Ten easy ways to add more plants to your diet
by: Sidonie Maroon, abluedotkitchen.com
I’m immediately crossing out “easy” from the title, because even for a veteran veghead like myself, eating more plants always feels like a learning curve. I have to, continually, give myself permission to begin again. That being said, just because it’s not always easy to remember to add those greens, doesn’t mean it can’t be adventurous if you set about it with a bit of fun.
I’m buying and cooking plants in a new way, now that I realize that I’m not just feeding myself when I sit down to dinner, but actually making critical life or death choices for the billions of microbes in my ecosystems. They populate my gut, which is said to be my second brain, and are in essence my third brain. So, since I’m the major player of brain #1, I figure that I’d better show up and give them what they want. I wouldn’t want the executive function to set a bad example.
And, what my microbiome wants most is fiber, especially fermentable plant fibers. They do own more of the farm than I do. It’s 60% them folks, and 40% me, a least by weight.
Currently, I’m attempting to eat 30 diverse forms of plant fiber every day, and it’s easier than it sounds. The trick is to keep it fun. My rule of thumb is 7 different plants for each meal, and 4 at each snack. Here are some of the games I play.
Whole legumes and pulses
Choose 7 different bulk legumes, put them into quart mason jars on a prominent shelf where you can see all their amazing shapes and colors. Cook them in rotation throughout the week. Soak what you’re having tomorrow the night before, then slow cook them or use an Instant Pot.
Whole grains and pseudo-grains
Porridge isn’t just for breakfast anymore. Rotate through 7 different whole grains during the week. Cook up a delicious porridge every morning in your rice cooker or Instant Pot. I made one yesterday using Scotch oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts, coconut flakes, raisins, cranberries, chia seed and flax meal with cinnamon. Spread the leftovers flat and toast them as snacks.
Nuts and seeds
Make trail mixes of nuts and seeds with dried fruit to take along with you. Premeasure them so you won’t overeat. Add nuts and seeds to your baked goods.
Keep sea vegetables in sight. Start slow and experiment with adding them to soups and salads, or into spice mixes.
An easy meal is roasting on a baking sheet. Try for 3 or more different kinds of roots everytime you roast. Beets, parsnips, yams, potatoes, celeriac, carrot, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric….
Leaves and Stems
Be an artist when you shop, start looking for different shades of green and different leaf shapes. Finely chop up stems, or puree them into pestos. Use stems in broths. How many leaf shades and shapes can you add to a green salad?
Flowering and fruiting vegetables
Peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, pumpkins, avocados…make these queens of the vegetable kingdom the highlights of your meals. Cut them up and keep them ready to add to dishes. Celebrate their diverse colors and flavors. Enjoy them in season.
Fruits are my table bouquets. I arrange them temptingly and offer them freely. Slice them up, eat them dried, pair them with nuts and seeds for nibbles. Take the time to go and harvest local fruit, or better yet grow them at home, where you can wander out and graze at whim.
Herbs and Spices
Start with whole spices and fresh herbs. Grind them yourself. You will soon fall in love with the smells and flavors. There is nothing like passion and love to make things feel easier.
Wild Plants and mushrooms
Eating wild foods makes me feel like a pioneer or an explorer. Dig dandelion roots, harvest nettles, make tea or cook with them. Eat a variety of local edible mushrooms, oh how I crave mushrooms.
To leave you with the spirit of fun, and inspire you to jump in and add more plants to your diet, I’m gifting you with my new cookie recipe. It combines treat with health. Amazingly, one cookie will add 7 points to your daily count to feed the hungry microbiome.
Cinnamon Crinkle Cookies
Gluten-free, mineral-rich, low sugar, fiber diverse
Makes 40 cookies
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup sunflower seeds toasted
½ cup walnuts toasted
1 cup raisins
½ cup unsulphured organic blackstrap molasses
½ cup avocado oil
¼ cup water
1 cup sorghum flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
¼ cup potato starch
½ cup coconut sugar
2 cups gluten-free oatmeal toasted
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a food processor, mix the dry ingredients together and pulse until the oatmeal is finely ground
Add the nuts, seeds, and raisins. Pulse until they are no longer whole or distinct, like a rough meal.
Add the oil, molasses and water and pulse briefly until the dough is blended.
Let the cookie dough chill for half an hour or longer before baking, so that it can expand and firm up.
Adjust the oven rack to the middle shelf and preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Make 1 tablespoon sized round balls two-inches apart.
Roll each ball in the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through. Remove and let the cookies cool to firm up before eating.