7 Tricks To Help You Cook Delicious Plant-Based Meals

Written by Molly Patrick

There are thousands of reasons to eat more whole plant foods and not one to eat less. I know it can be a hard transition going from chips and cookies to nuts and dates.

Our bodies and brains are used to the comfort of comfort food. Whether it’s vegan comfort food, or steak and potatoes comfort food. When we get stressed out, upset, sad, or even bored, it’s likely we reach for fat, sugar or salt, or a combination of all three. And it’s very likely that this makes us feel better ... temporarily.

Turns out, the combination of salt, sugar and fat stimulates the brain and releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, making processed food as addictive as heroin.

Making “comfort food” less comforting and more like ... crack.

Fact: McDonald’s is not a multibillion-dollar empire because of the creepy clown.

The transition to eating a whole food plant-based diet (WFPB) does have its challenges. I’ll give you that. But no discomfort lasts forever.

Here are seven tricks to help you transition from crack to bliss.

1. Sauté with water instead of oil.

I used to think that making this swap would be blah. I was wrong. When you use yummy ingredients and spices, you won’t even be able to tell that your onions and garlic weren’t bathed in oil. It’s a simple swap that’s not only cheaper, but will save you a lot of extra fat. Start with 1/4 cup of water and sauté, then add more water if things start to stick to the pan. Wait until the water just starts to steam, and then put in whatever you want to sauté.

2. Blend your hummus while it's still warm.

When making hummus (because you will make hummus; it’s an inevitable part of eating healthier), blend the chickpeas with the rest of your ingredients while the beans are still warm. This makes the hummus less grainy, and super velvety smooth.

3. Add salt to beans.

Have you ever heard that adding salt to beans while they cook will make it impossible for them to get soft? It’s not true. Turns out, cooking them with acid (from tomatoes or citrus), using old beans, and / or cooking them in hard water, are all hard bean culprits.

Salt on the other hand, actually helps breaks down the minerals on the outer skin, making them not only cook faster but making them softer too.

When you cook your own beans (again, you will. Trust me), soak them overnight in 8 cups of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt. The next morning, drain and rinse, and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt when you cook them. Voilà — perfect beans.

4. Fall in love with lemon water, baby!

Lemons alkalize the system and flush the body of toxins. It’s one of my morning musts and once you try it, you’ll be hooked. Squeeze half of a lemon into 8 ounces of room temperature water and you're good to go. After you do this, pop the lemon rinds, uncovered, in the fridge. They'll absorb any funk-tastic odors and freshen up your refrigerator.

5. When you crave something sweet, cut open a few dried dates and fill them with a little almond butter.

This will nip any sweet tooth in the bud, while keeping it in the realm of healthy.

6. If you have an avocado or banana that’s overly ripe, stick it in the fridge and then use it for smoothies.

And, if that banana gets too ripe before you have time to use it, peel it, cut it into thirds, and freeze it. Add the frozen banana to your smoothies to make them extra yummy and cold.

7. Instead of using salad dressing, top your salads with lemon juice and hummus.

Again, this will help you avoid the excess fat (and processed ingredients, if you're used to using store-bought dressing) that conventional oil-and-acid dressings contain.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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