Plants are pretty amazing. They are a source of vitamins and minerals and also contain plant proteins, dietary fibre and healthy fats, all of which are thought to contribute towards keeping our bodies healthy. Reducing inflammation, improving gut health and detoxing enzymes are just some of the ways in which scientists believe plants can work to improve our health. But, for many of us, trying to ‘plantify’ our plate can often seem like a bit of a challenge.
In this article, seasoned nutritionists and founders of The Rooted Project, Rosie Saunt and Helen West, offer eleven simple tips that will allow you to serve up delicious, plant based meals.
1) Fold in your greens: Not everyone fancies a serving of steamed kale on their plate. Instead, you can think about shredding, folding, wilting. Shred your greens (cabbage, Swiss chard, spring greens, spinach or kale) and fold them into your stews, pasta, grains, risotto – anything that’s warming in a pot. When the greens hit the warmth, they wilt, sneakily pushing up the plant power in your dish.
2) Think beyond beef: You don’t have to go veggie to eat more plants, but you can think about reducing some of the meat in your meals and substituting it for plant- based protein. Swap half of the meat in a stew for beans or legumes and add some tinned tomato for extra flavour.
3) Salad is more than iceberg: A salad does not have to be just a standard lettuce chopped up with a quartered tomato. Think about rainbow colour and crunch. Try different salad leaves, add grated carrot, toast some seeds, chuck in some roasted veggies or sprinkle with fresh herbs. The possibilities are endless, but the key is to mix it up with variety. Even think of this as a bolt- on, a side dish to really help maximise your fruit and veg intake.
4) Big batches: Set some time each week to do some batch cooking. Chop up a handful of different veggies and roast until slightly charred and caramelised. Store in a Tupperware in the fridge for easy access when adding to a breakfast omelette, a sandwich at lunch or to bulk up an evening meal.
5) Mix it up: No one plant food is star of the show. Diversity is key, so try to move away from having the same fruit and veg on rotation. How about adding a new fruit or vegetable to your repertoire each week? Stick a seasonal fruit and veg calendar on your fridge and get creative.
6) Harness the hummus: Hummus and any other bean- style dips are a delicious way to get more plants on your plate, whether it’s as a dipping vehicle, soup topping or a creamy filling to your sandwich. They’re also incredibly easy (and cheap) to make if you have a hand blender or food processor.
7) Colour half your plate: It can be easy to forget about plants when we’re so used to meat being the star of the show. A useful prompt to ensure your veg intake is at its best is to fill half your plate with two different types of veg.
8) Frozen is your friend: Before it reaches your supermarket shelves, fresh produce needs to be picked, packaged and transported. This takes time, and during these hours (or days) nutrients can be lost. Frozen fruit and veg is frozen within hours of picking, sealing in its nutrients. A recent study testing the vitamin content of eight different types of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables found the frozen foods contained comparable or even higher amounts of vitamins compared to the fresh stuff.
9) Meat- free Monday: This is a fantastic campaign launched to inspire people to ditch the meat on Mondays. It’s a simple way to increase your plant- food intake without feeling overwhelmed at each meal. Just focus on one day and take it from there.
10) Swap your spuds: We love the humble potato, but it doesn’t count towards your five- a- day. How about occasionally swapping these out for other veg that do count? Sweet potatoes, parsnips and beetroot are delicious roasted or mashed. You could even try half and half in some mash.
11) Go bananas at pudding: Fruit for pudding does not need to be boring. Baked bananas, stewed fruit or poached pears can be jazzed up with creamy, crumbly or nutty toppings.
This article is extracted from Is Butter a Carb? by Rosie Saunt and Helen West, published by Piatkus.