The words vegetarian and vegan can be really scary. It conjures up images of eating nuts, seeds and green things but not feeling full. It also conjures up a certain image of what a vegetarian or vegan looks like - someone who is skinny, a free spirit and would never wear leather. But you don't have to classify yourself as vegetarian or vegan if you want to experiment with plant-based meals. In fact, by simply eating plant-based for just one day a week, your health will benefit tremendously.
Here are some of the health benefits of eating plant-based one day a week:
You'll add more fiber to your diet, helping to keep your digestive system moving and eliminating waste in a timely manner.
Your cardiovascular system will benefit since you won't be eating as much saturated fat. This can translate into lower cholesterol levels.
You may lose weight since you'll be bulking up with fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories and high in fiber.
You won't get sick as often since fruits and vegetables will be giving your cells much needed nutrients to keep your body healthy.
With those types of health benefits, why not go plant-based once a week? Now you may be thinking that eating plant-based means only eating salads but that is not true! There are a ton of quick and easy recipes and meal ideas you can use to stay satisfied and not eat meat or fish. In fact, when you start getting into the routine of eating plant-based once a week, you won't even miss meat or fish. It just takes time to incorporate the recipes into your routine. Here is what a typical plant-based day looks like for me:
Overnight oatmeal made with soy milk (I am diary free) and blueberries.
Sliced apple with almond butter.
Cooked vegetables and beans on top of arugula. The vegetables are typically, zucchini, mushrooms, red onions and broccoli. The beans are usually canned chickpeas or white beans.
Vegetable stir-fry over rice. The sauce will vary, either a balsamic reduction, a teriyaki or just spices and coconut oil.
That doesn't seem so hard, does it? There are so many ways to eat plant-based one day a week. Even if you don't cook, there are some great products that you can buy to simply heat and eat. A standard in my house is using frozen organic vegetables. They make cooking simple because they cook quickly and are usually inexpensive.
Here are some other ideas for eating plant-based one day a week and some of my favorite products.
Yogurt mixed with almond butter and a healthy cereal/granola. The yogurt can be dairy or non-dairy, depending on your needs. Cascadian Farms has a variety of organic cereals.18 Rabbits organic granola is grain-free, has very few ingredients and not a lot of fillers. If you don't want to use the cereals as a mix in with yogurt, you can eat them alone with nut-milk.
Instant organic oatmeal. My time is very limited in the morning because I have a long commute and I workout before work. Overnight oatmeal works for me. But if you don't care for it, there are organic instant oatmeal cups that you can take with you for breakfast. Bob's Red Mill, Nature's Path, and Quaker Oats all have instant single serve cups. Perfect for busy mornings.
Chopped mixed fruit with yogurt, almond butter or granola. I love mixed fruit! I make it on the weekends to either snack on during the week or eat as a meal. I combine whatever is seasonal and on sale. This week it was apples, grapes and pineapple. Chopped fruit is easier for me to eat at the office and does take a little planning. But some supermarkets have the fruit already chopped for you if you don't have a lot of time.
Protein bars. There are organic protein bars that can be eaten for breakfast. Orgain is a plant-based protein bar that does not have a lot of sugar and has 10 grams of protein per bar. Another great option for a quick breakfast.
Any organic vegetable soup is a great lunch. You can make it yourself if you have time or buy any of the great brands readily available. I recently tried a soup I found on amazon that can be sipped hot or cold. I try not to microwave any foods since it makes the food harder to digest. So I try to bring lunches to work that can be eaten at room temperature or cold. Fawen is an organic soup that can be sipped either hot or cold. Each container is low in calories but high in nutrients. Some of my other favorite organic soups are Imagine and Pacific Foods.
A favorite plant-based lunch that my significant other likes is a twice-baked potato. I will make this on the weekend, mash the potato, stir in cooked broccoli and spinach and then stuff the potato skins. This lunch is so filling he can only eat half a potato at a time. While he prefers white potatoes, I like sweet potatoes. So I make myself a stuffed sweet potato. I will cook red onions, chickpeas, spinach and broccoli. After cooking the sweet potato, I will slice it in half and top it with the bean and veggie mixture.
Veggie wraps. What I like about wraps is that I can cook the veggies on the weekend, pack them up in a container and simply wrap the veggies in a wrap at lunch. I get a healthy sandwich without a lot of work.
Veggie stir-fry. The most time intensive part of veggie stir-fry's can be the chopping of veggies. You can cut down on the time in two ways: use frozen for some of the veggies or chop up the veggies on the weekend and store them in the refrigerator until you want to use them. Serve over rice or pasta.
Veggie burgers. I rely on veggie burgers when I have had a really long day at work and the commute is hectic. By the time I get home, I really may not want to cook. Veggie burgers cook up in about 15 minutes. I serve them with a veggie side dish like organic canned green beans or corn kernels and a salad. A fast dinner that is satisfying.
Vegetable casseroles. I like making casseroles on the weekend because all we have to do is reheat them during the week. No further thinking required! Below are some classic vegetable casserole recipes.
I hope this post inspired you to start eating a plant-based meal once a week. I started doing this once a week and now I do it 3 to 4 days per week. I find the variety of the foods I eat is so much greater than what it was when I only ate meat. There are so many more vegetable options than meat and fish options, that I have really expanded my cooking routine.
If you try any of the ideas or recipes listed above, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @heatherleehurst and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag. I love seeing your takes on the ideas and recipes I share!
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