More people than ever are eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. Studies show that it is better for our bodies and better for the planet–but it isn’t always easy. Micaela Cook Karlsen’s new book ‘A Plant-Based Life’ provides a 5-step guide whether you’re taking your first steps on this path to wellness or recommitting yourself to success.
Micaela’s research reveals that there are five specific rewards that come directly from switching to a plant-based diet:
1. Plant-based diets give you the best chance for living a long, healthy life free of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Living longer is great, but most of us want to live better. Plant-based eating offers both.
2. A totally plant-based diets free of added sugars and oils is absolutely the easiest path to achieving a healthy weight. Eating nutrient rich, calorie-dense whole foods with plenty of fiber fills you up on fewer calories without feeling hungry. So you can eat until you feel full every time and still drop the excess pounds.
3. Meat, fish, and dairy products have the heaviest environmental footprint of all food groups due to their effect on greenhouse gas emissions, water, and land use. Avoiding them makes a sustainable future possible for the whole world.
4. Whole plant-based foods are affordable! Meat, dairy products, imitation meat and dairy, and processed snacks are expensive, calorie dense, and lack fiber and many of the micronutrients we need. Eating totally plant-based gives you a bigger bang for your nutritional buck.
5. Last, but not least, eating totally plant-based is delicious! Even if your taste buds don’t think so at first, taste preferences are learned, based on what you ate in the past. The more you eat, the more you enjoy, the healthier you get, and the more you eat – it’s a win-win-win cycle!
Going in a plant-based direction doesn’t mean you have to give up meat and chicken all at once, but if you make fruits and vegetables the main part of the meal and use meat to support the menu, you’ll be well on your way to switching to a mare plant-based diet. Here’s a one -day meal sampler containing just a few of the many delicious recipes she offers in her new book.
The beauty of raw oats, beside super-fast preparation, is that you can eat a lot of them, which means you’ll easily feel full well into lunchtime.
1 to 1½ cups thick rolled oats
Blueberries, raspberries, or sliced strawberries (optional)
Raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
Dried dates or figs, chopped (optional)
Walnuts, almonds, or pecans, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flaxseeds (optional)
½ to 1 cup plant milk, such as oat, soy, almond, hemp, hazelnut, or rice milk
Pour raw oats in a bowl.
Add various toppings, as desired.
Top with plant milk, and enjoy! Serves 1.
Simple Split Pea Comfort Soup
Curl up on the sofa with a good book and a great split pea soup to stay warm. The world offers many delicious versions of split pea soup to try, however this comfort coup is absolutely delicious as is. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use this as your basic starter recipe and branch out in any number of interesting directions. Soup doesn’t get any simpler than this.
1 cup split peas
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium celery rib, diced
1 medium potato, diced
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Soak your split peas for 4 to 6 hours, or even longer, if possible, to ensure a shorter cooking time.
Drain the split peas, and place them in a large pot in 8 cups water without salt. Cook over high heat for 15-20 minutes or until boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until peas are tender.
Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially covered, for 15 or until vegetables are tender. Serves 2-4.
This is the salad version of fresh guacamole. Using two lemons makes the dressing wetter, more lemony, and less sweet than if you were going for a more solid, stand-alone guacamole, so the optional syrup can temper that a bit if you’re looking for a more balanced flavor. I actually enjoy the strong flavor of lemon—it is refreshing and kind of zesty. You’ve got to try this for dinner!
1 20-ounce package mixed greens
1 bunch parsley
1 ripe avocado, pitted
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or maple syrup (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
¼ red onion, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Chop the greens and parsley together, either by hand or in the food processor. Transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the lemon juice and then mix in the rice syrup (if desired) as well as the cilantro, onion, and tomatoes.
Toss the avocado mixture in the greens. Serves 2 for dinner, or 6-8 as a side salad.
Layer 1: 1 medium onion, 1 16-ounce package firm tofu (drained), 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 ½ teaspoons white miso , 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Layer 2: 1 medium onion, 1 10-ounce package cremini mushrooms (stems trimmed), ½ cup frozen spinach, ¼ cup pine nuts, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, salt to taste
Additional components: 1 10-ounce box whole-grain lasagna noodles and 3 to 4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (or try Chef AJ’s Quick Sun-Dried Tomato Marinara)
Toppings: 1 medium tomato, sliced thinly, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Make layer 1: Place the onion in a food processor, and pulse until it is finely chopped. Add the tofu, garlic powder, miso, and nutritional yeast and blend until everything is evenly mixed. At this point the mixture will be like a dry puree—grainy and not too wet. Add the basil leaves and pulse until the basil is chopped into small bits and evenly distributed in the mixture. Transfer the contents of layer 1 to a medium bowl.
Make layer 2: Place the onion in a food process and pulse until it is finely chopped. Add the mushrooms, spinach, pine nuts, Italian seasoning, and salt and blend until everything is evenly mixed.
Assemble the lasagna: Divide your noodles into three equal piles, to correspond with the three noodle layers in the final dish. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13–inch glass pan with ¾ cup tomato sauce and ½ cup water. Use a spoon to mix the two and evenly distribute the liquefied sauce. Place one layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce-water mixture. Cover the noodles with 1 to 1 ½ cups tomato sauce, using a spoon to evenly distribute it. Add the mixture for Layer 1 to the pan. Cover layer 1 with the second layer of noodles. Add the mixture for Layer 2 to the pan. Cover Layer 2 with the third/top layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups tomato sauce using a spoon to evenly distribute it.
Add the toppings: Place tomato slices on top of the sauce evenly around the pan. Sprinkle each slice with a bit of salt for added flavor, if desired, then sprinkle the nutritional yeast evenly on top of the tomatoes.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes, then remove cover and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until the top surface has developed a skin. Serves 6-8.
3 cups whole-grain flour (I like spelt)
1 tablespoon each of: baking powder, baking soda, ginger , cinnamon , and allspice
½ teaspoon each of: nutmeg , cloves, and salt
1 cup maple syrup
½ cup applesauce
¾ cup molasses
2 tablespoon white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl.
Put maple syrup, applesauce, molasses, and white vinegar in a second medium bowl. Bring kettle of water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and add 1 cup hot water to the wet ingredients, and stir.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients while mixing, but be careful to not over-stir. The mixture should be quite thin.
Transfer batter to a 9 x 13–inch glass pan, and bake for 35 minutes.
Serve as is, or, for the traditional gingerbread experience, top with Stacy’s Coconut Dream Whipped Cream. Serves 10 to 12