Redefine Your Palate For Performance
Whether you’re interested in a plant-based diet for an athletic edge, or to incorporate more nutrient dense foods into your diet for health reasons, a barrier to making more plant-based meals can be our traditional notions of what a meal looks like. You probably grew up thinking (just like I did), that plant-based foods meant just salads or side dishes. And that a meal should be centered around the meat of choice—be it chicken, pork, beef or fish. When we approach plant-based cuisine from this viewpoint, it can be hard to think your meals will be complete or satisfying. By redefining your meals and embracing seasonal plant-based foods, you can create hearty dishes that satisfy your taste-buds, while nourishing you.
Stop thinking of protein as the star of your meal
Standard North American dishes are centered on starring protein— usually chicken, pork, beef or fish. If you view plant-based dishes as salads or supporting sides, your meal will definitely feel incomplete without that star. Of course, a big salad of kale can absolutely be delicious and filling—I eat them regularly—but that doesn’t mean it has to be your go-to meal. Rather than thinking of a plate with one main entrée and two supporting sides, think instead of meals that combine multiple ingredients and flavors into one complete dish: stir-fries, salads, soups, stews and casseroles are great examples.
Texture matters—it can impact your experience of a food or dish not only in how you perceive its taste, but also in the visual appeal of what you’re eating. The most balanced dishes have a combination of several different textures, to keep your taste buds—and your whole mouth—engaged. Work with contrasts in texture—soft and hard, crispy and smooth, acid and creamy, raw and cooked. Simple techniques, like roasting and caramelizing can transform the texture of ingredients like onions or root vegetables, while enhancing the depth of flavor.
Another great place to embrace contrast is with flavors. Pair sweet, salty, sour, and bitter elements to create balance and build flavor. For example, if you’re working with an Italian dish that calls for lemon juice (sour), add capers or olives (salty), and a touch of sundried tomatoes (sweet), for a balanced meal. Likewise, if you’re making an Indian curry, try adding raisins (sweet), apple cider vinegar (sour) and curry powder (salty).
Complement and evolve your favorite basic go-to recipes with local, in-season ingredients. Fresh ingredients are foundation of amazing food. If you’re choosing local, in season ingredients (organic if possible), you don’t need to be a professional cook to make the dish sing. For fall, look to hearty root vegetables (parsnips, squash, turnips, carrots) and dark leafy greens (kale, Swiss chard, greens), as well as apples and pears.
Hearty plant-based dishes that satisfy
Dishes like stir-fries, casseroles, and large salads create harmony with all the macronutrients you need to make satisfying, tasty meals. Throw out the old definition of what a meal looks like and discover how every ingredient contributes flavor, texture, and nutrition. Start with a base of a grain (or starch), add a plant-based protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Then season with proven flavor combinations. A great place to start—no matter your culinary ability—is with a power bowl.
Hearty Fall Power Bowl
Adapted from ThriveForward.com
Makes 2 servings
1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
½ cup sweet potato, cooked and diced
2 cups raw kale
1 cup kidney beans
1/4 cup olives (kalamata or other variety
of your choice)
Juice of one lemon
1/8 cup Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend, or extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp thyme, fresh or dried
Pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients and lightly toss in a sauté pan or wok to warm through.
Make the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a small bowl, or shaking them in a small glass jar with a lid.
Remove wok or sauté pan from heat. Pour dressing over power bowl ingredients, and toss until well incorporated. Serve warm.
Remember, your palate will change as you create more plant-based meals and you’ll start craving more real, whole plant-based foods. In Thrive Forward Kitchen Edition you’ll find base recipes to start cooking, and flavor profiles to expand and harness your creative potential in the kitchen. Bon appetite!