Plant-based eating is on the rise for good reason. Not only is eating less meat and more fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes good for the environment — it could also improve your health. A plant-based diet has been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, plant foods are where the majority of our dietary fiber comes from, a nutrient many Americans fall short on, and one which is key for promoting satiety and gut health.
While you don’t have to forgo your favorite holiday turkey or ham dish, you can benefit from adding more plant-based options to the table. If you’re looking for some inspiration, try these six festive ideas:
Including more fruits and vegetables in your breakfast is easier than you think, and baked oatmeal offers a delicious blank slate. Add pumpkin, butternut squash or apples, or use this vegan baked oatmeal as a base and add your favorite holiday toppings. For example, cranberry and pomegranate seeds combine to make a delicious sweet and tart baked oatmeal. Or, if you prefer your oatmeal a little thicker, try this sweet, spice-roasted butternut squash oatmeal topped with omega 3-rich walnuts.
If you’re looking for an aesthetic and nourishing dish for the table, consider Hasselback sweet potatoes, regular white potatoes or butternut squash. Dress it up with pomegranate seeds or cranberries for a holiday flare. We also love this lower sugar sweet potato casserole for a shared dish.
Another nutrient-dense option for mashed potatoes is to prepare a blend of mashed cauliflower and mashed potatoes; replace the cream with non-dairy yogurt or a plant-based butter.
Roasting vegetables with your favorite spices is an easy way to elevate a side dish. For example, take Brussels sprouts and diced squash and season them with olive oil, a little maple syrup, salt and pepper. Cinnamon-Maple roasted vegetables are delicious in a salad or as a side. You can also serve roasted veggies over your favorite grain, like farro, bulgur or quinoa and add a plant-based protein to make a mix-and-match grain bowl. Add rosemary for extra holiday flavor, or dress it with homemade cranberry sauce.
Soups and stews can also be a great way to up your plant intake. Consider blending, pureeing or cubing butternut squash for soups or chilis. Or, make a stew with grains or pulses, such as this slow cooker turmeric lentil stew. For a vegan option, try creamy roasted cauliflower soup, which gets its delicious texture from oat milk.
Branch out this year with fruit and veggie-inspired stuffing recipes, like this cauliflower-sage stuffing. Consider fun and flavorful fruits or veggies in your stuffing, like dried fruit, nuts, cranberries or crunchy, tart Granny Smith apples. Tofu, tempeh, or even a plant-based chorizo can also add more protein to your stuffing creations.
Don’t forget about dessert, which can definitely be part of a well-balanced diet. We love these mini sweet potato pie bars for portion-controlled treats. To make an easy chocolate-based dessert, melt chocolate, pour it onto a waxed-paper lined cookie sheet, and top with your favorite nuts or fruits. We love this dark chocolate almond bark and seedy bark, both of which include healthy fats.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be all or nothing — even avid carnivores can benefit from adding more veggies, fruits and whole-grains to their diets. Get creative with spice blends this season to elevate plant-based dishes and add more variety to your diet. Doing so helps keep healthy eating exciting, so it’s sustainable long term.
Discover hundreds of healthy plant-based recipes via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.