We all know that we're supposed to be eating more plants: preferably fresh (or fresh frozen) fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Looking at the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, we see that we should be focusing on a whole foods, plant-based diet and limiting fats (even healthy ones) and animal proteins. However, sometimes it seems easier said than done. Our food culture is built around meat and cheese. Nowhere is this more evident than the American restaurant (even many of the ethnic ones). When was the last time you saw a menu where most, if not all, of the meals were heavy on the meat and cheese and light on the plants (if there are any at all - french fries don't count). Then, think about how the plants were prepared. Were they fried? Mixed with butter, cream, and/or sugar? My husband calls sweet potatoes dessert since they are usually covered with butter and brown sugar. We find it difficult to find a restaurant that prepares meals consistent with the way we eat at home. So, we usually stay home. It's healthier and easier on the budget. Also, with a little bit of prep work, dinner can be quick and easy.
One way our household has increased its intake of plants is to start our meals with salad. With the end of summer, it's harvest time for
zucchini, summer squash (okay these have been with us for a while),
cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The cooler temps bring the
return of lettuces and spinach. When I go shopping, I stock up on many wonderful salad foods. At home, I prep the vegetables for salad use. I put each vegetable in a storage container and place them in the refrigerator (except the tomatoes). I even cleaned out and organized my fridge so that the salad ingredients have their own shelf - no searching the fridge or food getting lost.
Now, before we dig into the main course, we set out the containers and create our own salad bar. This way we start our meal with a serving or two (or 3!) of fresh plants.
I have also prepped some vegetable slices for those inevitable snack attacks or for anyone who has not learned to appreciate a good salad. A mentor of mine once shared that after school she would put out a vegetable tray for her kids to snack on. They could snack all they wanted. It didn't matter if they "spoiled their dinners" because they were eating healthy.
If any of your vegetables are around for a couple of days, before they get too old, transfer them (if necessary) to a freezer-safe container and put them in the freezer. With winter coming, you'll appreciate having prepped vegetables ready for soup, which can replace the fresh salad as your meal-starter.
I hope this helps you on the path to a more whole foods, plant-based diet. Enjoy!
Shopping Tip: Be sure to check out your local
farmer's market to see what's available fresh in your area. Usually fresh produce at the farmer's market is picked that morning (instead of days or more ago, artificially ripened, then shipped). You can't get any fresher unless you pick it out of your own backyard (another great idea). Also, it's good
to get to know and support your local farmers. You will know who grew
your food, how it was grown (feel free to ask), and you'll be supporting
your local economy.