based besides the side salad? Just ask. Most chefs are happy to accommodate special diets and will whip you up your own special off-menu creation.

6. If you’re not ready to take the plunge, start small. If you’ve got some picky eaters in the house or just aren’t sure if you’re ready to make the transition to a 100 percent plant-based diet, try incorporating a plant-based meal into your routine at least once per week. Try “Meatless Mondays” for example. As you get a few meals under your belt, you’ll feel more comfortable eating plant-based meals more frequently.

Looking for some extra guidance to help you kick-start your plant-based diet? Check out Renown’s Food for Life program. For information on upcoming classes, email Chris Wyatt at cwyatt@renown.org. To get an assessment on your specific dietary needs based on height, weight, health and other factors, schedule a consultation with one of Renown’s registered dietitians or call Health Improvement Programs at 775-982-5073.

Ready to get started, even for just a day? Check out our vegan paella and let us know what you think!

Easy Vegan Paella
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Easy Vegan Paella
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Print Recipe
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Servings4one-cup servings Cook Time45minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons fresh garlic minced
  • 1 large carrot sliced thin
  • 2 15 ounce cans artichoke hearts in water drained
  • 2 15-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 whole yellow squash diced
  • 1 bunch asparagus chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley minced
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth enough to cover rice
  • 8-12 saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Ingredients
  • 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons fresh garlic minced
  • 1 large carrot sliced thin
  • 2 15 ounce cans artichoke hearts in water drained
  • 2 15-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 whole yellow squash diced
  • 1 bunch asparagus chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley minced
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth enough to cover rice
  • 8-12 saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Recipe Instructions
  1. Gently spray nonstick cooking spray onto heated nonstick pan over medium heat on stove top. Add onion, peppers, carrots and garlic and cook just until lightly browned, about 3-5 min.
  2. Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Continue to cook on medium heat until tomatoes begin to brown.
  3. Stir in brown rice, yellow squash, peas and asparagus. Add just enough vegetable broth to cover the rice. Lower heat to medium-low, add saffron, paprika, bay leaves, pepper and crushed red pepper. Let simmer about 30 min.
  4. Stir in freshly chopped parsley just before you are ready to serve. Enjoy!

3 responses to “Where’s the Beef(less) Options? Your Guide to Plant-Based Eating”

  1. Brenda Grace-Smith says:

    Thank you for providing this fantastic information! I have been meat-free since 2008, have lost weight and am elated to maintain a plant-based diet for many reasons.
    Gardein & Lifelight have delicious, meat-free options that are delectable. Give meat-free a try!

    • Kari Barnhill says:

      As of January 1st I’ve adhere to a plant based diet. I’m on day 12 and it’s amazing. Day 3 my energy level went through the roof. Being on my feet most of the day I usually experience feet swelling at the end of the day. The past 4 days, no swelling! Plus my digestive symptom has improved greatly.

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