Want to give plant-based eating a try, but not sure where to start? Hi, I’m Sonja and I never thought I’d be eating plant-based. I never even thought I’d be cooking food for myself! But in the past 10 years, I’ve gone from kitchen novice to basing my entire career around eating lots of plants. With a vegetarian cookbook under my belt and years of trial and error in the kitchen, my passion is sharing with people (you!) that plant-based eating is doable and yes—even fun. Ready to get started?
My husband Alex and I got married back in 2007 and neither of us were interested in food in the least. Back then, I ate hot pockets and breakfast cereal for dinner. Alex had Taco Bell daily. We bought a house and wanted to start having guests over for dinner, but we didn’t have the first idea of how to cook even the simplest meal. (Spaghetti was even beyond me!)
So we set about to learn. We surrounded ourselves with cookbooks and started watching all the cooking shows. We tried, and we failed. And over time, we started to actually enjoy it. New foods like risotto, kale, polenta, and quinoa became part of our everyday. Around that time, we read the book Food Matters by Mark Bittman, which challenged us to think more about the food we were putting into our bodies.
The two of us decided to cut out all processed foods, and started eating lots and lots of vegetables. It started with one meatless meal per week, and then it spiraled into more. We felt better, stronger, and healthier. We spent more quality time cooking with each other and friends. And eating plant-based was not the scary, tasteless cardboard flavor I was imagining. It was delicious.
There are so many health benefits to eating more plants, and if it tastes good too, why not try it? Before we get to recipes, let’s talk about what the term “plant-based” actually means. Does it mean eating all plants, as in: a vegan diet? Or does it mean eating mostly plants, but sometimes dairy or meat?
According to Harvard Medical School, plant-based eating focuses on foods primarily from plants. So a plant-based diet can include occasionally eating meat and dairy, like in a “semi-vegetarian” or “flexitarian” diet.
But how about a recipe itself? Here I categorize a recipe as “plant-based” if it has no animal products, including dairy, meat, and honey.
What’s important here is that there’s flexibility! A plant-based diet can look different for everyone. Take a moment to consider what will work in your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be only plants—just focus on as many plants as possible! Determine whether you want to try to eat one plant-based meal per week, plant-based before 5 p.m. (for breakfast and lunch only), etc.
Alex and I decided to eat flexitarian: We eat vegetarian and vegan recipes on the regular. But if we’re traveling or out to dinner, we’ll occasionally eat seafood or meat. It’s this flexible approach that has helped us eat mostly plants on the regular for the past 10 years!
When I first started eating plant-based meals, I realized that a meal does not equal a pile of carrot sticks and broccoli. You’ll be hungry an hour later! Here’s the secret to making sure you find satisfying plant-based meals: focus on plant-based protein.
Here are some of the top plant-based protein-filled foods:
Make sure the recipes you’re choosing have enough plant-based protein to keep you full and satiated. Luckily, it’s as simple as choosing recipes that focus on these proteins (see below).
Before we get to those actual delicious recipes, here are two important tips. First: Be kind and gentle to yourself. Forming new habits takes time and a lot of experimentation. You’re going to fail, and you’re going to fall off the horse from time to time. That’s okay! Remind yourself that the time you’re spending is a valuable investment in your health.
And second: Find a buddy. There is power in accountability! There’s no way that I’d be eating the way I do today if it weren’t for my husband, Alex. Find someone else who wants to experiment with eating more plants, like you do. It can be a partner, spouse, or good friend: anyone who will promise to be your cheerleader. And especially someone who wants to enjoy a good meal together.
So what actually does this look like in practice? Here’s what Alex and I did: Start with just one plant-based recipe. Make it, and if you like it, file it away for later. If not, don’t worry! It takes time to figure out your tastes and what pleases whoever you’re cooking for.
Here are some of our favorite plant-based dinner recipes that get rave reviews every time from our readers:
Starting the day plant-based can easily become a habit! Our Best Toasted Oatmeal with a dollop of peanut butter of almond butter is the best protein-packed way to start the day: hands down.
We spent most of our energy on cooking dinner recipes: and often those turn into leftovers for lunch! But here some low maintenance lunch ideas that work for office desk lunches and snacks:
Sonja is author of award winning food blog A Couple Cooks and the cookbook Pretty Simple Cooking. Together with her husband, Alex, the two are leading voices on plant-based eating, and authors of a recipe series with Washington Post Food called Voraciously: Plant Powered. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
BY Sonja Overhiser - October 24, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.