How to include more plant-based foods in your diet
by Simone do Carmo
in Blogs

I believe we could all benefit from relying less on meat and upping our intake of plant-based foods. They provide a variety of micronutrients, antioxidants and phytonutrients, as well as dietary fibre that feeds our healthy gut bacteria and keeps our hunger at bay.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-meat. Far from it. As a South African, I was raised on it! Meat is a wonderful food (especially if grass-fed) and major source of iron and B vitamins.

But I believe we are over-consuming meat by eating it every day and making it the focus on our plates, which may lead to poorer nutrition due to a lack of greens and vegetables. 

If we look at the world’s longest-living cultures, they eat meat sparingly and treat it as a celebratory food, a small side, or to flavour food. Fish is also consumed in small amounts, but their focus is on greens, beans, yams, sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts and seeds.

How could you incorporate some of their practices into your life?

  1. Start with breakfast. If you’re having porridge, be creative and boost it! You can add any fruit, seeds, nuts/nut butter and other toppings like coconut flakes and cocoa nibs. You can even be more adventurous and add grated zucchini or carrot into your porridge while it’s cooking! If you’re having something eggy like scrambled eggs or an omelette, grate veggies, add some spinach or even some mushrooms. You can also have these as a side or add a side salad.
  2. Instead of having half of your plate filled with meat, make it a quarter of meat, a quarter of a carbohydrate source (sweet potato, yams, brown rice, etc.) and fill half the plate with greens and as many vibrant colours as you like.
  3. Try one meat-free meal per week. This will also ‘force’ you to experiment and be creative. You’ll realise that there’s so much more yummy and wholesome food out there!
  4. Substitute half the meat in a recipe for a plant-based alternative. For example, instead of cooking a beef bolognese, make it half beef and half lentils. It’s still as tasty!
  5. Having a braai (barbecue)? Why not make some veggie kebabs alongside your favourite cuts of meat or fish? Aubergine (eggplants), zucchini, onion, tomato, pumpkin, mushrooms are all barbecue-friendly.
  6. Have a daily green juice or smoothie. This is such an easy way of getting more greens into your body, especially if you struggle to eat them because of the taste. Having greens in a juice or smoothie will mask the flavour. Click here for Rachel’s green collagen smoothie recipe.
  7. Choose your snacks wisely! So many people wreck their diet with the snacks they eat. Instead of that pack of crisps, why not try and make your own vegetable or kale crisps? Instead of buying a commercial cereal bar, why not source a good-quality one or make your own granola bar with rolled oats, dried fruit and mixed seeds? Or simply have some veggies and hummus or fruit and nut butter.
  8. Try a plant-based food that you’ve never tried each week to bring more variety into your diet. For more fun, turn it into a game with your family! It can be a vegetable, fruit, seed or nut, bean, legume or even a good-quality meat substitute like fermented tofu. Be even more daring and try different types of seaweed or mushrooms. I had Lion’s mane mushrooms for the first time the other day and they were delicious. You can also try fermented options if you’ve never tried them before. Sauerkraut as an addition to a salad is a great one!