5 Delicious Plant-Based Swaps for Your Favorite Meals

In the beginning, including more plant-based foods in your diet can seem daunting. Where do you begin? Do you have to give up your favorite meals? Can you only eat salads and raw veggies now?

What are you, a rabbit?

No. You’re not a rabbit. And you fully deserve to continue eating delicious food. Only now, that delicious food can also be healthy. Win-win.

Here, I’ve rounded up five easy swaps designed for you to add more plants into your favorite meals in the most delicious way possible.


1. Tacos


Ah, tacos. Who doesn’t love them?

One of the best things about tacos is that they’re completely customizable – you can put almost anything in them that you like. Just a few basic fillings and a sauce is all you need, and you’re well on your way to taco heaven.

While it’s perfectly common to put fresh veggies in your taco, allow me to suggest you put one around your taco. Instead of a soft tortilla or a hard taco shell, try wrapping your delicious taco fillings in a lettuce leaf.

I’ve found Bibb lettuce or romaine hearts work best for this, but you can use any lettuce leaf (or any leafy green) you like. Not only does it pump up the nutritional value of your taco, it also tastes refreshing and adds a satisfying crunch.

Bonus: you can also do this with burgers – just wrap the patty in a couple of lettuce leaves, top with fixings of choice and serve!


2. Pasta


Pasta is another favorite weeknight meal of many. It’s simple to prepare which makes it a great choice when you’re pressed for time, especially if you already have a sauce on hand.

You have a few choices when it comes to increasing your plant intake via your pasta dish. For starters, you can top your pasta with as many veggies as you’d like.

But let’s not forget that “spiralizing” a variety of vegetables to replace pasta noodles has gained popularity in recent years.

You can use a store-bought spiralizer for this, which is fairly inexpensive, or you can also use a vegetable peeler to create “ribbons” of your vegetable of choice.

Zucchini is a great veggie to substitute for noodles because they tend to be small yet firm – perfect for that spiralizer contraption – and don’t require any cooking. In fact, it will take you less time to spiralize zucchini than it would to boil water and cook traditional pasta. Another win!

You can also try spiralizing (noodlizing?) any other firm vegetable that lends itself to the process, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, potatoes, daikon radish, and celery root, to name a few.

Another option for a noodle replacement? Spaghetti squash, of course! Cooking spaghetti squash is a bit more time-consuming, but well worth it, and you can always cook your squash on a Sunday and refrigerate for consumption later in the week.

Simply slice your squash in half, drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the flesh, place on a baking sheet with the cut sides down and roast in a 425 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Then, once cooled a little, scrape the strands out with a fork, toss with your favorite sauce and tell me your mouth isn’t watering.


3. Mayonnaise


Mayonnaise is such a versatile spread. From sandwiches to dips to dressings, mayo lends a tangy, creamy mouthfeel that’s difficult to replicate. But not impossible.

Mash a ripe avocado, add a little lime juice and salt, and hey presto! You’ve got yourself a plant-based mayonnaise. Spread on sandwiches or thin out with water and add herbs or spices for a (vibrant green) salad dressing.

Of course, if you’re in the mood for a dip, guacamole is always popular and a good substitute for mayo-based dips. But why not get creative and add unexpected ingredients to your avocado dips?

Toss in some caramelized onions and onion powder for an onion dip, or puree with chipotle peppers for a spicy dip. Avocado, much like mayo, is a blank canvas.

You can even substitute avocado for butter in some applications. Talk about a win-win – delicious and healthy!


4. Nachos


Everyone’s favorite game-day appetizer is an obvious great base for veggies. Nachos are often already loaded with onions, tomatoes, olives, jalapenos and the like. But just wait until you take them to the next level.

I’m talking, of course, about replacing the tortilla chips with veggies.

Slice a sweet potato on a mandoline or very thinly with a knife. Place slices on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees. Top with all the fixings and return to the oven to heat everything through. It’s that easy.

Not a fan of sweet potato? Want to switch it up? Zucchini also masquerades perfectly as nacho chips. Just remember to toss with a little cooking oil first before throwing them in the oven.


5. Chips or crackers


I once ordered a delicious edamame hummus appetizer at a local sushi restaurant. Along with the usual crostini, it came with thick-cut veggies sliced on the bias (diagonally) for dipping.

Ever since then, I’ve been stealing this idea whenever I need chips to go with a dip I’ve made. Cucumbers and carrots work well for this, but don’t be afraid to get creative and try whatever veggie you have on hand. Jicama, radishes, and parsnips come to mind.

Your veggies-disguised-as-chips can also do double duty as crackers. Serve as hors d’oeuvres with the fixings of your choice on top. You can also try this with endive leaves and make ‘boats’ – fill with hummus and top with a sprinkle of chili powder and chopped nuts or olives.
As you can see, it’s easy to substitute fresh veggies for the components of some of your favorite dishes – all you need is a little imagination. I promise that every one of these swaps tastes delicious and, since the end result is a lighter meal, can even leave you feeling more energized.

The best part is that you get to amp up the overall nutritional value of your food without sacrificing taste – and you can still enjoy your go-to favorites.

Did I miss your favorite veggie swap? Let me know in the comments below!

The Only Tip You Need to Start Feeling and Looking Your Best

Let’s face it. We’ve all been there.

Sooner or later, each and every one of us has gone through a time in our lives where we’ve spent days, weeks, months or even years eating the foods we know we should avoid, or at least limit, in our diets.

And unfortunately, this usually goes hand in hand with spending quality time on the couch after a long day at the office, when we know we should be making more of an effort to move our bodies.

Then comes that one day when you suddenly realize what you’ve been doing (or not doing). You’re sick of feeling tired all the time with zero energy for activities you really enjoy.

You’re sick of eating food that, while undeniably delicious, makes you feel awful as your body struggles to digest it.

You want to completely overhaul your lifestyle. You’re overcome with guilt and you can’t fathom how it could have gotten this bad.

You might even resolve to make a change.

But what?

As you try to pinpoint exactly where to begin, time passes. You become distracted.

Before you know it, you’re back to the same old habits. Or worse.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been in those shoes. It took me years to stop, look around, and focus on what was really going on in my life.

I was not leading a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t feel good, and I didn’t look my best, either.

Admitting these things to myself was hard. But consciously acting to resolve them was even harder.

The thought of where to begin was overwhelming. After all, thanks to the media and social networks, we are constantly bombarded every day with tips – both good and not-so-good – on how to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you’re anything like I was, you end up ignoring them simply because they seem insurmountable.

Then, one day, I figured it out. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The best tip I can give you? Start small.

No matter how small, your chosen avenue of progress is exactly that – progress. It will (eventually) take you to where you need to be.

In other words, start with a small change to your lifestyle, and gradually add more small changes as you feel you are ready for them.

What kind of a change should you make?

First, just simply pay attention to your everyday habits:

• What are you eating?
• How much of it?
• When?
• How does it make you feel?
• Are you getting any exercise?
• If not, why not?
• Can you find time for ten minutes of activity per day?
• If so, when would you fit it in?
• If you’re already exercising, how do you feel after you’re done?
• How do you feel when you skip working out for a few days?
• How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?
• Are you exhausted when you get home in the evening?

I highly recommend writing down all your answers to these questions so you have a record and can compare them to how you feel later on.

After a week or so, read what you’ve written. Notice which habits lead to you feeling your best, and which habits….don’t.

Perhaps you feel at your worst when you wake up in the morning, because you’re always incredibly exhausted. Or maybe your low point is every Sunday night, after eating take-out pizza for dinner and your stomach is in knots.

For me, it was definitely overeating. There were times when I had no portion control and didn’t know when to cut myself off, so I kept eating and ignoring my body’s cues that I was full. This led to stomachaches and feeling sluggish for half a day or so.

Pick one of your observations of a habit that isn’t working for you, and decide how you will implement a small change.

Can you commit to making your bedtime just fifteen or twenty minutes earlier? Can you order something besides pizza on Sunday that might make you feel better, or are you willing to make your own pizza instead of ordering out?

In my case, the best change for me to start with turned out to be portioning out my food. Instead of eating as much as I wanted, I began deciding ahead of time how much I would eat at each meal, and that’s how much would go on my plate. If I was eating out and I knew the portions were huge, I’d order a side or an appetizer instead of a main meal.

Next, implement your change – now.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not on a Monday – begin immediately. Leaving yourself room to procrastinate will only end up making you feel worse in the long run, because you can put it off indefinitely. There will never be a perfect time for this change to happen, so you may as well start right now.

Try to record how you’re feeling once you’ve put your change into practice. Aim to write something down every day, even if it’s just one sentence. I know it sounds like a drag, but this really is an important part of tracking your progress – you’ll want to see how far you’ve come!

Allow yourself time to adapt to your small change – a month is good for most people. After that time has passed, consider how you feel and then read through your notes.

Perhaps you have a few extra hours of free time on Sunday now that you’re not nursing a stomachache. Or maybe you’re finding that getting just twenty extra minutes of sleep – or even just being in bed and resting twenty minutes earlier – is having a small effect on your energy levels in the morning.

Once I started cutting back on portions, I didn’t even need to consult any notes – I felt better, I looked better, and I lost weight. It was only a few pounds, so I didn’t think much of it, but other people noticed, too.

If you discovered your change yielded positive results, fantastic! Focus on why you think that happened. Then use that same reasoning to decide what your next tiny change will be.

Didn’t notice a difference? Read through your records from the past month to ensure you stuck to your goal enough times for it to be effective.

If you’re sure you did everything as you’d envisioned, consider what you’ve changed and whether it needs to be tweaked in some way to be effective. For example, if you’re religiously getting to bed twenty minutes earlier every night and then laying there with the TV on while playing games on your tablet (AKA exactly what you were doing before “going to bed”), you might need to try switching off all screens, dimming the lights and reading a book or meditating instead.

Once you’ve taken an effective first (baby) step towards a healthier lifestyle, think of where you want to end up and write down all of your goals. Don’t hold back. Work backwards from there to figure out all the small changes you will need to make to arrive at your destination.

Then, simply continue putting one foot in front of the other. Each month, implement a new small change. Remember to write down how you feel. And, of course, don’t forget to continue to practice your changes from previous months.

If you feel ready to add another small change before a month is up, by all means, do it. The most important thing is to be comfortable with the changes you are making in addition their timing and to do what is best for you.

This is all it takes to start a journey to a healthier, happier you – small, incremental changes that are relatively easy for you to incorporate into your current lifestyle. When one change has you feeling and looking better, it will naturally motivate you to move on to the next change, and the next.

And before you know it, the day will come again when you suddenly realize what you’re doing (or not doing). Only this time, you will be delighted with where you’re at and amazed at all you have accomplished. I know I was.

Do you have any other tips that helped you journey to a healthier you? Let me know!

Surprising Health Benefits of Ginger (That You Didn’t Already Know About)

Ginger is commonly used in the culinary world as an herb, spice and flavor enhancer in a plethora of dishes, as anyone who has visited Asia (or a local Asian takeout spot) will know. But what about the medicinal uses of ginger? Most of us have a vague idea that ginger can be used to treat some ailments. But aside from steeping it in hot tea to soothe a sore throat, ginger is capable of reducing or even eliminating symptoms of other malaises that may afflict you or someone you know.

Ginger, in its purest form, grows underground in a root-like form called a rhizome and belongs to the Zingiberaceae family along with turmeric, cardamom, and lesser-known galangal. Ginger contains active compounds called gingerols, which are housed in oils extracted from the root. Research has shown that gingerols could contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. That’s good news, even if you’re healthy!

Of course, if you’re suffering from any variety of mild annoyances, ginger can probably help you, too. Many studies have proven it effective in reducing the severity of nausea, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. It’s also helped many people in regulating their digestion, eradicating diarrhea (yes, really), and ridding the body of excess gas.

But what about more serious illnesses? Can ginger actually be effective in fighting those? While it’s true that we don’t quite have enough information yet to answer this affirmatively, some studies have indicated that ginger could help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as prevent blood from clotting. This would be great news not only for those already suffering from heart disease, but for anyone looking to prevent it. As if that weren’t enough, some researchers have discovered that ginger also appears to help lower blood sugar in diabetics, though as of yet, the reason why is unclear.

Ready to up your ginger consumption yet? Ginger is available in many forms, from the plain root in the produce section of your local supermarket to the powdered variety yprobably have in your spice rack at Christmastime. But it doesn’t end there. You can also buy ginger extract, distilled ginger (made from the oil extracted from the root), powdered ginger in capsule form, pickled ginger (usually adorning your sushi plate) and crystallized ginger, which can be used in baked goods. Some stores even carry chewable ginger candies to freshen your breath.

However you decide to get your ginger fix, you can rest easy knowing it’s been a popular natural cure for everything from A to Z for thousands of years. Hippocrates must have had ginger on the brain when he famously proclaimed: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

Please note that this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.