Food and Nutrition

Add These Plant-Based Ingredients and Dishes to Your Rotation for Easy Healthy Eating

Liz Moody

Photo: Getty Images/visualspace; Graphic: W+G Creative
This isn’t your standard New Year’s plan. No restrictive diets, no weekly weigh-ins, no “whole new you” for this new year—because, hey, you’re pretty great already. These four expert-led plans—designed to help you move your body, eat more veggies, get a better night’s sleep, or show yourself some loving care—are all about developing healthy habits that better align with your goals. Get the Program

Welcome to Week 3 of ReNew Year! We're more than halfway through the month and by now, you know what plant-based foods can work in place of meat and have some easy ideas on how to prepare them. Now, it’s time to level-up those groundwork skills to use these plant-based ingredients to make your dishes sing.

This week will focus on using plants in unexpected ways, like using nuts to add texture and cooking with wilted greens (trust me, it will taste great). And don’t get freaked: None of the tips require a ton of time or effort to try out. Ready?

Day 15: Prep soup for the week

Soup is one of the best ways to pack in a ton of plants, and prepping a big batch on the weekend means you’ll have super-fast lunches or dinners ready all week long.

Here are eight plant-based soup recipes to get you started. For extra fun, you can also play around with a remake of one of your favorite take-out soups, like this vegan version of Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup or this quick and easy take on Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana.

Day 16: Wilt some greens to eat way more

Eating lots of vegetables becomes instantly easier when you wilt them—a huge pile of kale or spinach becomes a small handful, and the heat makes the leafy fibers much easier to digest. To wilt your greens, just sauté them over medium heat in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of fine grain sea salt. You’ll be shocked at how much the pile shrinks over five minutes or so!

I like to add onion and garlic powder right before removing the greens from the heat (but you can use any additional spices you like), and then eating them straight. I also use them to add more plants to other dishes I’m eating, like quesadillas (get my recipe here!) or scrambled eggs. It's also the easiest way to use up that bag of spinach in your fridge that's about to go bad.

Day 17: Experiment with citrus to enjoy new flavors

Adding more plants to your plate doesn’t exclusively involve vegetables—this is a time where you can experiment with other parts of plants you haven’t fully appreciated before.

Citrus zest has a ton of health benefits and packs more of a flavor punch than most citrus flesh, with a sweeter, less sour taste. Use it to make everything you eat more exciting and flavorful. Lemon zest with lemon juice adds a lemonade vibe to smoothies (so good with strawberries or raspberries!), and orange zest adds an unexpected delicious kick to this rosemary sweet potato chowder. Lemon zest also can help brighten up roasted or sautéed veggies.

Day 18: Incorporate more nuts for protein and texture

Nuts are an incredible source of plant-based protein and fat, and there are so many more ways you can enjoy them in your food beyond nut butter. I like to keep a stash of nuts and seeds in my fridge, and I use them to up-level most of my dishes: Hummus gets a sprinkle of pistachio dukkah (an Egyptian nut and spice blend) for a satisfying crunch; soups (like what you prepped earlier this week) get some quick toasted, chopped nuts on top for extra texture and flavor. Get creative with what you have on hand!

Day 19: Get funky with fermented food

Fermented food is filled with beneficial bacteria that can support gut health, and they’re also a fantastic way to add different kinds of flavor to your food. Fermented food is also pretty easy to DIY, no matter your cooking skill level. Whether it’s making your own pickles or homemade sourdough bread (yes, that counts as fermentation!), make this day about exploring your options and incorporating your own critter-rich snack into your daily life.

Don’t want to go that far in the kitchen? No worries. Buy some fermented food (there are a ton of options, including this Picaflor hot sauce or these Farmhouse Culture gut shots) and include it in something you're eating or preparing today.

Day 20: Make your own alt-milk

If you want to go totally plant-based, having your own dairy-free milk on hand is key. While there are great options available to purchase, you can also easily make your own with pantry staples.

I have two favorite tricks. One is making a quick hemp milk with hulled hemp seeds and enough water to reach your desired thickness; the other is blending nut or seed butter with your desired amount of water. For both, blend until smooth and add any seasonings you want (vanilla extract, honey, dates, or maple syrup for sweetness), and voilà—instant plant-based goodness! Have it on hand to continue using in your morning beverages and other instances where you’d normally use animal milk.

More of an oat milk person? Here's how to DIY it:

Day 21: Become friends with beans

Beans are a plant-based go-to for good reason. They’re filled with gut-healthy fiber and are a staple amongst long-living Blue Zones inhabitants. You’ll make a chickpea-based snack in a few days that I promise you'll love, but in the meantime, consider bulking out your meals with beans so you can stay happily satiated for way longer.

If you’re making scrambled eggs for breakfast, throw in some black beans. Having a salad at dinner time? Add some white beans for a savory bite. White beans are also amazing for making any pureed soup creamier and far more filling. Try these canned bean recipes for extra inspiration, too.

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