If you’re looking to boost your health, eat whole-food plant-based meals as often as possible.
If you’re a sworn carnivore, you may not be able to imagine a world in which meatless meals are satisfying. But if you give it a try, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. Meatless meals, which consist of plant-based foods instead of animal products, can be extremely delicious, while also being full of good-for-you nutrients. That is, as long as you’re replacing the meat in your meals with whole plant-based foods and not processed junk food.
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Plant-based meals are full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This can reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions. The best way to make the most of plant-based meals is to eat an assortment of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. And when it comes to filling your plate, the more colorful, the better, since different colored whole foods deliver different healthy nutrients.
Fiber is a big reason why plant-based meals are so healthy. Fiber helps manage blood sugar levels because it slows the release and absorption of sugar in the blood steam. This can be especially beneficial for people with diabetes or prediabetes. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol by binding to fatty acids and cholesterol so they exit the digestive tract unabsorbed. Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation and keeps you regular. The fiber from plant-based foods also adds bulk to meatless meals, helping you feel full without consuming a lot of calories.
But what about protein, you may ask? Don’t think that just because you give up meat, you won’t get enough protein in your diet. The fact is that many plant-based foods contain protein so you’ll still be able to meet your daily quota of protein even when eating meatless meals.
Here are some protein-rich plant foods to include in your meatless meals (and delicious recipes to make with them!):
Legumes: Black beans, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, chickpeas and lentils are all delicious when added to soups, salads and chili.
Try this meatless meal recipe: Soba Noodle Stir Fry
Whole grains: Some whole grains are packed with protein, such as quinoa, bulgur and barley. Add to soups, stews and salads, or serve as a filling side dish.
Try this meatless meal recipe: Barley Vegetable Ragout
Nut butters: From peanut butter to almond butter, cashew butter and others, you’ll find plenty of protein in these spreads. Enjoy on a whole wheat bagel, add to smoothies or eat with fresh produce like apples, celery or carrots.
Try this meatless meal recipe: Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes
Nuts and seeds: Rich in vitamin E, heart-healthy fats and protein, nuts add crunch and flavor to meals. Stir almonds into oatmeal, add pine nuts to pasta or mix flaxseeds in your smoothie.
Try this meatless meal recipe: Spaghetti with Vegetables and Pine Nuts
Hummus: There is a variety of flavors available in store-bought hummus or it’s easy to make your own. Just add chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon and olive oil to a small food processor and blend.
Try this meatless meal recipe: Veggie Wrap
Peas: Fresh, frozen or canned, peas contain protein in addition to fiber and other nutrients and are a great addition to plant-based meals. Add peas to pasta, soup or stew or just enjoy them on their own.
Try this meatless meal recipe: Risotto Primavera