Did you know October is Vegetarian Awareness Month?
While I don't label myself a vegetarian, I do like to think I eat more of a plant-based diet. I don't love meat and I don't love the way heavy, meat-centered meals make me feel. But every so often, I'm served meat or feel like eating a burger, so I dig in. 'Plant-based' does not have to mean full out vegetarian or vegan. It can mean you eat meat a few nights a week, when you're served it, or maybe even every night just not as the center of the meal.
We've all been told to eat our veggies, and it's true - they have countless health benefits. More and more research has been done on a plant-based diet showing the outstanding health benefits. And while, yes, plant-based may sound trendy, unlike Paleo or Whole30, it has quite a few more (science-based) benefits. See here, here, here, and here.
The main concern people have when adopting more of a plant-based diet is where they will get their protein. While it is a logical concern, meat and animal products are not the only sources of protein in our food supply. Below are a few sources of protein that come from plants.
(peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashew - they're all good choices)
(almond butter, tahini, cashew butter, peanut butter - again, they're all great)
(flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
Black Beans, White Beans, Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, etc.
Even some veggies! (1 cup of cooked spinach has 5 grams)
As I mentioned above, we could all benefit from eating more plants. Here are just 3 benefits of eating a plant-based diet.
1. Weight Management
Vegetarians have a lower rate of obesity. By focusing on lower calorie, nutrient dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to fill you up it is easier to pay attention to your hunger and fullness and feel full on less calories.
2. Improve heart health
Studies have shown lower rates of heart disease (and other chronic diseases) in people who eat a plant-based diet. Plant based diets have also been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Improve gut health
Diets high in animal products have been shown to alter our gut microbiota and contribute to inflammation. Plant-based diets are higher in fiber which works wonders on our digestive track. This Harvard study, showed differences in gut bacteria when consuming a diet high in animal proteins versus a diet mainly comprised of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant-based proteins. Read more about a gut healthy diet here.
It is important to note, that a plant based diet emphasizes plants and whole foods and limits processed foods. Vegetarians whose diets focus heavily on potato chips and other highly processed foods may not reap the same benefits.
And now for the recipe. . . I remember this meal being one of my go-to dinners last summer. I usually have all the ingredients on hand and it can easily be thrown together in just 10 minutes.
for the peanut sauce:
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp hot sauce
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup kale
1/4 cup black beans
1. Prep the peanut sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl. You can also add them all to a blender if that's easier for you. *Note: I don't like spicy foods, this recipe is NOT that spicy. Adjust the hot sauce to taste.
2. Poke holes in the potato.
3. Microwave the potato for about 8 minutes, or until soft. Roll over halfway through, for more even cooking.
4. Slice the potato down the middle. Fill with kale and black beans.
5. Return to the microwave or another minute (or so) to heat the kale and beans.
6. Drizzle the peanut sauce on top and enjoy!
This month's #letberealmeals recipe challenge was Meatless Mondays. Follow along each month, as me and my RD friends make simple, healthy recipe videos to help you make healthy eating easy. All recipes contain no more than 10 ingredients and take no more than 30 minutes to make. If you are a brand or dietitian interested in getting involved, please contact me.