Slow Cooker: Your Best Friend for Plant-based Meals

Slow cookers are popular and an easy dinner option. Slow cooking is exactly what it sounds like—a process of cooking slowly. Using a slow cooker can retain some of the nutrients typically lost when frying or boiling.

Plant-based slow cooker meals focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Plant-based meals are a great way to focus on choosing foods from plant sources, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating meat and dairy.

Research has shown plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression, and a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.

Here are a few tips to get started with a plant-based slow cooker meal:

  • Add a whole grain with root vegetables, like potatoes and turnips, for soups and stews.
  • Try dry beans for soups and stews.
  • Layer vegetables, starches, and sauces for a casserole-style meal.
  • Use a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor.

Enjoy a nutritious and delicious plant-based recipe perfect for slow cooking at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., go.iastate.edu/FR22GX.

Source: Harvard School of Public Health, go.iastate.edu/OYSCUO

Diet and Inflammation

Man with an upset stomach

A diet focused on eating more plant-based foods and less saturated fats will help lower chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to disease. Choose anti-inflammatory foods to improve your health and well-being, lower your risk for disease, and improve your quality of life. Plant-based foods, such as berries and dark leafy vegetables, have anti-inflammatory properties. Base your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants, and avoid highly processed products high in added sugar and fat. Your anti-inflammatory diet should provide a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

Foods to eat more of include the following:

  • Whole Grains: 3 servings/day; whole grains have brain healthy B vitamins and are a great source of fiber.
  • Green Leafy Veggies: 6+ servings/week; dark leafy greens are nutrient packed with antioxidants and high in vitamins A, C, and K, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Other Veggies: 1 serving+/day; other vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are cruciferous vegetables that protect against cell damage in our bodies.
  • Berries: 2+ servings/week; berries get their superpowers from their bright colors that fight inflammation and cell damage.

Slow Cooker Lentils

Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon homemade taco seasoning mix
  • 3 cups water

Directions:

  1. Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Stir all ingredients together in the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours.
  3. Use cooked lentils as the filling for lentil tacos, burrito bowls, or taco salads.

Nutrition information per serving:
120 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 15mg sodium, 23g total carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 2g sugar, 8g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu

What Is a Plant-based Diet?

plant-based bowl of food

Plant-based diets are growing in popularity. Eating plant foods may protect from chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

The goal of a plant-based diet is to consume more whole plant foods—like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains—that will provide adequate nutrition overall.

Some people may choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, while others may just eat one meatless meal a week. Eating a vegetarian diet means not eating flesh foods (meat, poultry, seafood, wild game) and may or may not exclude eggs or dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all flesh foods, eggs, and dairy products and may also exclude honey.

There are many plant-based foods that make eating a plant-based diet easy. Check out this list of meat alternative products, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1021p42.shtml, on the market.

Be a smart shopper, though! Choose mostly whole and minimally processed food from a variety of food groups to have a well-balanced diet.

Sources:
Eat Right, www.eatrightpro.org
Eating Well, www.eatingwell.com

Meatless Meals

Quesadilla

Eating plant-based meals improves your heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Eating meatless meals may also save you money at the grocery store. According to the American Heart Association, “People who eat less meat tend to consume fewer calories, and foods such as beans are one of the most cost-effective sources of protein available.”

Follow MyPlate, myplate.gov, to plan healthy meatless meals that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts, and/or lower fat or fat-free dairy foods. Eating one meatless meal a week is a great way to start. Visit the American Heart Association, www.heart.org, for more tips on keeping your heart healthy.

Easy meatless meal ideas include the following:

  • vegetable quesadillas
  • spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • bean burritos
  • vegetable stir-fry with tofu
  • lentil tacos
  • stuffed potatoes

Source: American Heart Association, www.heart.org, and Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

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