Welcome to the Vegetarian Times Plant-Based Health Plan. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be giving you four building blocks of healthy habits and lifestyle updates to start the new year off fresh. Our guide for this project is Ashley Kitchens of Plant-Centered Nutrition. Ashley holds a Masters in Public Health and Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked as a registered dietitian in 2012. She focuses on coaching clients towards a plant-centered way of eating, using a holistic approach and intuitive eating practices. Maybe you decided this was your year to go plant-based (welcome!) or you just want to reset, take good care of yourself, and prioritize yourself and your health – either way, the Plant-Based Health Reset is here to help with tips and recipes to cook each week.
Illustration: Ksenia Zvezdina
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 3: Creating an Adventurous Plant-Based Journey
Nobody wants cooking to feel like a chore. The best way to avoid that is injecting creativity and fun into your food-making routine.
Being mindful and having a strategy when it comes to plant-based eating is important. But, do you know what’s also important? Having fun! This week we’re going to talk about how you can bring some enthusiasm into plant-based eating with easy to follow ideas.
As a plant-based eater, you can have fun with food in many different ways. For example, there are so many fruits and vegetables to choose from! Did you know that there are over 400 varieties of beans? Just about any dish comes together by incorporating some kind of starch or vegetable base. There is also no shortage on how creative you can get when cooking — for instance, we’ve seen sweet potato brownies, cashew nacho cheese, buffalo cauliflower wings, and avocado toast become popular.
There are endless plant-based recipes to explore online, in cookbooks, and right here at Vegetarian Times. It’s a great way to get inspired, expand your culinary repertoire, and just have fun! But, how do we do that without making cooking feel like a chore? Here are some ways that you can make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable while still learning new things!
Illustration: Ksenia Zvezdina
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 3: Action Items
This is a great time to start meal planning – or improve what you’re already doing. This week, try these simple steps.
1. Get creative with ingredients by trying new vegetables. If you’re used to buying broccoli, try broccolini. If you typically buy spinach try kale or collards. Like sweet potatoes? Try using butternut squash. It is amazing how many different squashes might be available at your local farmer’s market in the autumn!
2. Try a new fruit every week for a month. A lot of us trend toward buying apples, bananas, and oranges, but many grocery stores have a wider variety of fruits that are equally delicious and fun to try. Have you ever eaten a starfruit before? Or dared to try the spikey and pink dragon fruit? Most fruits are sweet and very approachable eaten raw with minimal prep work. Be bold and see if you find a new favorite!
3. Experiment with sauces. A great way to add flavor to any dish is with a delicious sauce! Take a look at what your grocery store has pre-made or try a fun recipe like this creamy cheese sauce for your next taco night. A sauce can always be a reimagining of an ingredient that you have pegged for other purposes – some of my favorites are hummus and salsa verde!
4. Cook once, eat twice. Plan ahead and cook larger quantities of food that can be enjoyed throughout the week to make your life easier. Make plant-based convenient by prepping snacks in advance, like these Lemon Quinoa Bites. This will help you when you’re short on time and need something quick.
5. Instead of following recipes exactly, give yourself some flexibility and make a riff off the recipe that vibes with you. That can be switching up ingredient quantities, adding different spices, or creating shortcuts to save time. You never know what combinations will result in something delicious!
6. Take a plant-based cooking class. There’s nothing better than learning from a professional chef. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people in person or online who love food just as much as you do!
7. Branch out to another style of cuisine to broaden your horizon. It can be as easy as searching the internet for “best vegan Thai recipes,” or whatever style of food has your interests piqued. You might be surprised at all the plant-based recipes from around the world!
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 2: Recipes to Cook
Now that you’re ready to meal plan, it’s time to find some recipes for your weekly menu. I’ve picked these to give you some ideas.
- Creamy Vegan Cheese Sauce
- Butternut Squash Barley Risotto with Crispy Sage
- Citrus Collards with Raisins
- Lemon Quinoa Bites
- Golden Tofu Scramble Tacos