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February’s Tiny Change: Eat More Plants

by Elise Museles

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If you’re just joining us, this post is part of the year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month we’re implementing one super small, super doable change—over a year it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges. (Did I mention that there are lots of theme-related GIVEAWAYS each month?! Read on!)

Did you read the title of this post and immediately start nudging your mouse towards the ‘back’ button? Did you internally cry, “you’ll pry my ice cream from my cold, dead hands, Elise!”

If that was your response (and you’re still reading), two things:

1. Wait—hear me out!
2. I promise you can still keep your ice cream. (If you want to get adventurous, you should try my version. Hint, hint.)

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the health benefits associated with eating a plant-based diet. It can reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, and add years to your life. Food experts and nutritionists have disagreed about a lot of things over the years—the role of fat, the benefits and drawbacks of animal protein—but amidst these debates, they have always been able to agree on at least one thing: MORE PLANTS = GOOD.

This month’s tiny change is just that—tiny. I’m asking you to add more plant-based foods and recipes to your cooking repertoire. If you’re already eating a largely plant-based diet, wonderful! Try something new and interesting like DIY nut milk. If you’ve yet to dip your toe into plant-based cooking, start easy with something like chia seed pudding.

And this isn’t about deprivation; I’m not suggesting that you eat less of anything. In fact, this month is about adding—we’re adding more vibrant colors to our meals, more nutrients, and more variety to our plates. If a few of those delectable plant-based dishes edge out less-than-healthy foods, that’s just a bonus! Focus on adding, not replacing or removing.

Here are five ways you can make this tiny change easy and awesome!

1. Incorporate these plant-based foods into the way you already eat

The best thing about plant-based foods? You can fold them into absolutely any eating style—they’re totally inclusive! Eating Paleo? Stay energized throughout the day with my homemade apricot vanilla cashew bars. Vegetarian? Throw together my favorite dinner bowl. Gluten-free? How about my blueberry bliss smoothie bowl or immunity soup. Locavore or seasonal eater? Next time you’re at the farmers’ market, pick up whatever’s on sale, then hop on Google and search for a delicious, plant-based recipe featuring the healthy ingredient you just purchased.

If you’re accustomed to eating with intention and discretion, adding more plant-based dishes will actually be really easy for you!

2. View this as an opportunity to experiment with new recipes + types of food
Consider this a little nudge to explore new cookbooks (like mine!) or make reservations at a new restaurant. Asian, Indian, and Ethiopian cuisines include lots of plant-based dishes, many featuring interesting spices and flavor combinations our Western palates have never encountered.

Instead of trying to plant-i-fy one of your favorite dishes, why not try something totally different—like coconut curry soup or lemony quinoa with spinach and pine nuts? We’re much more likely to enjoy a recipe (and make it again) if we eat it with an open mind … rather than thinking “Well, this was much better when I made it with a whole stick of butter.” This tiny change gives you the perfect excuse to push  yourself toward easy experimentation and more adventurous eating.

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3. Know that this isn’t just about smoothies and salads
I love a good green smoothie as much as the next person, but there are tons of luscious, decadent plant-based foods out there. In fact, if you want to try just one new plant-based recipe a week this month, how about PB & J oatmeal, grilled avocado with quinoacookie dough balls, and chocolate avocado mousse? How easy and delicious is that?! Plant dishes can be sweet, savory, warm, chilled, fill just about any meal niche and satisfy just about any craving.

4. Swap in one plant-based dish for one meat or dairy dish

Rather than overhauling your entire meal, try just swapping one dish. Munch on a batch of  homemade veggie burgers and baked sweet potato fries for your Friday night Netflix marathon. Use DIY cashew milk in your smoothie. Make guac-kale-mole instead of french onion dip. Serve white bean vegetarian chili at your Superbowl party.

Just one tiny swap at a time; you’ll be amazed how easy it is to eat more plants!

5. Choose plant-based dishes when you’re eating out or grocery shopping
Now, you know I’m a huge advocate of DIY-ing our food, but I also realize that most of us are short on time and long on obligations. Who among us hasn’t picked up dinner on the way home from a hectic day?

Remember, there are a surprising number of plant-based options at your local grocery store, and maybe even your favorite restaurant. Grab a tub of guac, baba ganoush, hummus or even black bean dip. Check out the salad bar for freshly prepared veggies, grains and plant-based proteins to add to a bed of greens.

When you’re eating out, soups, salads, and vegetarian entrees are often plant-based or can be ordered with cheese and dairy-filled dressings and sauces on the side. Many menus will have a little symbol that indicates veggie or vegan dishes, and restaurants are often more than willing to make accommodations for nutritional needs. You can always stick to cuisines you know will have lots of plant-based options—you’re more likely to get a plate brimming with veggies at a Middle Eastern restaurant than at a burger joint.

See? Surprisingly easy! And delicious!

Because I’m a big believer in the power of plants, I want to give you some tools to fill up your plate with as many colors and nutrients as possible. To help kickoff this tiny change, I’m giving away amazing prizes all month on Instagram. Think: superfood enhanced protein powders from Sprout Living, 3 days worth of organic plant-powered meals delivered to your doorstep from Sakara Life (!), a deck of innovative smoothie recipes & tips from Deckopedia, decadent bars of organic superfood raw chocolate from Not Your Sugar Mamas, copies of my book Whole Food Energy with 200 (!) plant-based recipes…and more!

So, crack open you cookbooks or browse through my recipe archives and find some intriguing and colorful dishes to add to your table! You’ll be amazed by how simple it is to eat more plants. And the best part? This easy, delicious tiny change can set you on the road to a healthier heart, longer life, and happier body!

Now it’s your turn: how do you fill up your plate with plants? Share your tips & strategies below. Let’s inspire one another!

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