Almost Vegan: Five Easy Ways to Add More Plants to Your Plate and Your Palate

woman eating corn on the cob

Forks holding various fruits and veggies

So, the new Netflix doc, What the Health, has everyone scrambling to reconfigure their fridges into a meat-free zone. But going full vegan can be intimidating and may not be for everyone. What is for everyone? Getting more fruits and veggies into your life (unless you’re a manatee–those guys, hundred percent veg). Eating more produce is a preventative, delicious choice.

Netflix documentary What the Health

Because we’re wired to lean into convenience and pleasure, it’s most beneficial to make this lifestyle/health/beauty choice as convenient and pleasurable as possible. Instead of going full tilt and getting frustrated, here are some strategies for a gentle change.

Young woman shopping in a farmer's market

Hit the Farmer’s Market

If you go, you’ll get inspired. More than folksy and Instagramable, the reality of buying produce in season will change you. When what you eat is ripe and in-season, don’t be surprised if your life follows suit. Also, your tastebuds will thank you. Perfect tomatoes in summer, fresh fennel in fall. Remember: if it grows together, it goes together, so pair wine accordingly. Grab a freshly cut bouquet and this will be your new favorite beauty ritual. To find one nearest you, click here.

Piles of assorted whole grains

Grab Grains

Find a grain you like, and work with it. Can you make friends with quinoa/brown rice/bulgar, because these can become the basis of your meals. Whole grains like these are great for creating one-pot dinners. Think crock pot lite. Tweak a risotto recipe. Add herbs (the fresh ones you got from the farmer’s market) veggies, grain, beans, toss, and you’re set. Who knew cilantro-lime-scallion-quinoa could be so delicious and chic? As the documentary suggested, fiber is more of a concern for most of us than protein. With 17-27 grams of fiber per cup in quinoa, you’re in great shape.

A hearty bowl of healthy vegan chili

Sip Soup

Studies show that having a vegetable soup or broth before meals decreases appetites (talk about a great strategy to shed the extra lbs!). Why? Filling up on fresh stuff shifts the desire for processed stuff. Gazpacho or cucumber bisque for summer. Butternut squash for fall. Remember, your blender is your friend.

Assorted vegan protein sources like beans, nuts, and greens

Trust You Can Get Enough Protein That Isn’t Animal Sourced

Despite high protein trends, we aren’t cave people. The average woman needs only 46 grams of protein a day, and it doesn’t need to be animal sourced. Seeds, beans, nuts, lentils (9 grams per half cup), all pack a protein punch. Not to mention under the radar sources like… actual vegetables! Spinach (cooked) has five grams per cup. Artichoke, four grams, green peas, eight grams per cup. Your nutrition essentials are out there, and, surprise, they’re green.

Woman shopping in farmer's market and smelling fresh mangoes

Your Mind: Think Of It As “Vegan For Now” 

Ahh…that internal voice that might suggest you’re being deprived. Hush it up by focusing on the beauty of the foods you’re adding. Splurge on the arugula, grab a savory tahini, seduce your senses with new and exciting additions. Even if you only manage to cut meat consumption down by a quarter and add a bounty of broccoli, you’re doing yourself and your colon a favor. You may need some tenderloin, but probably not a burger a day. Skip the judgement, go for the joy. See how your body feels, evaluate what’s manageable. It’s part time vegan, full time benefits.

–Written by Amy Turner