How to Make Easy, Delicious Plant-Based Meals

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Health

If you’re ready to scale back on meat─whether it’s because you realize it’s not sustainable at current rates of consumption, you’re interested in improved health, love animals, or simply wish to trim a few pounds─a wonderful new approach to food awaits you. So, what are plant-based meals, and how can you create them with ease? Great question! The good news is that vegetarian eating can be healthy, tasty, inexpensive, satisfying─and beautifully simple.

Plant-based eating is really just a matter of emphasizing vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds on your daily menu. Former President Bill Clinton─who measurably improved his health and lost weight on a vegan diet─targets legumes, vegetables, and fruit, and swaps cow milk for almond milk. Granted, it takes a slight shift in thinking to start building your meals around plant foods instead of meat, but once you get in the swing, you’ll likely find it’s a win on many levels. Let’s get you started!

Stock up on easy staples

With these basic staples, available at high-quality grocery/health food stores, you can create a multitude of fast, easy, delicious meals:

• Fresh and frozen veggies
• Dry beans and legumes
• Whole grain pasta
• Fresh, unsalted nuts and seeds
• Whole grains like brown/wild rice, whole oats, quinoa, etc.
• Seasoned tofu and tempeh
• Soy hot dogs/corn dogs, veggie burgers, and other well-prepared meat substitutes
• Canned beans, soups, and vegetarian chili
• Hummus, in various flavors
• Healthy condiments like tamari, Asian sauces, natural salad dressings, herbs and spices, Miso paste for flavoring soups, etc.

The beauty of these basics is that they provide you with numerous options. If you have time to set up some beans or lentils in your crock pot, fabulous, if not, canned works in a pinch. And you’ll love that rice cooker for easy, flawless brown/wild rice or other grains to accompany soups, stews, stir fry’s, and more. The key to satisfying meals is a nice balance of protein, fresh produce, and complex carbs. The new USDA “MyPlate” icon makes it easy, as it designates 50% of your plate for fruit/veggies, 25% for complex carbs, and 25% for protein. It’s a good image to consider as you lay out your meals.

Need a little guidance? Check out this splendid resource for easy plant-based recipes─including crock pot winners, tofu-based entrées, hearty breakfast options, interesting soups, casseroles and stews, chili, salads, desserts, and more─all pulling primarily from the above list of staples: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/maindishentreerecipes/u/easyrecipes.htm

Here’s another great resource, with nearly 200 quick, yummy, healthy vegetarian recipes: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Cooking-Style/Quick-Dinner-Recipes/Quick-Vegetarian-Recipes

As with anything new, you may have a learning curve, but if you stay with it─even part time─the benefits for you and your family, and our fragile planet, will be immense. Here’s to a healthy future for us all!

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