With the new year comes new health resolutions, be it hitting the gym a few times a week or cutting processed sugar out of your diet. It’s important to set goals that are both realistic and achievable, while simultaneously improving your health and well-being. A great way to start is by simply cutting out how much processed food you consume on a daily basis, and replacing these with fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, etc…As our New Year’s gift from us to you, here are 8 simple ways that you can make your diet more whole foods plant-based in 2020. You’ll be surprised by just how easy it can be to redo your eating habits without relying on food fads or dangerous detox diets!
1. Go Heavy on the Fruits and Veggies
One easy way to start incorporating more whole foods into your diet is by adding at least one serving of fruits and/or veggies to every meal, and eating them as snacks instead of potato chips or a candy bar. These colorful gems are jam-packed with both flavor and important nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, potassium, and more! A diet rich in fruits and veggies, in addition to improving overall energy levels and digestion, can also help lower your risk of several diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. You can start simple–for example, instead of eating a bowl of sugary processed cereal for breakfast, try out this Slow Cooker Choco’Nutz Granola topped with a sliced banana. Or instead of munching on French fries for dinner, sample these tasty Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Lime Mayo. The possibilities are endless, so let your imagination run wild!
2. Swap Out Soda for Smoothies
It’s hard to give up soda if you have a sweet tooth, especially in the spring and summer when you crave a cold and refreshing beverage. However, scientific research is practically unanimous on one thing: soda is bad for your health. Drinking it on a regular basis can increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, while also leaching calcium from your bones and destroying the protective enamel on your teeth. So next time you’re yearning for a can of soda, try making a smoothie instead! Smoothies are excellent ways to up your fruit and veggie intake, and are filled with nutrients that will leave you feeling satisfied and full. If you’re new to the smoothie-making game, check out The Ultimate Green Smoothie Cheat Sheet for a great starting guide to creating a delicious and nutritious smoothie. Or, if you’re looking for a protein smoothie, read about these 15 High-Protein Smoothie Recipes, all of which would be an excellent post-workout snack, or even a quick breakfast.
3. Go For Whole Grains
Contrary to what the Atkins diet may have claimed, grains can in fact be good for you, provided you eat the right kinds in their relatively unprocessed form. In other words, sugary cereals and additive-filled crackers and cookies don’t count, despite what the labels might say! Whole grains, however, are packed with nutrients, promote healthy digestion, and may even help prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Some excellent whole grains in include in your diet are brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, millet, buckwheat, and more. For a great summary of the benefits of whole grains, check out The Healthiest Grains to Include in Your Diet, or read Your Guide to Cooking Perfect Whole Grains. You can start out with simple swaps–instead of Froot Loops, eat a bowl of Bananas Foster Oatmeal. Or instead of eating white rice and veggies, try out this rich and flavorful Brown Rice Jambalaya.
4. Stock Up on Spices
Spices are crucial for turning meals from bland and boring to flavorful and filling, and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Whole foods such as grains, legumes, and even certain fruits and veggies can be taken to a whole new level with the addition of spices, and make it easier to start incorporating these foods into your diet. Many spices, such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and garlic, offer up a plethora of health benefits, and can combat ailments such as inflammation, nausea, indigestion, and joint pain. Check out this article to learn even more about the incredible health benefits of herbs and spices. Here is just a brief list of some spices you may want to add to your pantry as you transition into a whole-foods based diet: basil, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chili powder, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, and more!
5. Start Meal-Planning
At the end of a long day, it’s easy to pop a preservative-laden TV dinner into the microwave and call it good, especially when you are too tired or busy to spend hours preparing a meal. However, with a little foresight and planning ahead, you can eat healthy and have time to relax in the evening! Meal-planning may seem stressful or too much work, but it can be easy and flexible if done the right way–and it prevents you from relying on less-than-ideal food choices every day. Read the Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Meal Plans and Themes for some excellent ideas on how to start meal planning. And remember–you don’t have to plan every.single.meal. Maybe make large batches of soup and casserole on the weekend, and use them for lunches or dinners throughout the week, while keeping breakfast simple and fast (smoothies, oatmeal, granola bars, etc…). Most importantly, do what works for you!
6. Learn To Decode Ingredient Labels
All too often, the ingredient label on a box or can looks like something from a chemist’s lab, filled with hard-to-pronounce words that all too often sound completely inedible! This is why it’s important to learn how to read, decode, and understand exactly what those words mean–otherwise, you may end up eating something you’d prefer not to put in your body. One thing to consider is that the first listed ingredient is the biggest–in other words, there is more of that ingredient than anything else. So if the first ingredient is processed sugar, steer clear! Other things to avoid include preservatives, artificial food dyes, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and more. For more information, read Food Labels 101: The Top 10 Ingredients You Need to Know About For Optimal Health.
7. Make Room for Legumes
Loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, legumes are the ultimate health food, and are a must-have for any plant-based pantry. They can be purchased dried or canned, and used as the basis for soups, stews, chili, casseroles, salads, and more! Legumes can help lower cholesterol levels, boost heart health, improve digestion, and build strong muscles due to their high protein content. They are also an excellent source of iron, a nutrient crucial for transportation oxygen throughout the body and boosting overall energy levels. They are quite filling and as a result can help curb cravings for processed food, since you won’t be hungry just an hour or so after a meal. Some great legumes to keep on hand include red lentils, green lentils, black beans, split peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and even soybeans (which are technically legumes as well). For some recipe ideas, check out this article, Celebrate the Year of Pulses With 20 Recipes Featuring Lentils, Beans, Peas, and Chickpeas.
8. Go Nuts for Nuts!
If you’re looking for a healthy snack idea that doesn’t include chips, candy bars, or other processed foods, try munching on a handful of salted and roasted nuts instead. They are filling, nutritious, and satisfying, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors for all taste buds to enjoy. Depending on the kind, nuts are rich in healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, B vitamins, and many more nutrients. Check out this article for even more information on the health benefits of nuts. They can be eaten as-is, added to granola or oatmeal, blended into nut butter, sprinkled onto salads, mixed into desserts, put into trail mix, or even used as the basis for non-dairy cheese! Some good nuts to try out include almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts.
For a related article, check out Less Than $1 Per Serving: These 6 Whole Foods Were Named The Cheapest Ways to Eat Healthy.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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