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What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based or vegan diet (used interchangeably) is a diet that is quite literally made up of plants. It does not include anything that comes from an animal such as meat, dairy products, or eggs. When hearing the term “plant-based” most people tend to think of boring salads, raw vegetables, and imagine flavorless, boring meals. The great news is that all of those things couldn’t be further from the truth.
Try to clear your mind of what you thought you knew about a vegan diet. Let’s reimagine plant-based meals full of fluffy pancakes, creamy overnight oats, hearty sandwiches, pastas, soups, and salads, even ice cream! We live in such an exciting time where we can transform all of our favorite classics into delicious plant-based foods and meals.
The healthiest and most nutritious variation of this diet is a whole food plant-based diet (abbreviated as wfpb). This type of diet contains foods that are not heavily processed. Here you will find beautifully crisp and robust salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain pastas and breads. By eating these foods in their original form, we maximize the amount of nutrients we are able to get from them. At the same time, we are also avoiding things like preservatives and other things that come along from eating processed foods.
I personally believe in eating a balance of whole food plant-based and a regular vegan diet. I focus primarily on eating whole foods but also incorporate some other healthy plant-based foods into my diet. By doing this, I am able to fill my meals with healthy and delicious foods that are both nutritionally dense and super satisfying.
Why should we be eating this way?
Eating a plant-based diet is an easy (and delicious!) way to nourish our bodies, prevent, and even reverse some types of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. When we eat a diet that is built on a strong foundation of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, it’s hard to go wrong.
By focusing on these healthy foods, we are able to easily hit our daily recommended intake goals of vitamins and minerals. You can also easily hit your daily protein requirements. One of the biggest misconceptions of eating a vegan diet is that you won’t get enough protein. Many plant-based foods are actually packed with protein. Some of the best sources are nuts, beans, lentils, and even broccoli.
The best way to achieve your dietary requirements is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods. It’s always okay to have your favorite foods and to eat those often, but try to find a balance of your tried and true favorites and incorporate different fruits, veggies, and grains along the way. Try out a new vegetable at dinner several nights a week or test out different varieties of nuts at snack time.
Balance is the ultimate goal when planning meals and feeding yourself and your family. Cook, serve, and encourage a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables with each meal.
The first step in feeding your kids and family a plant-based diet is to begin introducing more plant-based foods to them. Depending on what your family’s meals looked like before, this might be easier for some and might be a bit of a (fun) challenge for others.
If your kids are already lovers of fresh fruits and veggies, introducing more plant-based foods into their diet will probably be a breeze. Start with adding more whole foods into each meal and pick a couple plant-based recipes to incorporate into your breakfasts, lunches, or dinners each week. Save your favorites and make them part of your usual weekly meal rotation.
If your kids don’t love eating their fruits and veggies, this could be a bit more work. I would try slowly introducing them to foods that you think they might really enjoy. Make a green smoothie with baby spinach and plenty of sweet fruits like bananas or pineapple, these are usually a huge hit with kids and a great way to get them to try some vegetables in a new form.
Try taking just one of their favorite meals per week and transforming that meal into a plant-based version. You can create delicious sushi rolls using fresh avocado and cucumber, or try making pasta with a lentil Bolognese sauce. Find inspiration in your favourite cookbook, online, or even at your own dinner table.
Another great way to introduce kids to a plant-based diet is to include your kids in planning and cooking meals too! This is a great way to let your kids express their creativity in the kitchen and allows them to be involved in the meal planning and cooking process. It’s also a great time to bond and spend time together.
Kids love the feeling of pride and accomplishment of a job well done. When they help to make and pack their lunches at home, they will be even more excited when lunchtime rolls around!
Fresh fruits and vegetables are always perfect for a quick, easy, and healthy snack. There is little to no prep and they can be effortlessly packed into your child’s lunchbox for school, a picnic, or just a snack on the go. If your kids aren’t fans of fruits or vegetables on their own, try cutting them into fun shapes using a cookie cutter to make them more appealing, or make a healthy dip like hummus or guacamole to serve with those fresh veggies. You might be surprised how much more interested kids can be when these healthy foods have a little more appeal. Half the battle is getting a bit creative and thinking outside of the box.
Finger food like sandwiches or wraps are also great for kids! Many kids love to spend their lunchtime socializing and catching up with their friends. This is why they love foods that are quick and easy to grab and eat. As an added bonus, they are also easy for parents to prepare and to clean up.
Smoothies and ice pops are also fan favorites, who doesn’t love a sweet frozen treat? You might love them even more when you know they are filled with healthy fruits and even vegetables! Try blending a combination of either almond milk, oat milk, or coconut water with your favorite fruits and even vegetable or two. You can also try pouring these smoothies into popsicle molds and make homemade ice pops!
Tips for successfully maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle:
Plan ahead of time! The biggest and best recommendation I can make for being successful in eating a healthy diet is to plan and prepare your meals in advance. We’ve probably all been in a situation where we didn’t plan ahead and ended up starving and making poor dietary choices. To combat this, having healthy options ready to go can change what you or your child reach for in times of hunger.
At the start of your week (I like to do this on Sunday) set aside a couple of hours to prep for success. Make a list of the meals you want to cook for yourself and your family. Then create a corresponding grocery list and get everything you’ll need. Turn on your favourite podcast, playlist, or even better, have your kids take part in the meal prep fun.
By doing this, you’ll have nutritious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks premade and ready to go all week long. Not only will this enable you to make healthier choices, but you will probably reduce your food waste, save money, and save a bunch of time throughout your week!
Healthy Plant-Based Recipe:
Fresh Veggie Rollups
Makes about 12 rollups
4 medium whole grain tortillas
¼ cup hummus
1 cup chopped lettuce
1 cup sliced cucumbers
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced bell pepper
1 cup shredded red cabbage
Thank you for reading !
Kelsey Riley from Planted in the Kitchen