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16 Ways to Grow Your Diet With Plants

By: , SparkPeople Health & Fitness Writer

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Growing up, most of us incorporated dairy into our daily diet without a thought. Milk on your cereal, a cheese sandwich and yogurt at lunchtime, a good sprinkle of cheddar atop your burger or tacos for dinner and a couple scoops of cookies 'n cream while watching your favorite shows before bed.

As a kid, eating your veggies likely wasn't as high of a priority. A baggie of carrot sticks may have accompanied your lunch, and some green beans might have appeared on your dinner plate.

Then, as you grew older, you were able to make more and more dietary decisions yourself. Maybe some of those childhood habits stuck, while others fell off for various reasons. While milk is high in calcium and a good source of protein, it doesn't always agree with everyone's digestive systems. And while carrots are awesome for vitamin A and beta-carotene, there is more to the plant world than those little bagged orange goodies.

Whether you are on a weight loss journey, aspire to better overall health or simply want to cut back on animal products, now is a great time to try. With a full assortment of plant-based products on the market, from coconutmilk to cashewmilk ice cream, it's never been easier to incorporate more plant-based foods into your daily diet.

If you're ready to commit to an all plant-based diet or just cut back a little on dairy, these tips can help get you there.


  1. Skip the cow's milk and try a milk alternative in your favorite smoothie (with plenty of your favorite fruits and veggies, of course).

  2. Get creative with your oatmeal by mixing in fresh, frozen or dried fruit, honey, peanut butter or any other yummy fruit or nut spread.



  3. Add a splash of flavored coconutmilk or almondmilk creamer to your coffee.

  4. Get your daily calcium intake from plant-based sources, such as collard greens, soy milk, tofu, kale, oranges or almonds.

  5. Instead of cheese, embrace the creaminess of an avocado on salads or pureed butternut squash in soups or potatoes.



  6. Substitute culinary coconut milk in your favorite creamy sauces.

  7. Enjoy Meatless Monday any day of the week.

  8. For some protein, add beans to your meals instead of ground meat, or try for a mixture of half ground meat and half beans (such as black beans and ground turkey).

  9. Pack single-serving handfuls of heart-healthy nuts in your purse, car or desk drawer as a quick and healthy snack that packs protein.

  10. Add veggies—the more, the better—to any dish. Not only are they low in calories and chock-full of vitamins and nutrients, they keep you fuller longer.

  11. Visit your local farmers market for in-season fruits and veggies. Clean, prep and store them in your fridge for easy, healthy snacking.



  12. Love to dip? Try hummus—it comes in many flavors and varieties. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try other plant-based dips, such as baba ganoush or guacamole.

  13. Satisfy your sweet tooth with non-dairy desserts made from cashewmilk, coconutmilk or almondmilk.

  14. Try sprinkling seeds—chia, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, flax or others—on top of any meal, or add them to smoothies, dips or trail mix for added nuttiness and nutrition.

  15. Use olive oil instead of butter when sautéing vegetables or making sauces.

  16. Try a plant-based yogurt alternative when you want a cold, creamy snack or quick breakfast.

Swapping plant-based foods for dairy in your diet isn't as difficult as you might think, and it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Start small with a few simple swaps and see where your diet takes you.



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