One of the most frequently asked questions regarding our plant-based diet (other than, “but, where do you get your protein?”) is:
“So… what can you eat?”
We actually used to h a t e this question since we truly can eat whatever we’d like. Although, over the years, we have learned people are really just trying to understand what foods are part of our diet and what our go-to meals are. And I have to be honest, once Alison and I became plant-based, putting together a meal has been easier than ever before!
How can that be?!
Contrary to popular belief, throwing vegetables in a wrap with some hummus, beans or avocado (or, maybe all three!) can be the most refreshing and satisfying meal. AND it can take five minutes or less to make.
To easily create a plant-based lunch, snack, or dinner I recommend having the following items on hand at all times.
Whole Grain Wraps/Tortillas
“But, Lauren, how do you keep all of those items fresh?!”
Since the above items are my go-to items and I eat them so often, there is no time for them to go bad. All of the ingredients can be used in a variety of ways. Plus, one of my personal pet peeves is food waste. My husband can contest to the fact that I WON’T let something go bad in our household. And if it does, I get pretty upset. Not only is it a waste of money, but a waste of resources. But I could go on and on about that, so I’ll leave that for another day.
With that being said, here are my of some my tips on how to keep the above items fresh, plus a nutrition win about each.
Luckily, hummus doesn’t go bad too quickly. I’ll spread it on wraps, dip vegetables in it and my husband LOVES pretzels and hummus. My favorite is Sabra Pine Nut Hummus, but they just came out with a new BBQ Hummus that is pretty darn good too! If you are looking something that isn’t made with oil, Engine 2 has some great hummus too.
Nutrition Win: Chickpeas, the base of most hummus recipes, are a great source for plant-based protein, fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus and B vitamins.
When I purchase avocados, I do my best to make sure they are just about to get ripe. If you haven’t seen Alison’s Facebook Live on how to choose the right avocado, you can watch it here.
If they are at (or almost) at their peak, I throw them in my refrigerator fruit drawer and they stay good for at least another 3 - 4 days. When I use them, I usually cut it in half, and store the half in an airtight container. Be sure to store the half that has the PIT -- this will help keep it fresh longer!
Nutrition Win: Avocados can act as a “nutrient booster” by helping increase the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K and E. (1)
Sweet Bell Peppers
Where we live, the price of peppers always vary -- I usually buy whatever color is cheaper. If the organic price is reasonable, I’ll pick that over conventional as sweet bell peppers are on the dirty dozen list. When I have spare time, I cut my sweet peppers in strips so they are pre-cut for the week ahead. This makes it easy to munch on as snack or throw in a wrap.
Nutrition Win: Bell peppers are known as a “brain food”. Why? Because the vitamins in bell peppers help maintain prime cognitive health. Plus, they are known to increase serotonin and norepinephrine. High levels of these hormones are associated with improved mood, higher energy levels and more concentration! (2)
The only time of the year I buy fresh corn is when I can buy it at a local farmer’s stand -- usually in August where we live. Any other time of the year, we buy a big bag of organic corn from Costco (we can get into why we use organic corn another day, but it has something to do with GMOs and that is a highly controversial and in-depth conversation).
Nutrition Win: Frozen vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness maintaining more of its nutrients. Plus, I think the flavor and texture is pretty darn close to fresh! And contrary to popular belief, corn is not unhealthy. It contains plenty of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to aid in disease prevention.
We ALWAYS buy whole carrots, never the baby pre-cut carrots in a bag. Why? Before packaging, they are scrubbed and put through a dilute chlorine bath so they look pretty. Enough said.
Nutrition Win: Surprisingly enough, cooked carrots actually become healthier when cooked--regardless of cooking type. Cooking appears to increase the antioxidant power of carrots (celery too!). (3)
Whole Grain Wraps/Tortillas
I usually keep Angelic Bakehouse Sprouted Wraps in the freezer so they are readily available. But sometimes they are sold out at my local grocer, and I usually end up with an organic whole grain tortilla. To make it easy, I take the frozen wrap or tortilla and “grill” it over my gas stovetop. It defrosts quickly and creates a great flavor. Be sure to keep it on LOW… or else it will burn!
Nutrition Win: Sprouted grains are whole-grain seeds that have just begun to sprout. Not only are sprouted grains easier to digest, they also have more nutrients than their mature selves including folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein. (4)
I never used to eat cucumbers until I added them to a sandwich one day. From that day forward, they have been in my vegetable drawer. I usually buy them organic (they are #20 on EWG's 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce) and in the end, they are usually about twenty cents more expensive, which is a fair price for me to spend for something I eat almost every day.
To keep them fresh, I wrap the cucumber in a paper towel and keep it in a reusable container in the refrigerator until they are gone. Yep, it’s that easy.
Nutrition Win: They help keep you hydrated! Cucumbers are composed of about 96% water. Plus, they are low in calories but packed with nutrients.
I have to admit, I keep at least 6 different varieties of beans in our house at all times. And of course, with them being canned they have an amazing shelf life, even though they get eaten pretty quickly!
Nutrition Win: There are many benefits to beans, and we list them in our Exclusive Black Bean Recipe PDF. But, one of the reasons why I incorporate them so often is because of the phytochemical properties known to prevent cancer! Who wouldn’t want to do this on a regular basis?!
When I bring home cilantro from the store, I always take it out of the bag and clean it immediately. I do that by removing all of the small or loose leaves towards the bottom and give the stems a clean cut (just like fresh flowers). Then I add them to my Prepara Herb Savor (I got it for Christmas) which keeps it fresh for a good week or so. Otherwise, I add an inch of tap water to a mason jar, and cover the cilantro with a plastic bag -- this works well too.
Nutrition Win: Weirdly enough, we walk around with toxic metals in our bodies. “Arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury can become residents in our tissues leading to heart disease, hormonal imbalances, neurological conditions, infertility, and so much more.” (5) Fortunately, cilantro is known to aid in the process of removing these toxins from the body.
Now that I have given you tips on how to keep my go-to ingredients fresh (+ nutrition wins for each), here is our quick ‘5-minute Hodgepodge Veggie wrap’ recipe. We call it a ‘Hodgepodge’ because we add any vegetables that are laying around and add them to a wrap. If you don’t have these particular items, don’t be scared to get creative! Remember, it’s called ‘hodgepodge’ for a reason!
5 Minute Hodgepodge veggie wraps
Makes 4 Hearty Veggie Wraps
To start, grab your wrap or tortilla and spread 1 tablespoon of hummus. Then, layer the veggies -- peppers, carrots, cucumber. Evenly distribute the veggies amongst the other wraps (if you are making more than one).
Next, add your black beans, avocado and add fresh cilantro. For a little extra flavor, add some fresh cracked pepper (if your a fan).
That’s it. We told you it was easy!
4 whole grain wraps
~ ¼ cup hummus
1 sweet pepper, cut in strips or diced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 whole carrot, julienned or cut in half moons
1 cucumber, sliced or diced
1, 15 oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ripe avocado
Fresh cracked pepper (optional)
Cut up your sweet peppers and carrots early in the week and store them in an airtight container. It saves you time, and makes them easy to snack on through the week!
Store your extra beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 - 5 days. Add them to salads or make a half recipe of our Refried Beans for tacos later in the week!
“Nutrients.” California Avocados & Guacamole - Recipes, Nutrition & More, www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients.
Edwards, Rebekah. “Bell Peppers Fight Disease + Weight Gain.” Dr. Axe, Dr. Axe, 14 June 2017, draxe.com/bell-pepper-nutrition/.
Greger, Michael MD. “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease.” Flatiron Books, 2015, p 334.
Godman, Heidi. “Are Sprouted Grains More Nutritious than Regular Whole Grains?” Harvard Health Blog, 3 Nov. 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sprouted-grains-nutritious-regular-whole-grains-2017110612692.
McCoy, Kathleen. “12 Cilantro Benefits, Nutrition, & Recipes!” Dr. Axe, Dr. Axe, 21 June 2017, draxe.com/cilantro-benefits/.