Incorporating more plant-based foods to reach or maintain your wellness goals? Be mindful that plant-based – or even vegan – certainly doesn’t always translate to ‘nutritious.’ Registered dietitian Molly Kimball has 3 top do’s and don’ts for making the most of plant-forward foods.
1. Scan label for not-so-great stuff: think artificial sweeteners, food dyes, added sugar, preservatives.
Examples of ‘vegan but so not nutritious’ options include Swedish Fish, Oreos, most varieties of vegan cookies and flavored plant-based yogurt, and many veggie chips, just to name a few.
2. Does it contain actual plants?
Products like Impossible or Beyond Burger contain plant-based protein isolate and concentrates, and some potato starch, but no real “veggies” – and most vegan sweet treats have no veggies at all.
If so, WHICH plants?
Are they filled with corn, potatoes and/or rice, or do they contain leafy greens, deep reds, purples, orange and yellows? For example, veggie chips and burgers made with mostly corn, potatoes and rice flours, versus veggie burgers filled with quinoa, black beans, and spinach, or veggie chips made with starchy flours versus real, whole vegetables, dehydrated to be crispy, crunchy.
3. Upgrade your plants if necessary:
- PASTA | Banza or spiralized veggies (think carrots, beets, zucchini) in place of traditional white pasta. Also black bean, lentil or edamame pasta.
- RICE | Cauliflower rice in place of white rice
- CHIPS | Real veggies, cut and sliced – – or whole veggie chips, in place of corn or potato chips
- FRIES | Turnip or eggplant fries instead of French fried white potatoes
- JUICES | Green Fork-style fresh pressed veggie juices
MORE | pasta sauce, curries, soups, salad dressings, sauces – many of these are easily naturally veggie-rich, and truly “plant” based. Always remember to check labels sodium and added sugar.
NUT BUTTERS | they are all “plant” based – look for products with little or no added sugar.
Bitchin Sauce – one of my personal favorite dips that also happens to be vegan and raw, made with wholesome ingredients like almonds, nutritional yeast, Bragg’s liquid aminos.
REMINDER | Sweets like cookies, cupcakes, donuts are largely still just cookies, cupcakes and donuts. A few are lower in sugar yet naturally sweetened, such as those from Unrefined Bakery & NaturBaker (both available online), as well as Swerve Bake Mixes (e.g. cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes), available in most grocery stores.
Want more from Molly? Click here to sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO and more! Follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @MollyKimballRD – and check out her weekly podcast; just search ‘Molly Kimball’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.