I am plant-based at least 3 to 4 days a week. But what does this mean? Am I vegetarian? Am I vegan? Those can be scary words especially if you are thinking of trying a new routine that involves eating less meat and fish. Being plant-based means I avoid eating meat and fish a couple of times a week. Instead, I eat only fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans) and grains.
Being plant-based has really worked for me because I eat a much larger variety of foods than if I only ate meat. I also noticed a big increase in energy levels. Plus, it has made me healthier. For example, the first year I started eating plant-based I had a 20 point drop in my cholesterol levels. My cholesterol levels weren't high to begin with but I was blown away that by simply making a few dietary changes I could impact my health.
While I am very lucky, I have only a few ailments I've had to manage in my life, such as borderline high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and cancer prevention, there are a lot of health benefits that a plant-based diet can help.
IMPROVES GUT HEALTH
If you have a specific gut health disorder, such as Chron's, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Colitis or you just know something is off with your digestive tract, moving towards a plant-based lifestyle will help heal the gut. Plant-based lifestyles are high in fiber. Eating fiber promotes a more diverse microbial system through the process of fermentation, which is how the healthy bacteria in our guts eat fiber. (Source: Healthline)
This translates into a lot of good bacteria helping our gut to stay healthy. Plant-based meals also help promote healthy and routine bowel movements. This is important because if your aren't have a daily bowel movement, waste and toxins are accumulating in your body instead of being eliminated.
LOWERS THE RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
Does cardiovascular disease run in your family? Are you showing signs of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or shortness of breath? Switching to a plant-base diet can help you reduce your risk of having a cardiovascular event.
A study showed that participants who had the highest intake of plant based foods were 16% less likely to have a cardiovascular condition — such as a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure — when the researchers compared them with adults who consumed the smallest amount of plant based foods. (Source: Medical News Today)
PREVENTS TYPE 2 DIABETES
Diabetes is so prevalent in our society that even children are being diagnosed with it. This is quite disturbing because Type 2 Diabetes is totally preventable! The choices we make everyday as part of our lifestyle can actually contribute to getting diabetes. Eating processed foods that spike our blood sugar and do not supply key nutrients reduces our bodies ability to stay healthy.
Studies have shown that lifestyles based on whole plant foods not only maximize protective foods, but they also exclude key animal-based foods that tend to promote insulin resistance, particularly processed and unprocessed red meat. (Source: NIH) By simply reducing the amount of processed foods, including red meat, we help our bodies avoid blood sugar spikes and help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
How do you start eating a plant-based lifestyle? Start slow with eating at least 1 plant-based dinner per week. This will help you adjust to shopping for groceries that support a plant-based lifestyle and make the new dinner routine become part of your life. Also, decide what day of the week makes the most sense for your schedule to have a meat-less meal.
The Meatless Monday initiative is a great way to start. But if that day does not work for your schedule, pick another day of the week. In my house, we typically have a meat-less meal Wednesday's or Thursday's. It all depends on our schedule. Remember, being plant-based does not mean you are cutting out meat or fish entirely. It simply means you are making a conscious effort to eat more vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains instead of meat.
Below are 10 plant-based dinners. Some that can be made ahead of time so all you have to do is heat and eat. Others can be made within 30 minutes making them a perfect weeknight meal when you need something quick.
Below are 10 plant-based dinners to try. Most of them make enough to have left-overs for lunch! I love when that happens.
Creamy Broccoli Pasta from Hurry The Food Up. This recipe comes together in 25 minutes and uses cream cheese for the creaminess. I would make this even faster by using organic frozen broccoli. It is pre-cut and heats up fast. Click here for the recipe.
Kale and Chickpea Stew from Naturally Ella. I would make this over the weekend and then heat and eat. This recipe makes a perfect leftover lunch as well. Click here for the recipe.
30 minute Vegetarian Chili from Belle of the Kitchen. Chili is an easy and hearty meal. Especially during holiday season. A lot of the canned vegetables and beans called for in this recipe can be purchased organic. Click here for the recipe.
Brown Rice Stir-Fry with Vegetables from Simple Vegan Blog. Stir-fry is an easy dish for busy weeknights. You can either make this over the weekend or pre-chop the veggies on the weekend so all you have to do is cook them. Click here for the recipe.
Roasted Cauliflower Enchiladas from Gimme Some Oven. This is a unique way to make enchiladas healthier. Cauliflower is a dense vegetable that makes a great substitute for meat. Frozen cauliflower would work with this recipe since there is a sauce used. Click here for the recipe.
One Pot Vegetarian Spaghetti from Family Food on the Table. This spaghetti uses mushrooms and spinach with tomatoes to maximize veggie content. Click here for the recipe.
Broccoli Quinoa Skillet from Well Plated by Erin. This skillet recipe incorporates beans to add more substance to the dish. I find quinoa to be very light in texture which may make you feel like you have to eat more to get full. Adding the beans makes the dish hearty. Click here for the recipe.
Crispy Gluten-Free Eggplant Parmesan from Minimalist Baker. This version of a classic Italian dish is vegan. But if you can't live without using an egg, go ahead and make the substitution. The key here is that there isn't meat in the dish! Click here for the recipe.
Crock-pot Mexican Stuffed Peppers from Happy Healthy Mama. This is a great fix it and forget recipe. Cook it on slow in the crock-pot for 3 and 1/2 hours, leaving you time to do something else! Click here for the recipe.
Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice from A Couple Cooks. This is the easiest recipe and it reheats perfectly. Serve with a green salad to get more veggies into dinnertime. Click here for the recipe.
I hope this post inspired you to serve more plant-based dinners to your family. If you make any of them, don't forget to tag me on Instagram as @heather_lee_donahue and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag. I love seeing your takes on the recipes I share!
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