(BPT) - If you’re trying to eat more veggies and you're encouraging your kids to do the same, you may struggle with making meals tasty enough to tempt even the pickiest eaters in your family. The struggle is real! But don’t worry, there are plenty of options that are plant-based, healthy and delicious. Start exploring a few new meal options, and you’ll be surprised how great eating a plant-based diet can taste and make you feel.
Start with veggies
Instead of planning the meal around the protein, add the protein as an accompaniment to the vegetables.
Most of us were brought up to think of a meal as an entree of meat surrounded by a few vegetables or starches as side dishes. Instead, start with a veggie or two, then pick a protein that goes well with those veggies to add to the mix. Try a pan of roasted mixed veggies combined with plant-based proteins. If you use veggies that have substantial protein content, you’re off to a great start. For example, green peas, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and even corn and potatoes offer plenty of protein.
Either use recipes that already include a plant-based protein like tofu, lentils, quinoa, nuts or any kind of bean, or consider swapping the chicken or ground meat in a recipe for those options. Casseroles, soups, stews and salads are a great place to start.
Dining in and taking out healthfully
Look for restaurants offering a wide variety of veggie-based meal options instead of just one or two veggie sides or salads. If your children are selective about their menu choices, a restaurant willing to substitute items can be your best ally.
For example, Noodles & Company offers plant-based options and will customize meals to suit your — and your child's — tastes, preferences and dietary restrictions. You can order dishes with Zoodles, which are noodles made from fresh zucchini hand-spiralized in-restaurant daily, or choose the new Caulifloodles — cauliflower-infused pasta — to increase the veggie content of any meal. A regular-sized bowl of Caulifloodles boasts one full serving of vegetables, and are a great way to sneak extra veggies into your kids' meals.
Great new choices on the Noodles menu include Cauliflower Rigatoni in Light Onion Cream Sauce, served with roasted zucchini, mushrooms and spinach, and finished with MontAmore cheese and parsley. Or, try the Cauliflower Rigatoni Fresca with Shrimp, which adds shrimp sauteed with balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, roasted garlic, red onion, tomato and spinach, topped with Parmesan.
Check out the restaurant's online nutrition calculator so you can find something healthy and tasty for everyone in the family, even those with various dietary needs. For the busy school days that turn into even busier nights, you can order online using the Noodles Rewards app for easy pickup at the Quick Pickup counter and skip the in-restaurant line altogether.
Cooking plant-based meals doesn't have to mean sacrificing flavor or convenience. A little creativity can go a long way toward boosting the taste and nutritional content of your family's meals. Check out noodles.com for a look at options for both dining in and taking out more delicious plant-based meals.
Pick a flavor profile
No matter what veggies and protein you use, with a clear flavor profile in mind, you can add fresh herbs and spices that go well together. If you use tofu, keep in mind that it adopts any flavor you add to the dish.
- Go Asian with flavors like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and scallions.
- Make it Italian with garlic, oregano, basil, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.
- Enjoy Mexican? Add cayenne or jalapenos, chili powder and onion, plus cilantro and lime juice.
- For a Middle Eastern touch, use black pepper, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg and paprika.
- Add a taste of India with cumin, curry, turmeric, coriander or garam masala.
- Reference classic French flavors using basil, bay leaves, marjoram, thyme, tarragon and sage.
Taste your dishes as you cook, and don't be afraid to add more kosher or sea salt, plus black pepper, to boost any dish with some added flavor.