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 4: Stocking Up on The Right Ingredients
Keep these five essential ingredients on hand for easy, healthy plant-based cooking. It’s a recipe for kitchen success.
In week two, we talked about the importance of meal planning. This week we’re going to talk about five ingredients to keep on your grocery list this year. These foods should be accessible at most grocery stores, affordable, and are all super nutrient-dense. There is no reason not to keep them around.
Plant-based foods are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, and they’re a great source of fiber. Different foods provide different vitamins and minerals, so it’s important to have a diverse array of plant-based foods in your diet. This will help ensure that you’re getting the essential nutrients you need for good health. Plus, it just makes meals more interesting and enjoyable!
I’ve picked out a group of five essential items that I keep on hand all the time. They provide the basis of a wide array of recipes and will make it easy and convenient for you to put together different meals on the fly without constant trips to the grocery store. Try mixing things up and incorporating a variety of plant-based foods into your diet. You may be surprised at how tasty they can be.
Of course, with any ingredient, it’s most important to listen to your body and find what works best for you – start here and create your perfect pantry of versatile, healthy essentials.
Illustration: Ksenia Zvezdina
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 4: The Five Essential Plant-Based Ingredients
Now is a great time to clear out your cabinets, get organized, and stock up on essentials. Here are five plant-based ingredients to keep in your kitchen this year.
Pepitas, also referred to as pumpkin seeds, are high in fiber, magnesium, and zinc. Pepitas are also a source of plant-based omega-three fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. These tasty little snack seeds have been surging in popularity in recent years because they are crunchy, flavorful, and adaptable to different recipes. You can add them to your morning oatmeal or pancakes, top off your salad, or blend into your smoothie.
Lentils are a legume that is packed with protein and fiber. They are also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, which makes them beneficial for maintaining energy levels and healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Lentils are quick to cook up and have a relatively neutral flavor profile making it a cinch to incorporate into a variety of recipes when you are in a pinch. I buy these nutritional power-houses in bulk because they are shelf-stable and so easy to incorporate into dishes. Give lentils a try today! You won’t be disappointed!
3. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. They are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they have been shown to boost heart health, reduce inflammation, and protect against cancer. Some of my favorites are spinach, kale, and collards. Incorporate them raw in your salads and smoothies or cook them up in a soup or your favorite pasta dish. An abundance of leafy greens is something I recommend to all of my clients due to their nutritional value and versatility.
Pro tip: Keep bags of chopped frozen greens on hand to prolong their shelf life.
Potatoes are one of the most versatile and healthy foods around. They’re packed with potassium, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and other important nutrients, making them an excellent choice for a healthy diet. Potatoes are chock full of micronutrients that you won’t find on a nutrition label but are oh-so-good for you like carotenoids (which have been shown to improve eye health) and anthocyanins (which may help protect against cancer). I know we all have our favorite potato recipes but it is so much fun to try to incorporate them into something new and interesting!
Oats are a great source of fiber (which can help to regulate blood sugar levels) and are also high in protein and antioxidants (protecting the body against disease). Oats are a versatile food that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. They make for a healthy breakfast, especially loaded up with fruit, nuts and seeds (Hello again pepitas!) or they can be added to soups and stews. For so many years I only considered oats as a breakfast food, but I was underselling their value – try cooking with some veggie broth and adding some salsa and beans and you have a rich and hearty dish in a jiff!
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 4: 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.
- Coconut Lime Lentils
- Spicy Orange Slaw with Pepitas
- Swiss Chard Slaw
- Chickpea Curry-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes