I know it’s the time of year when indulgent and decadent foods are upon us around every corner! Sometimes it can be hard to remember healthy eating around the holidays and it’s easy to throw up our hands and surrender; but I’m here to share how fruits and veggies can be just as festive and how plants can still and should be a part of our holiday eating and celebrations!
First, let’s talk about what plant-based eating is, why we should eat a more plant-based diet and how we go about during this.
What is plant-based eating
Eating more plant-based foods doesn’t necessarily mean omitting meat and animal products. This is an eating style where plant-based foods make up the bulk of our plate. Think of them as the centre of our plate and animal products are more the side dish or garnish.
Which foods are considered plant-based?
Fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, plant-based oils.
Why should we eat more plant-based?
- Diets high in plant-based foods have lower rates of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers, and can also lower the risk of inflammation. Remember all chronic diseases are considered inflammatory diseases.
- There are more antioxidants in plants. Antioxidants reverse cell damage, ageing and prevent chronic disease
- More fibre is provided which is important for overall gut health, to help in weight management by promoting satiety and aid in blood glucose control.
How do we begin to eat a more plant-based diet?
- Make half your plate at every meal fruits and vegetables
- Change the way you think of meat; use it as a garnish rather than the centre. Remember 3oz is a serving
- Choose plant-based heart healthy fats
- Cook a plant-based protein at least once per week
- Use whole grains more often
- Build a meal around a salad
- Eat fruit for dessert
What are the different types of plant-based eating?
A flexitarian diet is plant-based, meaning plant foods take centre stage, but allows dieters to incorporate meat and other animal products here and there. It’s great for somebody who is either new to the idea of eating a more plant-based diet or wants to reduce their intake of animal products without going all-in.
A vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat; someone whose diet consists wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs, fish, and/or dairy products.
Types of vegetarianism and definition
Lacto: a plant-based diet with dairy products, but avoid meat, seafood, and eggs.
Ovo: don’t eat meat, seafood, or dairy products, they do eat eggs and products that contain eggs.
Lacto-ovo: vegetarians avoid meat, fish, and poultry, but still eat animal products like dairy and eggs.
Pescatarian: are people who choose to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but who also incorporate seafood as a source of protein (since they don’t eat meat). Many pescatarians also eat dairy and eggs.
Pollo: typically incorporate multiple forms of poultry, like turkey and duck, into their otherwise plant-based diet. While pollo vegetarians avoid other forms of meat, they may or may not choose to incorporate seafood, eggs, and dairy into their diet. It’s really similar to a flexitarian diet.
Vegans strictly eat fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. All animal products which include eggs, milk, cheese, and beef are excluded. Many vegans don’t consume honey as it comes from bees.
Which foods are considered plants?
Fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, oils etc.
How much protein is required per day?
50-60 grams or 0.08-1g per kg of body weight.
Do I need to take a protein supplement if I am plant based?
No, you can get plenty through your diet if you know which foods are proteins. Protein in foods are more bioavailable and when you consume food you are not just getting protein you are getting other nutrients as well.
Which foods are proteins?
Meat, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese yogurt, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh) TVP, whole grains, mycoprotein, nutritional yeast.
What exactly are complementary proteins, and do I need to be concerned about them?
While you probably know that getting the right amount of protein is important, you may not be aware that not all protein sources are created equal. Complement, or complementary, proteins are those that come together to form a high-quality protein source.
Proteins are made up of structures called amino acids. There are a total of 20 amino acids, some of which are essential and some of which are non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that you must consume in your diet because your body cannot make them. Non-essential amino acids are those that your body can produce, so they are not as vital in the diet.
The way the amino acids come together determines what type of protein is made. Proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins, whereas proteins that are missing or low in one or more of the essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins.
- Complement proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together form a complete protein.
- Because most plant proteins are incomplete, finding complementary proteins is especially important for vegetarians.
Beans and rice are an example of complementary proteins. Beans are low in specific essential amino acids that rice provides. Complete proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids. Foods from animal sources, such as meat, eggs and dairy products, are complete proteins. Incomplete protein sources lack one or more of the essential amino acids.
What are some examples of complete proteins that are vegan?
Complete proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids.
- Soy milk
- Soy yogurt
- Pita and hummus
- Rice and beans
- Rice and peanuts
- Bread and nut butter
- Spirulina when combined with grains, oats, nuts, or seeds
- Ezekiel bread
- Nutritional yeast
- Mycoprotein (Quorn) although not always vegan
If I am on a strictly plant-based diet such as veganism, do I need to be worried about getting enough of certain nutrients? If so which ones are they?
Are there vegan foods that have these nutrients in them or is a supplement necessary?
Vegan sources: ground flaxseed, flax egg, chia seeds, walnuts, soy, soybean oil, canola oil, marine algae supplements.
Vegan sources– beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds – pair with foods high in vitamin C to increase iron absorption.
Vegan Sources- beans, legumes, soy, soy products, nuts, whole grains – soaking, sprouting and leavening beans, grains and seeds can also increase bioavailability of zinc. You’d need to eat 50% more zinc rich foods compared to non-vegans due to the plant based forms of zinc.
Vegan Sources- 5-30 min of sunlight exposure without sunscreen between 10am and 3pm twice per week. Please consult your physician on skin cancer risk and consider your skin tone and area of the world in which you live.
Mushrooms exposed to UV light, fortified plant milks, fortified plant yogurts, fortified cereals.
Vegan Sources- fortified plant milks, fortified plant yogurts, fortified plant cheeses, fortified juices, tofu made with calcium sulfate and leafy greens (not spinach and Swiss chard due to oxalate content. This will actually inhibit the body’s ability to absorb calcium)
Vegan Sources- found in fruits and vegetables but is very dependent on the type of soil they are grown in and the fertilizer used. Iodine is also added to iodized salt- however a lot of salt is not required. Processed foods although high in salt don’t typically use iodized salt due to cost. Sea vegetables have excessive levels of iodine and those that regularly consume this should have iodine levels checked to ensure they aren’t getting too much.
Vegan Sources –fortified foods such as plant milks, some soy products, some breakfast cereals and fortified nutritional yeast, fortified meat alternatives.
Bottom Line: Always check the full food label including nutrition facts panel and ingredient list.
Meal examples as a vegan:
- No bake energy balls with nut butter, peanuts, oats, ground flax and chia, maple syrup and vanilla if desired with a side of fruit.
- Muesli with choice of nuts and seeds. Add spirulina and soy milk with a side of fruit.
- Quinoa/oatmeal breakfast cereal with blueberries and unsweetened soy milk. Add nuts and seeds.
- Quinoa salad with almonds, chickpeas, walnuts, raisins, apples, spinach with a raspberry vinaigrette, raw veggies dipped in hummus and mango.
- Pita pocket sandwich filled with grilled tofu, lettuce, tomato, onion, amaranth, hummus and a side of roasted veggies topped with nutritional yeast and choice of fruit.
- Falafel with hummus, quinoa tabbouleh salad, roasted veggies topped with nutritional yeast and a side of fruit.
- Rainbow chilli over brown rice with a side of veggies and fruit of choice.
- Beanito chips dipped in veggie soy dip.
- Soy yogurt with mixed berries, and ground flax seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds.
- Smoothie with unsweetened soy yogurt, unsweetened soy milk, strawberry, papaya and banana.
Now getting back to our holiday eating…
No matter what type of plant-based eating you are practising or even if you aren’t, it is recommended we ALL eat more fruits and veggies and who says fruits and veggies can’t be fun and festive too? I always try to incorporate seasonal colours when I am planning my holiday meals and/or dishes to bring to all my events or for my family to enjoy at home- especially this year! This way I know for sure I will at least have one healthier choice to enjoy! It’s all about that balance and moderation, as I always say!
When I think of the holidays I think of red and green. If you do too, check out these festive options.
Red Produce for the Holidays
Green Produce for the Holidays
Sugar snap peas
Here are some fun and great tasting recipes to try out this holiday season!
5-Ingredient Pear Pomegranate Salsa
Prep: 10 mins
Yield: 3 cups
- ½ cup Cilantro, fresh leaves
- ½ Lime, juice of
- 2 Pears, fresh
- 1 Pomegranate, fresh
- ½ Red onion
Recipe Source: GimmeSomeOven.com
Pomegranate, Pear and Avocado Salad
This pomegranate, pear and avocado salad is full of delicious fresh flavors. And it’s perfect for the holidays!
Prep Time: 15 mins
- 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and roughly-chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 ripe pear, cored and diced
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
- ⅔ cup shelled pistachios
- ⅔ cup crumbled goat cheese (or blue cheese, or feta cheese)
- ½ cup diced red onion (about half of a small red onion)
- seeds from 1 pomegranate (here is a tutorial for how to open and de-seed a pomegranate)
- citrus vinaigrette (see below)
- ⅓ cup orange juice (freshly-squeezed, if possible)
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon honey, if needed to sweeten
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup olive oil
Add all ingredients together in a large bowl and drizzle on the dressing. Toss until combined. Serve immediately. Tip: To prevent the diced avocado from browning while sitting out, toss it beforehand in a few tablespoons of lime or lemon juice.
Whisk all ingredients together for 30 seconds until combined.
Recipe Source: GimmeSomeOven.com
Cranberry Orange Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry orange roasted Brussels sprouts are refreshing and sweet! A great side dish to any holiday meal!
Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 Minutes
- 1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, rinsed
- Juice of 1 large orange
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons honey or agave (agave for vegan recipe)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove any discolored leaves. Cut the sprouts in half if they are large sprouts. If you have small sprouts you can leave them whole.
- In a large bowl, whisk together fresh orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, and honey. Add the Brussels sprouts to the bowl and toss until they are well coated. Pour them on a large baking pan and season with salt and black pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly.
- Put the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and add the dried cranberries. Stir and serve immediately.
Recipe Source: TwoPeasAndTheirPod.com
Here are some other ideas for plant-based holiday foods:
- Fruit/veg tray with hummus
- Fruit kabobs
- Fresh fruit salads
- Fresh salsa – kachumbari
- Baked apples and pears with cinnamon
- Whole grain crackers and tortillas chips as part of a charcuterie board
- Plant-based desserts- Black bean brownies – carrot cake- yogurt parfaits – date cookies
There are so many ways to incorporate these produce items together in new and festive recipes to share with your friends and family!
Happy Holidays! Cheers!