Plant-based foods are becoming more popular lately. This is partly because of the health benefits but also because of concerns about animal welfare and being environmentally friendly. If you’re interested in trying to incorporate more plant-based options this summer but don’t know how to get started, this article is for you. We’ll explore some no-cook meals, how to make plant-based burgers and other tips to make healthy eating easy and exciting.
It can feel too hot in the summer to want to cook in the house. Quick lighter meal ideas include making balanced salads or smoothies. Salads can be nutritious, but if they only include vegetables, they won’t fill you up for long enough to be a main course. A summery black bean and corn salad has beans for a source of protein and complex carbs to keep your energy up. Canned beans are already cooked, so you only need to rinse and drain them before adding them to a salad. For access to the Cooking with Pulses booklet where you can find tasty salad recipes like that one, and for videos on how to make dietitian-approved smoothie recipes, click here. You can also add more plants by substituting cow’s milk for oat or soy milk in smoothies since they also contain protein and calcium.
Another way to eat less red meat is to barbecue some black-bean burgers. Combine a can of black beans with a chopped onion, ½ cup brown rice and ¼ cup bread crumbs. Mix in a blender with 1 tsp each of dried parsley, fennel and paprika, and ½ tsp garlic. Shape into patties then chill for at least 30 minutes. When you’re hungry, brush patties with oil then grill on high heat for 3 minutes per side. Follow this recipe to level up your burger with toppings like pickled onions, chipotle mayo and guacamole. Premade meatless burgers are also available at most grocery stores. Ives frozen veggie burgers from the Independent Grocer in Marathon taste like regular burgers and are a great way to try more plant-based foods.
Getting creative on the grill
A quality meatless meal includes a source of protein, whole grains and some produce. In addition to beans, other meatless sources of protein include soy, nuts and dairy. One way to get creative is to make grilled brie, and serve with toasted whole wheat baguette slices and a side of red peppers and snap peas to crunch on. To prepare the brie, simply drizzle it with olive oil, top with sliced strawberries, then wrap in tin foil and grill on medium-low heat until the cheese is melted. Drizzle a balsamic glaze and sprinkle with toasted walnut pieces and fresh basil before serving. This meal idea also contains some key nutrients that vegetarians sometimes miss in a typical day. For example, olive oil and walnuts contain healthy fats, and dairy is a source of calcium and Vitamin B12.
Plant-based summer meals can vary greatly, from fresh salads to grilled proteins. Some meals may take longer to make than your regular options, however some, like premade meatless burgers, can take less than 10 minutes. Start experimenting; you may find something new and healthy that becomes a household hit!
Michelle Broughton, RD