How to Eat a Plant Based Diet
What is a plant based diet?
Unlike most diets, a plant-based diet is defined by what it focuses on, not what it excludes. When you eat a plant based diet, you maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant based foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods. Eat veggies, fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts. Include local and sustainably-raised dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat in smaller amounts if you wish.
Food writer, Michael Pollan, coined a 7 word phrase that makes it easy to know how to eat a plant based diet:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
"Eat food" means to eat real food (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and small amounts of eggs, fish, and meat if you wish), and to avoid what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances.“
You can watch Michael Pollan's take on healthy eating in the wonderful PBS documentary: In Defense of Food. You can also read his book Food Rules, An Eater's Manual.
Here are a handful of food rules from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules that you can start using right away to eat healthier this season.
"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
"Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry."
"Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle." Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
"Eat only foods that will eventually rot."
"Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature."
"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.
"Treat meat as a special flavoring or special occasion food."
"Eat your colors."
The new year is an opportunity to get out of an eating rut and try some new plant based foods. Head over to your local grocery store, food co-op or farmer’s market and see what’s in season.
Plant-based foods to add to your diet this winter:
- In season and cold storage fruits like apples, pears, quince, pomegranate, and citrus. Eat apples and oranges on their own or add them to salads. Make an apple crisp.
- Cold tolerant leafy greens such as, kale, arugula, bok choy, chicory, spinach, and chard. Steamed, sauteed and added to soups, leafy greens are some of the best nutrition around.
- Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and kohlrabi. Steamed, added to stir-fries, or roasted, cauliflower and broccoli are superfoods for winter.
- Root veggies like turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets, celeriac root, and rutabaga. Roasted root vegetables are warm, grounding and nourishment for cold weather.
- Squash varieties like pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti squash, delicata, and acorn. Enjoy squash roasted, in soups and or baked.
- Nuts and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, walnut, almond, brazil, pecan, and hazelnut. Add nuts to salads. Sprinkle them on your morning oats or by the handful.
- Dried legumes such as lentils, mung beans, split peas, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and black eyed peas. Soak your legumes before cooking them to improve digestibility. Season them with warming spices and eat them on their own or add them to soups and stews.
- Whole grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, oats, and barley. Eat whole grain porridges for breakfast. Enjoy whole grains next to stirfries. Add grains added to soups.
- Healthy fats such as extra-virgen olive oil, coconut oil. and avocados
Simple plant based meals for winter using the Instant Pot
Nothing beats the cold like a warm bowl of stew or soup. I'm a huge fan of using the Instant Pot to feed my family warm food in the winter. Many of you readers will already know about or own an Instant Pot, but in case you're new to the game, I just came across a great guide in the NY Times: How to Use an Instant Pot.
Once you get the hang of the Instant Pot, you don't really need a recipe, but if you're looking for recipes, the internet is full of Instant Pot recipes. Here are a few that you might want to try this month:
- Mixed Vegetables and Lentil Kichdi - Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Chana Masala
- Instant Pot Ethiopian Lentil Stew
- Pressure Cooker Black Bean Soup
- Instant Pot White Bean Kale Soup
Healthy happy plant based eating!