Last week I shared my thoughts on choosing a plant based lifestyle. While I know it’s not always easy to change what feels familiar and comforting, transitioning to a plant based diet could be the single greatest action you can take to improve your health and the health of our planet. And it’s easier than you think!
A plant based diet is really about choosing healthy foods that you can add into your diet while also minimizing or eliminating processed foods and animal products. Processed food of any kind has its risks and many of the “fake meat” products on the market can be full of nitrates, preservatives, sodium and flavor enhancers.
Luckily, as plant based eating gains momentum, I’m finding there are more and more creative ways to replace animal proteins with whole plant based foods. And since many of your favorite recipes can be made with plant based ingredients, you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out on the dishes you love.
While there are lots of plant based ingredients to choose from, here are just a few of my favorites along with some recipe suggestions.
1. Mushrooms – If you are looking for a meaty texture and taste, mushrooms, especially cremini and portobello, are the way to go. They have a rich, earthy taste and add an “umami” flavor to any dish. Mushrooms are so versatile but I think they work really well in burger recipes like this “Lamb” Burger. If you want to get really fancy, try a Mushroom Stroganoff or a Portobello Wellington dish.
2. Eggplant – While there are many different varieties of eggplant, the two that work the best as a meat substitute are American and Italian eggplants. They are pear shaped, dark purple in color and have a meaty texture. Because of their shape and texture, these varieties make great “steaks” for grilling. Another clever way to use eggplant is to make “bacon.” Seriously, check out this Crispy Eggplant recipe…..I guarantee you will be hooked!
3. Cauliflower – By now you might be thinking, enough already with the cauliflower. We’ve got cauliflower rice, pizza crusts, crackers, and gnocchi but have you tried a cauliflower steak? You can slice a head of cauliflower into “steaks” and simply grill them or better yet, try this recipe for Cauliflower Picatta. You’ll never miss the chicken!!
4. Jackfruit – Jackfruit is native to Southern Asia, but over the past couple years it has become popular here in the United States. While this is technically a fruit, jackfruit works really well as a meat replacement in savory dishes. One of my favorite recipes is Jackfruit Carnitas. Jackfruit is low in calories and fat, but high in fiber. You may be able to find it fresh at an Asian market, but I usually buy it already cut up in a can. I like the Native Forest brand which I buy at Natural Grocers. You can check out all of the Native Forest products here.
5. Carrots – Now this one might seem a little crazy but carrots are being used as replacements for hot dogs. Think about it though….they are the perfect size, shape and color and with the right toppings….why not? Now to be honest, I have not tried this yet, but I’m definitely going to give it a try using this recipe.
6. Beans, legumes and peas – You can never go wrong with beans. Any variety you have on hand can be a great filling for burritos, burgers or sandwiches. Throw in some carrots and potatoes and you’ve got the makings for a hearty stew, soup or chili.
Now that I’ve given you some ideas along with a few awesome recipes, are you ready to head into your kitchen and have some fun? As you try new foods that you may never have even considered eating, be sure to keep an open mind and stay curious. My hope is that in the process you will discover an abundance of whole foods that taste delicious and make you feel amazing. And that’s really what eating is all about, isn’t it??