As their name suggests, plant-based diets primarily consist of foods derived from plants – like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. And because they’re linked to a multitude of health benefits (see below), they’re gaining immense popularity.
However, in a society that prioritizes animal-based foods, switching to a plant-based diet can seem difficult and — let’s be honest — unattractive. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re wondering how to include more plants in your diet, you’re in the right spot. Our team has done the research, and now we’re revealing eight clever ways to eat more plant-based food. (Plus, reasons why you should consider it.)
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
So, what is a plant-based diet anyway? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Plant-based eaters primarily consume foods that are sourced from plants. This includes fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
It’s not uncommon for people to confuse plant-based diets with vegan or vegetarian diets. However, they aren’t necessarily the same. People who follow plant-based diets still consume animal-based foods like poultry, beef, eggs, fish, and dairy products. However, they do so in moderation.
While there’s no explicit ratio to follow, aiming for at least two-thirds of your food to come from plants is a great place to start.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
As we mentioned, ample scientific evidence champions the benefits of switching to a plant-based diet:
Supports Heart Health
Animal-based foods contain saturated fats, which contribute to heart issues when consumed in excess. One study found that eating a plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 16% and dying of the condition by 31%.
Aids in Weight Loss
According to a study, the mean BMI for vegans is 23.6, and the mean BMI for non-vegetarians is 28.8 – which is considered overweight. One reason for this is that whole foods and vegetables are relatively low on the glycemic index — which means they’re digested slower. Plus, fruits contain antioxidants and fiber, which promote feelings of fullness.
The Journal of the American Heart Association determined that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of mortality by 25%. Another study found that consuming healthy plant-based foods (versus unhealthier, processed foods) extends that protection by an additional 5%.
Supports Brain Health
Fruits and vegetables are rich in polyphenols, which can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and help reverse cognitive decline. A review of nine studies found that eating an extra 100 grams of fruits and vegetables each day (equivalent to about half a cup) led to a 13% reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Decreases Your Cancer Risk
The American Institute for Cancer Research says that the best way to gain cancer-protecting nutrients — like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals — is to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grain, beans, nuts, seeds, and some animal foods.
Supports the Gut Microbiome
The phytochemicals produced by plant-based foods are beneficial to your gut microbiome. And research suggests that switching to a plant-based diet can help increase the diversity of health-promoting bacteria in your gut.
How to Include More Plants in Your Diet
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of going plant-based, here’s how to include more plants in your diet:
Swap Pasta for Veggie Noodles
From spaghetti squash to zucchini noodles to lentil pasta, veggie noodles are a delicious way to get an extra dose of plants. You can purchase frozen veggie noodles from most grocery stores, or you can make them yourself with a spiralizer or peeler. Then, we recommend topping them off with your favorite pasta sauce and a source of protein.
Make Plants the Main Focus of Your Plate
If you want to add more plants to your diet — but you aren’t necessarily ready to give up meat — you can start by making different plant-based foods the main focus of your plate. If you normally fill half your plate with chicken, grab a smaller piece (that only takes up a quarter of your plate), and fill the rest with brown rice and asparagus or sweet potatoes.
Snack on Fruits and Vegetables
For many of us, snacking accounts for a large portion of our daily intake. And fresh fruits, non dairy yogurt alternatives, and snack mixtures are easy, healthy choices for afternoon snacking. Plus, apples and peanut butter (or another nut butter) are a kid-friendly classic.
Dress Up Your Breakfast
Many of us eat plain bowls of oatmeal or scrambled eggs for breakfast – which are both the ultimate blank canvas. The next time you’re making a scramble for breakfast or dinner, toss in a handful of spinach, mushrooms, and onions. Similarly, every bowl of oatmeal can only be elevated by a handful of fresh berries and nut-based granola.
Sneak Plants Into Smoothies
Smoothies are one of our favorite ways to consume lots of fruit and vegetables. Start with vegetables like beets, avocados, and spinach. Then, add frozen berries, mangos, and plant-based milk.
Pro tip: Add a scoop of collagen to strengthen your bones, hair, and nails.
Opt for Non-Dairy Milk
There are plenty of plant-based milk alternatives on the market. Not only are alternative milks like oat, almond, coconut, and hemp a great way to increase your plant intake, but they’re easier to digest, less acidic, and can be included as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Add Greens to Sandwiches and Wraps
Instead of eating plain turkey sandwiches, spruce up your handhelds with microgreens, spinach, and different plants. Microgreens, specifically, are packed with concentrated nutrients that help manage type 2 diabetes, improve cognition, lower the risk of heart disease, and prevent — as well as possibly reverse — cancer growth.
Use Vegetables to Make Sauces
Whether you’re making homemade marinara or hummus, sauces are an easy way to sneak vegetables in. There’s almost always an opportunity to add garlic, shallots, onions, and ginger. Plus, it’s a great way to incorporate fresh herbs like basil, parsley, dill, and oregano. Not only do these accents boost flavor, but they’re packed with minerals and antioxidants.
How to Include More Plants In Your Diet
There are ample health benefits associated with plant-based diets. And hopefully, after reading today’s article, you’ll find that incorporating more plants into your diet is easier than you think. As long as you eat a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds — as well as some animal-based foods — you’ll be able to nourish your body throughout your day.