Following a plant-based diet: part 4

On the Menu

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Liz Weber is a registered dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, and for today’s “On the Menu” segment, she discusses the last part of this plant-based diet series.

Today, we look at ways to optimize your side dishes. Or in other words, how you can make side dishes as nutritionally dense as possible.

On average, at least 75 percent of Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Therefore, when it comes to following a plant-based diet, here are a few guidelines to follow to get the most antioxidant-packed side dishes.

Purchase what’s in season.

Buying produce that is in season or grown locally will not only taste better, but often save you money. What’s in season right now in West Michigan? Apples, onions, potatoes, beets, Brussels sprouts, kale, garlic, cauliflower, carrots, clementines and grapefruit, to name a few.

Buy locally at the Fulton Street Market on Saturday mornings or at the Downtown Market.

Use a combination of pre-cut and fresh ingredients to save time.

Many of my patients find the idea of cutting a whole butternut squash a little daunting and as a result, they often just avoid it. No need! Science is an amazing thing and nowadays there is pre-cut butternut squash along with other vegetables in the produce section.

Short on time? Buy a combination of pre-cut and whole, raw vegetables to create a healthy dinner without “slaving” in the kitchen. Note: Pre-cut vegetables tend to break down quicker so be sure to use them within a couple days of purchase.

Aim for at least three fruits and/or vegetables in one dish.

Variety is the key to reducing your risk of chronic disease and cancer! The more variety, the more likely you are to get a broader spectrum of antioxidants and nutrients.

By including at least three fruits and/or vegetables in a side or main dish, you really pack in the maximum antioxidant power.

Pear, Butternut Squash, and Pearl Onion Bake

servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 pears, cubed
  • 1-12 oz. bag of pre-cut butternut squash (or 1 small whole butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed)
  • 1 ½ cups, pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the pears, squash, and onions in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss vegetables with the olive oil, vinegar, sage, and salt and pepper. Spread the vegetable mixture on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve immediately.

Brussel Sprouts, Apples, and Potatoes

servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 12-16 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved and rinsed
  • 1 Michigan EverCrisp® apple, washed, cored and cubed
  • 1 large Russet potato, washed and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the Brussels sprouts, apple, and potatoes in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss vegetables with the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Spread the vegetable mixture on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 30-35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve immediately.

Quinoa, Dried Cranberries, Apples, and Arugula Salad

servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1/3 cup reduced sugar dried cranberries
  • 1 EverCrisp® apple, cored and cubed
  • 5 oz. pre-packaged arugula
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions. After done cooking, allow quinoa to come to room temperature. While cooling, add dried cranberries, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until evenly combined. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. 
  2. While the quinoa is cooling, whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add the arugula to a medium plastic bowl. Pour the vinegar-oil mix over the arugula and massage into the greens for ~1-2 minutes until all the arugula is lightly coated.
  3. Once the quinoa is chilled, cut the apple and combine the apple with the quinoa mixture. 
  4. Serve over a bed of the arugula and top with pepitas or fresh basil.

Grapefruit, Avocado, Kale, and Parmesan Salad

servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 grapefruit, sliced
  • 1 pound kale, de-stemmed and cut into 1-2” bite-sized leaves
  • 2 avocados, pitted and sliced
  • 2-3 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved

Walnut Maple Dressing

(adapted from: keyingredient.com)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp ground dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the oils in a food processor.
  2. Blend until well combined and walnuts are pureed.
  3. Pour olive oil in food processor (while running) in a slow steady stream through the feed tube.
  4. Add water as needed to thin the dressing to your desired consistency.
  5. Transfer to a jar or airtight container and refrigerate.

*This salad can also be served with a balsamic vinaigrette or dressing of your choice.

References: 

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