Our moms were on to something when they made us eat our vegetables. In the work I do as a dietitian on a day to day basis, I see clients with varying health issues and concerns. The one nutrition recommendation that always holds true for the majority of health states is "eat more plants."
Recently US News & World Report released its ranking for Best Diets. The Mediterranean Diet tied for the number one spot with the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Both diets emphasize fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Similarly, in the third place spot was the Flexitarian Diet, which is a mostly vegetarian diet that leaves room for the occasional burger and Thanksgiving turkey. All of these "diets" are intended to be a lifestyle and healthy way of eating. Don't think of it as a "diet" that you go "on" (and then subsequently, go "off"). The term diet here simply means the food you eat. When your food intake consists largely of plant based foods, you can reduce risk for several chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It may also positively affect your brain health, and certainly your waistline.
I'm not proposing we should ALL be vegetarians, in fact, I am not a vegetarian. However, I do recommend incorporating lots of plant based foods into your diet, and would love to suggest some recipes to try and help you do so! I find that while most of my clients are meat eaters, they also enjoy beans, nuts, fruits and veggies. I help them find ways to work more of those foods into their diets, and have been trying out some new ideas myself. If you can't bear the thought of leaving out the meat, these recipes will still allow you to reap the benefits of the phytonutrients found in the plants, while including your favorite animal proteins.
You know I love a good slow cooker meal. This Lentil Curry
recipe makes a lot of food, a great one to serve if company's coming or to share with a neighbor. I don't add the sugar, and I cut back the butter. Serve with brown rice or other whole grain.
Ok, so I know there is chicken in the name here. But, this Chicken Enchilada Quinoa
can be made by eliminating the ground meat and adding extra beans. I didn't have black beans so I used pinto, but the combo would be good too!
- a great boost of nutrients in snack form. I recommend sprinkling some cilantro in there too.
Asian Quinoa Salad
- there's a pretty good chance I have posted this before. It's pretty and and it's one of my favorites. The sesame oil is the key to it's great flavor, with lots of veggies and edamame for protein. The recipe makes A LOT. Tamari instead of soy sauce makes it gluten free, for those who need it.
If you eat eggs and dairy, this Avocado Egg Salad
is a great quick meal. The avocado replaces mayo in the egg salad for a heart-healthy fat. I recommend layering the sandwich with baby spinach for some leafy greens, too.
An oldie but a goodie, my husband and I have stocked these pantry friendly ingredients for years for a quick and easy dinner (with leftovers for lunch). Spicy Black Beans and Rice
As much as I hate to say it, chili
season is here to stay for awhile yet. Vary the veggies to make this one however you may like!
This Italian Orzo Spinach Soup
is a great side dish, you could play with adding some beans to it so that it can be a heartier meal, I'd recommend white beans. My family likes it with sliced / cooked chicken sausages thrown in, so maybe some soy-based ones would be good too. I always use whole wheat orzo.
I like it when my sweet treats have some nutritional benefit along with the yumminess. These No Bake Peanut Butter Bites
have oats, chia seeds, nut/seed butter, and a little honey/choc chips to make them delicious as well as nutritious. Caution, tastes like cookie dough! I use Sunbutter due to food allergies in our house, school safe and just as tasty!