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Tips for eating more plant proteins
Plant foods are full of the kinds of fiber and nutrients that may help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic illnesses. They also can help maintain a healthy weight.
The New American Plate guidelines from the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend filling at least two-thirds of your plate with plant foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruit and legume beans, and the remaining third with animal- or plant-based protein.
Nuts; nut butters; seeds; green peas; edamame; quinoa; lentils; legumes, such as garbanzo, kidney, black, pinto or cannellini beans; seitan; tofu; tempeh; and nutritional yeast are all whole food sources of plant protein. Processed plant-based meat alternatives ― "meat" balls, burgers, crumbles, "chicken" tenders and "fish" filets ― have come a long way in texture and flavor. But, it's not clear if replacing animal protein with processed plant-based meat alternatives provides the same benefit as whole food plant-based protein options.
To increase whole plant proteins, start with what's familiar:
- If meat has traditionally been the star of a soup, stew, salad, casserole or lasagna, increase ingredients like vegetables, and nuts or legume beans, as the amount of meat is reduced or eliminated.
- Slowly saute onions in olive oil so they develop a brown color and caramelized flavor.
- Increase the amount and variety of herbs, spices and garlic in a dish.
- Look for plant-based protein recipes with familiar sauces that are commonly paired with meat proteins. Buffalo, marinara, barbeque, tikka masala, honey mustard, and sweet and sour sauces all pair well with plant-based proteins.
- Try traditional recipes from Greece, India, Italy, Mexico and across Asia, which include many plant-based proteins.
- Add a heartier texture with mushrooms, jackfruit, eggplant, carrots or artichoke hearts.
- Create savory (umami) flavor by adding dried tomatoes, winter squash (butternut or acorn), mushrooms, sweet potatoes, olives, corn or toasted nuts.
Whether vegetarian or omnivore, anyone can benefit from more plant foods.
Try a new take on chili with this recipe:
WHITE BEAN CHILI WITH JACKFRUIT
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped (or substitute a 4-ounce can of diced green chilies)
2 14-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
16-ounce can jackfruit (packed in brine, not syrup), drained and rinsed*
3 cups vegetable broth
*Remove any seed pods, wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze as dry as possible. Pull fruit into shreds and thinly slice core pieces.
HOMEMADE CHILI SEASONING
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (or real maple syrup)
½ teaspoon pepper
¼–½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder (optional)
Optional additions: 1 cup frozen corn, or large handful chopped kale or spinach.
Optional garnishes: avocado, cilantro, scallions, grated radish, red onion, grated cheese, sour cream or even a drizzle of olive oil.
Instant Pot version
Set instant pot to saute and heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onion and garlic, and fresh poblano, and saute 3 minutes until fragrant. Add canned beans and jackfruit. Add the vegetable broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add all the spices, sugar and salt. Give a stir and set instant pot on high for 10 minutes. Manually or naturally release. Stir in corn and chopped kale, and cover for 5 minutes on warm setting. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in bowls and garnish as desired.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and garlic, and fresh poblano, and saute 3–4 minutes until fragrant. Add canned chilies, canned beans and jackfruit. Add the vegetable broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add all the spices, sugar and salt. Give a stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in corn and chopped kale, and cover and simmer for 5 minutes on low. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in bowls and garnish as desired.
Nutritional information per 1½-cup serving (without additions or garnishes): 277 calories; 6.6 g fat (0.8 g saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 763 mg sodium; 8.3 g fiber; 8.5 g protein.
(Adapted from feastingathome.com)
Susan Leifer is a dietitian in Clinical Nutrition in La Crosse, Wisconsin.