Maintaining a healthy diet is all about balance. While you may not be keen to go fully vegetarian or vegan, but there are many benefits to incorporating more plant-based foods into your nutritional regime. In fact, any small changes you can make to incorporate more plants into your diet will do you well in the long run, possibly even reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. However, don’t think you have to completely overhaul your way of eating – all it takes is being prepared with a variety of ingredients to create a plant-based pantry!
Are you interested in incorporating some more plant-based meals into your weekly meals but are unsure where to begin? Concerned about getting enough protein or fiber? No need to overwhelm yourself – start small! Here are three nutrient-packed items to add to your grocery list that will provide you a bit of inspiration in building more meatless meals into each day.
Flax seeds are full of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, can improve digestive health, and may even help lower cholesterol. Incorporate flaxseeds into your breakfast by adding them (whole or ground) to your oatmeal, cold cereal, or yogurt. For lunch, sprinkle on top of your salad or add a spoonful to your favorite sandwich spread for a little extra crunch.
One popular use of flax seeds in plant-based baking is to use them as an egg replacer. To make your own “flax egg” simply add 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed to 3 tablespoons warm water for each egg in your recipe. Set aside and wait 5 minutes for the flax egg consistency to thicken, and use it for muffins, cookies, or bread!
Similar to flax, chia contains omega-3s, fiber, and pack a lot of protein for their tiny size! Chia seeds are particularly absorbent, helping you stay hydrated and feel fuller for extended periods of time. They also work as an energy booster – perfect to get you going in the mornings!
You can add chia into your meals in all the same ways you might use flax seeds: try it in hot or cold cereals, acai bowls, even sprinkled on top of fresh fruit. It also makes an excellent addition to salad dressings. Ground chia is another great option for egg-free baking, using the exact same ratios as the flax egg replacer.
For an easy and filling breakfast, make your own chia seed pudding by combining ¼ cup whole chia seeds with 1 cup of your favorite non-dairy milk along with a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons of your favorite sweetener (honey, agave, or maple syrup). Top with your favorite fruit and enjoy!
If you’re planning to cut out some animal products from your diet, you might be concerned getting enough protein and fats, which are essential for your energy levels and properly absorbing certain vitamins. Cashews have both protein and healthy fats that can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, they are a great source of magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin K!
While popular as a snack, cashews are much more versatile than you may realize! Try soaking some raw cashews in lukewarm water for a few hours, and there’s a lot you can do with them. For example, combine one cup of soaked cashews in a food processor with 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, and a squeeze of lemon for a nutritious, raw vegan cheese spread substitute. You can even get fancy by adding in your favorite fresh herbs or spices!
Surprisingly, cashews are an awesome base for raw, vegan ice cream. Simply blend 2 cups of soaked cashews with a teaspoon of vanilla extract, your go-to sweetener, and 1 cup of your favorite fruit (try pear, fig, or melon!). Finally, freeze for a couple hours before you dig in.
Want to fortify your favorite blended soup? Throw in some soaked cashews as you blend it up to add not just creaminess, but protein, healthy fats, and many other nutrients. Try out this plant-based hack with your cream of broccoli, butternut squash, or even tomato soup!
Start Small When Stocking Your Plant-Based Pantry
Eating more plant-based foods does not mean you have to completely overhaul your pantry. Nor do you need to drastically change the way you eat. On the contrary, it’s all about making small changes to add variety and enhance your favorite go-to dishes. Ultimately, healthy meals can be totally simple, as long as you prepare with the proper items on hand. Try out some of these suggestions and let us know what you think!
Want more recipes and ideas? Check out all of Tattooed Women’s food posts here!