You may have heard that eating more plants is good for your overall well-being. But how do you easily add more to your diet? In this guide, I share with you 12 simple ways to eat more plants!
You’ve probably heard that adding more plant-based foods to your diet is a smart move for your health and for the planet. But, did you also know it can be great for your diabetes management too?
In this guide, we’ll explore the health benefits of incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, considering its positive impact on overall well-being and diabetes management. Additionally, I will share 12 straightforward strategies to seamlessly increase your plant intake. These tips are designed to simplify the process without overwhelming, making the transition to a more plant-oriented lifestyle accessible and convenient. And I promise they work as we have done it!
So, If like us you want to increase your plant consumption with ease, then read on to find out more!
Why make the move to eat more plants?
Choosing to incorporate more plants into your diet holds numerous advantages for both personal health and the environment. Plant-based foods are rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre, contributing to overall well-being. But, for individuals managing diabetes, the slow digestion of complex carbohydrates in plant foods can also work to stabilise blood sugar levels.
Making a move to a more plant-based diet was definitely something that we approached gradually. Which, if I’m being honest, was probably more driven by my need for not wanting to continuously cook different meals. However, the surprise for us was how it has also helped with our daughter’s diabetes management. This unexpected benefit has added an extra tool to our diabetes management toolkit. Along with a layer of motivation and positivity to our journey towards a more plant-centric lifestyle.
So, if you’re also ready to make the switch to a more plant-based diet, then you’re in luck! Whether you’re looking to go vegan or just increase your intake, this article will provide simple tips and guidance to get started.
What Foods Count as Plants?
So when I talk about plants I’m not talking about the luscious potted varieties around your homes. I am of course talking about the edible kinds. And this doesn’t just mean fruit and vegetables. Plants include:
- Legumes – Beans and Lentils
- Nuts and Seeds
- Herbs and Spices
What are the benefits of eating more plants?
There is a lot of evidence out there which supports that eating more plants can have great benefits for your overall health. (See the links under resources if you would like to read further)
A diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes and seeds, has many benefits. Not only physically in treating and preventing disease but also for our psychological health. Food feeds your brain as much as it does your body.
Incorporating a variety of plants into your diet not only boosts your nutritional intake but also naturally increases your dietary fibre consumption. All plants are inherently rich in fibre. An additional benefit is the potential reduction in the intake of saturated fats, given that plants are low in such fats. As you incorporate more plant-based foods into your meals, there’s a likelihood of consuming fewer saturated fats from other sources. This becomes a win-win situation for overall health, emphasizing the positive impact of embracing a plant-centric dietary approach.
Another benefit is that eating more plants helps to increase the diverse community of bacteria that live in your gut. More and more research is showing the important role our gut plays in our overall health. And guess what, our guts thrive when they are fed a diverse amount of plants. This article from Zoe Science has lots of great information if you would like to learn more.
What are the benefits of eating more plants and Diabetes Management?
There isn’t much information or research out there about the benefits of eating more plants and type 1 diabetes management. It seems that most of the research has been focused on type 2 diabetes and the benefits plant-heavy diets can have in preventing and treating it. But what I can share is our experiences of how it has benefitted and impacted our daughter’s diabetes control.
Along with the overall health benefits of:
- Increasing dietary fibre intake
- Decreasing processed food eaten and subsequently, the amount of trans and saturated fats consumed
- Increasing the number and amount of nutrients our minds and bodies are receiving daily
Eating more plants has:
- Made it simpler for carb counting – With the exception of whole grains, fruit and potatoes, plants are carb count free. This means that I can create healthy and filling meals that don’t need to be carb counted, like my EASY VEGAN LENTIL AND BEAN CHILLI or HARISSA VEGGIE SAUSAGE TRAY BAKE.
- It has taught us to use Beans and Lentils for bulking meals – Not only are they great sauce thickeners but are cheap and filling. This has meant that I can keep countable carb sizes slightly smaller (like pasta and rice) as I know that she will get all her mealtime satisfaction from the plant-based dish and vegetable sides.
- Kept the overall carb count per meal lower – Including more plants in our meals reduces the overall carb count which then reduces the error rate when it comes to the insulin required. The less insulin given means fewer problems!
- Contributed to maintaining good time in range and HbA1c control – Eating more plants has helped us to manage glucose levels and insulin requirements better. It has also helped us to get a deeper understanding of how foods work together and their impact on blood glucose levels.
- We have noticed that the combination of increased fibre and protein along with the fact that most plants have a low to medium Glycemic Index (discounting fruits) helps to slow the glucose release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. This results in a slower and lower rise in blood glucose levels, which helps levels to stay in range for longer and reduces dramatic spikes.
- Blood Sugar Control: Plant-based diets, especially those focused on whole, unprocessed foods, can contribute to better blood sugar control. The complex carbohydrates found in plants are absorbed more slowly, preventing rapid spikes in blood glucose levels.
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Some studies suggest that a plant-based diet may improve insulin sensitivity, helping the body utilize insulin more effectively. This is beneficial for individuals with diabetes, particularly those with insulin resistance.
However, this has meant that we do find, particularly with wholegrains and sometimes potatoes, that they continue to impact blood glucose levels after the 3 hours of fast-acting insulin (Novo rapid) being given. Therefore we sometimes have to give corrections in order to bring levels back in range.
12 simple ways to eat more plants?
- Fruit and Vegetables
- Starchy Foods – Whole Grains and Potatoes
- Protein – Beans, Lentils, Nuts and Seeds
So how can you get more of these plants onto your plate?
1. Start by doing a little audit
Use my handy checklist of plant foods by signing up below and check-off how many you include in your diet a week.
2. Use the checklist to inspire you
Use this plant checklist to encourage yourself to try some different plant foods. You could set yourself a goal of adding 1 to 2 new or different varieties on the list per week.
3. Eat the Rainbow
Eat the rainbow is an easy way to visualise your plate. The more colourful it is then the more likely it is that you are going to include more plants and varieties of plants on your plate.
4. Make Legumes part of your main meals
Adding beans and pulses to a meal that you would normally cook in the week like a traybake, spaghetti bolognese or chilli con carne is such an easy way to get them into your diet. Not only are they great sauce thickeners but they will also cheaply stretch a meal even further.
5. Pimp up your sides
So raw or boiled vegetables on the side can be a little boring. Instead try roasting them, adding herbs, spices, sauces and dressings to your veg to make them more of a main attraction in your meals. There are lots of great ideas in my Salad and Sides section. But here are a few of my favourites to get you started:
6. Make a dish that combines multiple plants
The more plants you can add to a dish the better in my opinion. This SRIRACHA RICE SALAD has 7 plant-based foods while my VEGETARIAN COTTAGE PIE WITH SWEET POTATO has 9, and my VEGETARIAN MOUSSAKA WITH LENTILS has a whopping 15 if you count the herbs and spices!
7. Homemade Soups and Salads
Both are very easy ways to increase your vegetable intake. Anything goes when you are making soups and salads. But if you want some ideas to get you started then check out my soups and salads section here on WHK.
8. Create a jar of mixed nuts and seeds
Since listening to the Zoe podcasts and reading Food for Life by Tim Spector, I have been inspired to make our own version of his nut and seed jars. We keep a stacking jar of chia seeds, flaxseed, mixed chopped nuts and seeds which we use to sprinkle on breakfasts, salads, yoghurt and soups.
We also have a larger kiln jar full of different nuts which are great for a snack. Although we do ensure it’s just a small handful a day.
9. Make plant foods accessible
If you make foods like fruit, nuts and seeds more accessible as well as visible it’s much more likely that you will eat them. Try making up jars of nuts and seeds as suggested in point 8 to keep out on the side and put your fruit bowl in a central location in the kitchen.
10. Try a fruit and vegetable delivery service
There are lots of great fruit and veg delivery services like Oddbox, Riverford, Veg Box Company and Able and Cole. By subscribing they will deliver a box, weekly or fortnightly, straight to your door. The great thing about these boxes is that they change every week, are seasonal and help you to switch up what you would normally buy at the supermarkets.
11. Meal Plan and Create Shopping Lists
I have found that doing both of these (rather boring) tasks every week really helps me ensure that I am buying a good variety, changing some of the foods I typically buy, as well as helping to reduce my food waste.
12. Make fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds a part of your snacks
Add nut butter to fruit snacks, enjoy a handful of nuts with a piece of fruit, chop some raw vegetables and serve with humous, roasted chickpeas and kale are all great ways to add more plants to your snacks.
There are also a lot more legume based snacks available at supermarkets. We love the lentil curls at Lidl and the chickpea snacks at Sainsbury’s.
Adding more plants isn’t about making big changes overnight
Don’t try and implement these tips all at once!
The best approach when it comes to any change is slow and gradual. Often when we try and change too much too quickly it ends up not being not sustainable. In fact, I listened to a great podcast on building good habits and the 4 rules were; making them visible or available, attractive to make them motivating, easy to do and satisfying or enjoyable. But it continually enforced you need to start small and go slowly!
What counts is the difference you can make over a week, a month or a year which will lead to you consistently eating more plants.
And if you are looking for some recipe inspiration, then make sure to take a look at my roundup of 33 EASY WHOLE FOOD RECIPES – RICH IN PLANTS!
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