"Meatless Mondays" may sound like a challenge, and going vegetarian may seem overwhelming, but adapting to a plant-based diet doesn't have to be difficult.
I believe trying to change your entire diet at once can be a recipe for disaster. It can be too much for many people to maintain. Adapting your diet to a higher focus on produce is a process that is patient-controlled and centered on what works best for your life and your desires.
Eating a plant-based diet - one that leans more heavily on fruits and vegetables - has been linked to many health benefits, including:
The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research both recommend eating mostly plant-based diets to help prevent cancers. The World Health Organization and the United Nations promote diets high in plant-based foods for health.
I like to either pick one meal a day to focus on or look at what you are currently eating and try to start switching out plant-based options.
The easiest meal to start with is breakfast. Some easy options can include
For those very adventurous people, I often advise lightly cooked kale or greens with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
What if you're not ready to go completely meat-free? Easy substitutions can make a difference. I am currently using this method with my meat-loving husband. He loves tacos, and by experimenting I was able to find that he loves nonfat refried-bean tacos almost as much as turkey tacos. Again, baby steps are fine.
Quick ideas for adapting family favorites:
I would not give up everything you love at once. For example, cutting back on cheese, which is not plant-based, is always advisable but not necessary.
Any increase in plants in your diet will increase your health, lower your cholesterol and may help you lose weight! Take a baby step or take the leap.
(all-vegan or half-way there)
Tofu contains large amounts of water and needs to be pressed for best recipe outcome. After removing the tofu from the package, wrap in kitchen towels and place several books on top to press out water. This process takes about 15 minutes. Tofu presses are available online.
Tortillas can be toasted in a pan sprayed with canola oil to get some color on them.
Crumble pressed tofu with your hands until it looks like scrambled eggs. Lightly spray pan with canola oil and heat to medium. Add tofu. The heat will help to remove more water. Add onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric and taco seasoning until tofu is heated through and seasonings are mixed it.
Black or refried beans can be heated in bowl in microwave.
To assemble,place tortilla on plate. Top with choice of beans, then tofu scramble. Then add tomato avocado, and onion if using. Salsa can be added now. If desired, add cheese, sour cream and cilantro.
Best eaten with knife and fork.
There are vegan cheeses and sour cream, but they can take time to get used to. It's OK to use regular cheese and sour cream if you are new to plant-based cooking. It may make the transition easier. Any addition of beans and tofu to your diet is a great start!
By Victoria Othersen, DO
Franciscan Physician Network Beech Grove Family Medicine