3 Easy Swaps for a Delicious Plant-Based Meal

The thought of changing up your diet can be daunting, even when you are aware of the many benefits a whole food plant-based diet has to offer. Let’s face it. We’re such creatures of habit that we’re not always open to the challenge of trying new foods or creating alternate ways of preparing old favorites, especially those we grew up eating. We often become skeptical that trading our coveted meat and dairy dishes for a plant-based meal option could be even remotely appealing to our taste buds.

You may have some concerns that may be holding you back from venturing out into the wonderful world of plants. You don’t want to give up the things that make eating so enjoyable, like flavor, aroma, texture, and mouthfeel. Well, I’m happy to report that you don’t have to!

You don’t want to break the bank by purchasing expensive and hard-to-find nutritious foods, either. Surprisingly, wholesome plant-based foods are less costly and more prevalent than you may think. And you certainly don’t want to spend excessive time in the kitchen creating labor-intensive dishes. Good news! You don’t have to!

While these are all legitimate concerns, here’s where you get to take a long, slow, healing breath and be rest assured that transforming a traditional animal-based meal into a delicious plant-based one can be as easy as 1-2-3.

chickpea rotini - plant-based meal

Let’s begin with a popular favorite, like pasta with meat and cheese sauce, and give it a makeover with these 3 health-promoting swaps.

  1. Replace traditional wheat pasta for a bean or lentil pasta, such as chickpea rotini. The only ingredient is chickpea flour, which provides a convenient means of sneaking beans into your diet. The buzz these days is all about strengthening the microbiome, which improves our immunity. And beans, along with other plant-derived foods, provide the food for all those trillions of bacteria that inhabit our gut.
  2. Swap the meat for tempeh, a wholesome soy product made from fermented soybeans, and can be found in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section. Tempeh gives that toothsome texture we all crave and gives you something wholesome to really sink your teeth into. It is known for its firm texture and earthy flavor.
  3. Pass on Parmesan and swap it out for nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast that is a significant source of some B-complex vitamins. Nutritional yeast imparts a dairy-free “cheesy” flavor that you can easily add to your favorite marinara sauce. The current recommendation by some health care practitioners, one of which is Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (New York Times Best Selling author of Eat To Live and most recently Eat for Life) is to choose a non-fortified brand to avoid folic acid that is frequently added to many brands.

That takes care of your 3 easy swaps to turn it into a plant-based meal! To bump up the flavor and cancer-fighting power of this dish, add chopped onion, garlic, broccoli, and mushrooms, and in a matter of minutes you’ll end up with a sumptuous meal that resembles an old favorite in texture and taste while being loaded with health- and immune-building plants!

Building stronger immunity is what’s on everyone’s mind these days, and increasing our consumption of wholesome plant-based meals may reduce our risks of illness and chronic disease. Creating a plant-based meal can be as easy as swapping out low-nutrient ingredients for whole plant sources that are naturally high in micronutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fiber.

You don’t have to sacrifice taste when eating plant-based foods. With so much flavor and an endless array of options, you’re likely not to even miss the meat or dairy. Plant-rich meals like this one can be easy to prepare, inexpensive, and surprisingly tasty.

This might be just the right time, and meal, for you to explore a new take on an old favorite and begin to shift your palate toward plants. Be prepared. It might just be love at first bite!

Want more on nutrition? Check out Leslie Stein on IG @lesliestein.lifestyle and on Twitter @absforeverfit

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