It’s little surprise that the foods we eat impact our environment.

Whether it be high food miles, large amounts of water or chemicals used to produce the food, land degradation caused by food production, or resources used to process and package the food and transport it to market, the choices we make when it comes to our diet can make a lasting impact on the world in which we live.

The good news that by making a few small changes to our diet and including more plant-based foods, we not only improve the health of the environment, we improve our own health at the same time!

In this blog episode I share 5 simple ways to increase your intake of plant-based foods.

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What Are Plant-Based Foods?

Plant-based foods are foods that, not surprisingly, originate from a plant. A wholefood diet rich in plant-based foods would include many fruits, vegetables, tubers (root vegetables), whole grains (eg brown rice), legumes (eg chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans) and nuts and seeds.

This contrasts to a diet rich in animal products like meat, dairy, and seafood, or a diet high in processed foods such as packaged cereals, biscuits, and cakes.

 

Why is it important to eat more plant-based foods in our diets?

Firstly, there’s no denying that plant-based foods are SO good for us.

Vegetables alone are powerhouses of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fibre, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C. These vitamins have a multitude of health benefits from aiding iron absorption and keeping eyes and skin healthy, to providing a feeling of fullness and reducing constipation.

Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits has been reported to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers.

In addition seeds and nuts contain healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are essential to health by managing inflammation and maintaining the normal structure of every cell in our bodies.

Legumes are a rich source of protein, fibre, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.

The benefits of including whole grains such as brown rice in your diet are well documented and include a reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease plus better weight maintenance.

So there is compelling evidence on the benefits of including more plant-based foods in our diet for our health.

Secondly….. plant-based foods have a much lighter impact on the environment…..especially if grown locally and organically.

Fruits and vegetables are also so easy to grow yourself. You can get started with just a small herb garden on your windowsill or if you’re feeling more adventurous, a small kitchen garden.

Many members in my Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs community are now enjoying regular homemade meals made from fresh produce they’ve grown themselves….and for many of them this was a dream just four months ago!

5 Simple Ways To Include More Plant-Based Foods In Your Diet

Including more plant-based meals in your diet is not about becoming vegetarian or vegan…. although if that appeals to you, rock on sister. It’s about increasing the portion of plant-based foods in your meals and reducing your intake of processed foods and factory-farmed meat products.

If you do choose to eat meat, make an effort to source meat from a farm that employs regenerative farming practices and check out my tips on how to smarten up your meat consumption here.

But in the meantime, here’s 5 Ways to include more plant-based foods in your diet:

1. Make your own dips.

Popular dips like tzatziki and hummus are so quick and simple to make and can be enjoyed with raw veggies like carrot and celery sticks.
 

2. Smuggle veggies into traditional meat dishes

Smuggling veggies like grated zucchini and carrot into dishes like meatballs, rissoles, and bolognaise packs a nutritional punch and more often than not goes totally unnoticed by other family members. Rolled oats and boiled brown rice are also great at bulking out meat dishes like rissoles and meatloaf.
 

3. Use vegetables as a substitute for other ingredients

Switching zoodles (zucchini noodles) or spaghetti squash for pasta, or using pumpkin slices instead of pasta sheets in lasagne, is a clever way to up your veggie consumption.
 

4. Add a dose of seeds and nuts to every meal

Tossing a tablespoon of raw (activated) seeds or nuts on your salad or steamed veggies is a fantastic way to increase your plant-based protein and fatty acid intake.
 

5. Swap out meals entirely

If you’re ready to take it a step further than smuggling, substitution, and adding more plant-based foods to your meals, try swapping out some meals entirely with a plant-based meal. Meat Free Monday is a great place to start… or you can stretch it further and have a Meat Monday and Meat Free rest of the week! How far you take it is up to you!

Tips To Get Children To Eat More Plant-Based Foods

Now I’m far from a perfect parent but I’m pleased to report that our kids eat vegetables every single day. But saying that, they’ve never really had a choice because I serve up veggies every single day.

It’s usually a big bowl of steamed mixed vegetables in the middle of the table, but it can also be a salad. Either way, veggies alone make up a large portion of their meal.

I strongly believe consistency in the key here. Just serve them up. Every. Single. Day.

If you’re starting out in this department, dish up the veggies you know they’ll try and slowly add in some new ones, ensuring that they eat a rainbow of colours every meal.

I also think walking your talk and eating them yourself is important. If you want your children to eat more plant-based foods, guess what you have to do?

Eat them yourself!

Being a role model in this department will go a long way to your kids following suit!

Thirdly, I’ve found that my children are much more inclined to eat their vegetables if they’ve played a part in growing them or cooking them. Like us, they get a lot of pride from planting, nurturing, harvesting, and cooking their own food. So, involve your children in the process and you may be surprised that getting them to eat veggies isn’t so hard after all!

Throughout January I challenged my Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs community to “Veg Out” and introduce more veggies and plant-based foods to their family’s diets and I’ve been blown away with the response.

Here’s a snap-shot of some of the meals they’ve been making for their families (plus some home-grown veggies grown by some new green thumbs in the community). Don’t they all look delicious!!!

Margherita Pizza – Nicole Cordeiro

Raw Pad Thai – Ngarie Humphrey

One lucky challenge winner will take home two veggie spiralisers, valued at over $100, from our generous sponsor Biome Eco Stores.

Monthly challenges and LIVE chats are just one of the perks of being a Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs member. Improved health and well-being, lower grocery bills and the increased pride and satisfaction that comes with living a simpler, more meaningful life are many of the other perks.

If you’d like to join me and my amazing and growing Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs community you don’t have much longer to do so as I’ll be closing the doors this Thursday 2nd February for several months.

Click here to check it out.

So if creating a more sustainable home is on your TO DO list in 2017, NOW is the time to get on board. Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs really is the best club out there to help you to eco-fy your lifestyle and do your bit to help make green mainstream.

 

 

Laura

Laura

Laura Trotta is one of Australia’s leading home sustainability experts. Fusing her professional expertise as an environmental engineer with the down-to-earth pragmatism that comes from being a busy mum, Laura is an eco thought leader who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Laura

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