It’s holiday time… again. How are we supposed to stick to any healthy diet when indulging in eating and holiday foods is being shared by everyone everywhere?
Some of us at SportPort are plant-based, vegan eaters, while others simply don’t want to omit meats, poultry, fish, and other animal-based foods. So, we wondered if we could merge some of the health benefits of both eating types, while offering some tasty plant-based menu items and recipe ideas for family gatherings or for the individual woman working to hold on to a healthy diet plan over the holidays.
But, why would the active, athletic woman want to consider a plant-based eating focus or alternative?
The Nutritional Breakdown for Active Athletic Women
Although we share most of our nutritional needs similarly with our male counterparts, women’s bodies are unique and different and can vary based on levels of activity, body weight and age. In general, this is the breakdown of the recommended dietary ratios that apply to the active athletic woman no matter their food choices:
While many may feel that a plant-based diet may miss some of these marks, the truth is that eating a variety of whole, plant-based foods can mean you are likely fulfilling these dietary ratios and getting exactly what your body needs.
How Adding Plant-Based into Your Diet Helps Health
- Find your healthy weight! A plant-based meal generally has less calories and fat with more fiber, than a meal built around meat or dairy, which can mean less calories overall, while fiber helps signal your brain when you’ve had enough to eat. Eating fewer calories can help your body find the weight where it feels and operates best.
- May help reduce your chronic disease risk. Many diet-related chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and high cholesterol have evidence-based research showing improvement with a low fat, nutrient-dense, plant-based, whole food diet. If you’re a meat eater, making small changes, like eating meat less often and adding more whole foods can also give you the protective health benefits that a plant-based diet offers.
- Feel better overall! In general, we have heard woman after woman attest to the improvement of symptoms and illnesses that affect their quality of life after adding plant-based meals to their lifestyle, including helping with acid reflux, allergies, fatigue, trouble sleeping, constipation, stomach bloat, headaches and even depression!
- Lessen effects on the environment. Animal agriculture, the industry that supports a standard meat diet, accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions, than the total of all transportation emissions! If you cut back on animal foods, you may lessen your personal impact on this effect.
If you’ve heard about the Meatless Monday campaign, then you may know that it encourages going meatless one day per week to support the benefits we listed for adding more plant-based foods to your diet. The Meatless Monday group, which is supported by John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, suggests, “diets that include less meat and more vegetables and fruits can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. What’s more, reducing meat consumption helps conserve water, energy and lessens the greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change.” Good reasons to cut back on meat? We think so!
Why do plant-based foods positively affect the body? Because with a nutrient-dense, varied plant-based diet you can get:
- Plentiful carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates provide a steady supply of energy for the body with fiber helping to slow down the absorption process. As active women, sufficient energy can positively affect our whole day, not just our workouts!
- Good protein & reduced fat. You can get the protein and fat your body needs through vegetables, fruits, legumes (ex: beans, peas, lentils) and grains while generally avoiding an excess of either of these.
- No added cholesterol. Cholesterol in food comes from animal-based products, it does not occur in natural plant sources. While your body will synthesize most of the cholesterol it needs, a regular diet high in saturated fat, from foods like certain meats and cheeses, may increase your levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. Eating less foods that are high in saturated fat and replacing with leaner options or a plant-based alternative meal may help reduce your risk.
- Filling fiber. Fiber is crucial to the body’s digestive process to help bind and remove waste from the body to ensure healthy colon function. Meat and dairy do not contain dietary fiber, while plant-based foods contain plenty!
- Essential vitamins & minerals. A well-rounded, plant-based meal can provide you with essential vitamins and minerals your body needs for good health!
- Protective antioxidants. Oxidative damage can occur to the tissues of your body when it’s not equipped with the proper antioxidants to fend off damaging free radicals, like tobacco smoke, air pollutants and chemicals. Foods rich in antioxidants, like brightly colored fruits and veggies, can help fortify the body against these harmful invaders.
For more detailed information or to read up more on the data that supports adding more nutrient-dense and varied plant-based meals into your diet, check out Dr. Michael Greger’s Nutrition Facts, a non-profit website that focuses on reviewing, summarizing and posting information regarding past and current science-based nutrition research.
Plant-Strong Tips in Plant-Based Diets
- Substitute plants for meat. Instead of trying to replace a typical meal with a completely new recipe, sometimes it can be fun to change up your go-to recipes with some simple changes. Like swapping the ground beef in your chili with zucchini, or trying vegetable noodle soup instead of chicken.
- You can cook oil-free! Steaming, grilling, roasting, boiling and sautéing with water or vegetable broth can be excellent cooking methods for your plant-based meals to help bring out flavors without adding extra fat.
- Plant-based condiments add taste! We love using naturally-flavored balsamic vinegars, gourmet mustards, fresh & dried herbs, hot pepper sauces, garlicky hummus and homemade salsas to add new twists to many dishes.
- Plan and prep ahead! To reduce the time and stress of preparing and cooking meals during the workweek hustle, many core, plant-based food ingredients are easily prepared ahead of time and stored for days ahead. Some of us incorporate a weekend prep-food day. Then a quick mix and/or reheat can be put together in minutes to make a variety of quick, delicious meals for the whole week.
Alternative Plant-Strong Meal Ideas
If you want to try an occasional plant-based meal, you may like some of these satisfying and delicious ideas as alternatives to many typical animal-based daily meals. We’ve even included individual serving size plant-based recipes following! Bon Appétit!
|Breakfast||Yogurt with Granola & Fruit||Fruit Loaded Balsamic-Dressed Oatmeal|
|Lunch||Chicken Caesar Salad & Dressing||Veggie Salad Rice Bowl w/ Nutty Sauce|
|Dinner||Meat & Cheese Loaded Baked Potato||Bean & Salsa Loaded Baked Potato|
Easy Plant-Based Vegan Recipes From Our Favorites:
Breakfast Recipe Idea: Fruit Loaded Balsamic-Dressed Oatmeal
½ cup steel-cut oats
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup raspberries
½ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- In a small saucepan over high heat bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add ½ cup steel-cut oats to boiling water, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes until you’ve reached desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and empty cooked oats into single- serving bowl.
- Stir in flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, raspberries, blueberries or other fruits of your choice.
- Sprinkle with chia seeds and drizzle balsamic vinegar on top. Serve.
Lunch Recipe Idea: Veggie Salad Rice Bowl w/Nutty Sauce
1 ¾ cups water
1 cup brown rice
½ cup sweet potato, cooked
½ cup edamame
¼ cup carrots, raw, grated
¼ cup red onions, raw, chopped
¼ cup green pepper, diced
¼ cup mushrooms, diced
½ tbsp. cilantro, fresh, chopped
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp. almond butter
1 clove garlic
¼ cup water
- Boil water in small saucepan with lid. Add rice to boiling water, stirring once to loosen pieces. Cover the pan with lid and reduce heat to a low simmer for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes.
- While rice cooks, make sauce by blending all sauce ingredients (soy sauce through water) in a food processor or blender until well-mixed.
- When rice is complete, remove cover, fluff with fork and transfer to a large single-serving bowl. Mix in all raw vegetables.
- Drizzle all with sauce. Serve.
Dinner Recipe Idea: Bean & Salsa Loaded Baked Potato
1 cup baby spinach
1 medium Yukon Gold potato
½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
¼ medium avocado, chopped
¼ cup tomato, chopped
2 stalks scallions, chopped
¼ cup frozen corn, thawed
2 tbsp. salsa
1 tbsp. jalapenos, sliced (optional)
½ lime, juiced
- Preheat oven to 300˚. Wash potato and puncture skin several times with fork. Place potato on baking sheet in oven and bake for 90 minutes, rotating potato halfway through. (Several potatoes can be cooked in advance and stored in refrigerator).
- Layer baby spinach on a medium-sized plate. Cut potato in half and layer on top of spinach. Add remaining ingredients on top. Eat!
We have been having a lot of fun experimenting with different recipes focused on a plant-strong diet. We have found that we are hardly ever hungry between meals, we feel great, our workouts are just as vigorous, and the recipes are endless! We encourage you to try a plant-based meal or new recipe alternative to support your healthy, active lifestyle! Cheers to your plant-strong health this holiday season!