What Makes a Healthy Plant-Based Dinner + Recipe Ideas
A plant-based diet has a few different meanings, and these include making plant-based foods the main part of every meal and limiting animal products such as meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs.
In addition, some take plant-based eating further still by becoming vegetarian or vegan. The latter removes all animal products from the diet.
Every day, more individuals are turning to plant-based foods for various health reasons. For example, plant-based diets have been linked with lower cancer and heart disease cases compared to diets high in red meat consumption.
Another common reason to prioritize meals absent of animal products is environmental issues such as global warming. Deforestation is one such problem that high meat consumption around the world is helping to accelerate.
The loss of plant habitats is thought to be a significant cause of climate change. In addition, the demand for meat means that farmers need more land to rear their livestock to make a living.
With an increase in veganism, it is hoped that the loss of trees and plants can be slowed down.
The fact that there are so many choices of foods that are plant-based and that many plants contain all the nutrition the body needs means that healthy plant-based dinners offer not only great variety but many important nutrients too.
It is also easy to create healthy plant-based dinners without the need for any meat at all.
Most Important Dinner Nutrients
A healthy dinner should not just be filling; it should also supply the body with a wide range of nutrients and not just the basics such as protein, carbs, and healthy fats.
In addition, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, such as antioxidants, should also be present to help with disease prevention and immunity building.
Protein is an amazing macronutrient because it contributes to increased muscle mass and a faster metabolism. It also is the most filling macronutrient, and the body burns the most calories just to digest it.
Healthy fats serve many purposes for the body, including regulating hormone levels, supporting optimal cell function, and supplying the body with energy. They are also great to consume at dinner because they even help some people have a more restful sleep.
Abundant sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and olives.
This is where plant-based dinners excel, as foods such as vegetables and fruits contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than many meat-based meals, which tend to supply the body with more protein and fat but fall behind plant-based foods when it comes to antioxidants and mineral content.
Vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E can keep the skin and eyes healthy and protect the body from free radicals. Try including ingredients like leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, almonds, and pumpkin in your dinners to reap the benefits.
Should I Skip Dinner?
Dinner and breakfast are the most important meals of the day; therefore, dinner should not be skipped for several reasons.
The apparent reason is that if you skip dinner, you remain hungry during the evening and are then highly likely to snack to fill in the food gap. This would be okay if it is done very rarely, and the substitutes for a proper dinner are healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds, and fruits.
Otherwise, snacking mostly means eating high-fat, high-calorie junk food that provides little nutrition but is loaded with unhealthy carbohydrates and fat.
This brings us to the other main reason why dinner shouldn’t be skipped. Dinner tends to be the biggest meal of the day for most individuals and usually provides the most nutrition the body needs to keep healthy.
Skipping dinner means you miss out on protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients your body needs daily. If skipping dinner becomes a habit, this can lead to deficiencies in vital nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin C.
Those on a plant-based diet need the extra protein and vitamin B12 that a healthy dinner can provide. However, if you want to lose weight, then excluding dinner will just make you more hungry and less likely to succeed in your efforts.
The best way to not skip this meal is to set a time for dinner and stick to it daily. An ideal time to eat dinner is at 6 pm, giving the body ample time to digest the meal. It is best to sleep without feeling full, especially if you tend to sleep on your stomach.
Sweet vs Savory Dinner
It isn’t just meat dishes that can either have a sweet or savory taste to them. Plant-based foods can also taste sweet, savory, or even be a mixture of both for those who don’t mind having the best of both worlds in one meal.
Plant-Based Dinner Ideas
Here are some healthy and delicious plant-based dinner ideas to try.
1. Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Bowl
Sweet potato and cauliflower bowl is a vegan dish that gets its sweetness from the addition of sweet potatoes and carrots. Even with the other ingredients added, such as cauliflower, lentils, red cabbage, coriander, lime juice, and some garlic, the sweetness remains and compliments all the other flavors.
You are also getting all the goodness that cauliflowers provide because, like other cruciferous vegetables, they help feed the good bacteria in the gut. They also contain beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and free radical-fighting antioxidants.
2. Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry
Lentil and sweet potato curry only take ten minutes to prepare and 25 minutes to cook. It is a sweet-tasting curry and a highly nutritious one as well. The lentils, a type of legume, provide protein, folate, iron, potassium, and manganese.
Lentils are also low in saturated fat and sodium but high in polyphenols that act as antioxidants in the body. They also have a low glycemic index score, meaning that when eaten, they do not raise blood sugar levels because of the resistant starch contained within them.
Therefore, it is thought that regular consumption of lentils can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels as well.
The sweet kick to this curry comes from the beta-carotene-rich sweet potatoes. Other ingredients include olive oil, red onions, mustard seeds, chopped tomatoes, coriander, and chickpeas. Like many curries, it can be served with naan bread and plant-based yogurt.
3. Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut squash soup is a dish for when the nights start drawing in, and the temperatures outside start to fall. Butternut squash has a nutty and sweet taste and helps create a thick creamy soup.
It is a soup that is versatile and can be altered for taste, as there are no rigid rules here for what ingredients to include.
The basis is the butternut squash, but you can add garlic, ginger, spices, herbs such as sage and rosemary, or even a little unrefined sugar or honey to add extra sweetness to this healthy and delicious soup.
4. Wild Rice With Roasted Sweet Potato Apple and Pomegranate
The sweet potatoes and apples are baked in the oven while the rice is boiled on the stove.
You can add some olive oil, red onions, and rosemary to the rice if you wish, but both the rice, oven-roasted apples, and sweet potatoes must be combined and served with some pomegranates sprinkled on top for extra sweetness.
Pomegranates are a superfood packed with nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Therefore they are a must for anyone who is on a plant-based diet.
5. Squash and Spinach Fusilli with Pecans
Wholemeal fusilli is used as the basis for this healthy plant-based dinner, and the pasta is prepared traditionally. The rest of the ingredients, such as the squash, tomatoes, courgettes, and baby spinach, are baked and then mixed in with the pasta.
Spinach is a good source of chlorophyll, potassium, iron, and vitamin E. It is a dark green leafy vegetable that is part of the superfood family and should be eaten regularly.
Even pecan nuts, which are used as a topping to complete the preparation of the meal, are packed full of nutrients and healthy fats. In addition, the nuts, baby spinach, squash, and tomatoes add sweetness to this dish.
6. Southwest Chickpea Salad With Lime and Avocado Dressing
Chickpeas are an excellent source of nutrition for those who stick rigidly to plant-based eating. They provide vital dietary fiber, which is good for digestive health.
Chickpeas also contain protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals and have a low glycemic index. This means they are a good food source for diabetics.
The salad dressing that accompanies the chickpeas is also healthy because it consists of limes and avocados. Other ingredients include corn, red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and spicy tortilla strips, giving this dish a savory kick.
If you want more salad ideas, be sure to check out our salad generator and guide to creating healthy and mouthwatering salad meals.
7. Garlicky Mushroom and Kale Linguine
Garlic is thought to have many health benefits, such as infection-fighting, blood pressure-lowering, and cholesterol-lowering properties. Kale is another member of the dark green leafy cruciferous vegetable family, and these vegetables contain an array of health-promoting and cancer-fighting chemicals.
Shiitake mushrooms can be used to make this dish, and these mushrooms are often included in many Chinese medicine remedies because they are believed to boost immunity.
8. Pasta and Peas With Red Pepper Romesco Sauce
A pasta dish is ideal if you are pushed for time yet want a quick healthy savory, plant-based dinner. Pasta and peas with red pepper romesco sauce take 20 minutes to prepare.
Romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce made from nuts and roasted red bell peppers. You can use whatever pasta you fancy, including brown rice pasta or chickpea pasta.
This dish is great if you need a quick carb top-up, and the peas and tomatoes add some extra nutrients, such as lycopene, to your diet. The almonds used for the sauce are packed full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and the peppers help boost metabolism.
9. Lemon Chickpea Orzo Soup
Another time-saving plant-based dinner of the savory kind is lemon chickpea orzo soup. It also contains dill, fresh baby greens, tahini, kale, carrots, and onions.
Orzo is a form of shortcut pasta, and it can be made from flour or whole grains. The latter is the healthiest option. There is plenty of lemon juice in this dish, and lemon is a good source of vitamin C and a great detoxifier.
Tahini is a sesame paste that is rich in protein and B vitamins. It is also a source of vitamin E, which can help prevent heart problems such as heart disease. This creamy and nutritious soup is also filling and perfect for a light supper.
10. Vegan Paella
Vegan paella is a plant-based dinner that needs time to prepare. The ingredients used include tomatoes, green beans, onions, a lemon, red peppers, peas, broccoli, garlic, artichoke hearts, and paella rice. Saffron, turmeric, and salt can be added to boost the flavor of the finished dish.
Artichoke has often been linked with improved digestion and liver detoxification. Artichoke contains vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
It is also thought to help lower bad cholesterol as well. In addition, artichoke has been of interest recently in supplement form because artichoke leaf extract has shown that it can alleviate some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
It is thought that the compounds in artichoke extract act as antispasmodics, relieving pain and the muscle spasms that are associated with IBS. More extensive human trials are needed, but artichokes are also thought to be a useful prebiotic.
This means that they contain substances that the good bacteria in the human gut can feed off and use to multiply.
From the ingredients, it is clear that vegan paella contains various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you need a carb boost loaded with health-promoting nutrients, this makes for a great savory plant-based dinner.
With plant-based eating on the rise, it is clear to see the health benefits such a diet offers. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In addition, nuts, seeds, and legumes provide vital protein, making meat eating unnecessary for those who want to become strict vegetarians or vegans.
With the current state of our environment, more plant-based eating can help restore much of the damage that has been done by deforestation and harmful farming practices.
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