Get your dinner plate in shape and fill your plate with plants thanks to these top 6 plant-based tips to get you started for National Nutrition Month.

Let’s make every month National Nutrition Month—a time to kick-start your goals for eating healthy, getting fit, feeling great, and looking good! Officially, the annual National Nutrition Month campaign is in March, but why stop there? Why not start every month focusing on wellness goals? Whether evaluating, adjusting, or re-setting, just reflecting on your progress can be an amazing motivator to keep you moving forward.

National Nutrition Month began as National Nutrition Week back in 1973, with a presidential proclamation and enthusiastic support from the American Dietetic Association, which is now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), as a vehicle for delivering nutrition education information to the public. It took off so quickly, reaching so many consumers, and gaining media attention that it naturally evolved into National Nutrition Month. Each year, the campaign is celebrated with a new theme and slogan, such as “Everybody Wins with Good Nutrition,” “Eat Right America!” “Go Further with Food,” and “Eat Right Bite by Bite.”

While every year’s theme may be different, the purpose is the same—to help people become aware of the importance of good nutrition and a healthful eating plan, which always includes putting more plants on the plate. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

These Golden Beet Veggie Balls are a great way to shine the light on plants.

Fill your plate mostly with plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils and beans—meat no longer has to be at the center of your plate; you’re better off focusing on plant foods, which are naturally rich in all of the “good” stuff, like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and naturally low in all of the “bad” stuff, like saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium.

So, how can you get your dinner plate in shape? Here are my top 6 plant-based tips to get you started.

6 Tips for Filling Your Plate with Plants for Nutrition Month

Showcase this colorful combination of whole grains, seasonal produce, plant proteins, and fruits with my Turmeric Rice and Black Bean Bowl.

1. Update Your Outlook. Rather than placing animal protein center stage when planning your menu, get plant-centric! Think of which gorgeous fresh vegetables and fruits are in season and which delicious whole grains and legumes (beans, lentils, and dried peas) are available to pique your interest. Let these plants be the highlight of your plate.

Fill your slow cooker or Instant Pot with sweet potatoes, red kidney beans, tomato sauce, and herbs for a comfort food smash with this recipe for Smoky Chili with Sweet Potatoes.

2. Use Meat as a Seasoning. That’s how most healthy, traditional diets are planned; they turn a single portion of chicken or fish into a delicious, plant-based meal for the whole family. Case in point: a lovely edamame vegetable stir-fry with a small amount of animal protein served with brown rice. You can virtually cut your animal protein intake by four-fold every time you practice this for a family of four.

Packed with hearty beans, crunchy cabbage, and bright tomatoes, you won’t even notice there’s no meat in these Easy Vegan Tacos with Refried Beans and Corn Salsa.

3. Put Beans and Lentils on the Menu. Who needs meat when you can feast on savory lentils, fava beans, or black-eyed peas? Combine them with veggies and whole grains and you’ve got a low-cost, delicious, nutritious meal you can feel good about.

These Edamame Ancient Grain Veggie Burgers boost the veggies on your plate with nutrient-rich edamame, quinoa, walnuts, oats, carrots, and flax.

4. Double—or Triple—Up on the Veggies. One little side serving of veggies on your plate is hardly enough. Give it a boost by serving up two (or more!) different types of vegetables for dinner—perhaps a vegetable soup or salad and a cooked vegetable or two. And remember, frozen or canned vegetables (without added salt) save time and they count towards your veggie requirement.

Partner ancient grains, like farro, in my Balsamic Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Farro with seasonal vegetables for a savory, satisfying meal.

5. Dive into Whole Grains. Include a serving of cooked ancient grains—quinoa, wheat berries, Kamut, barley, bulgur, or brown rice—on your plate. They’re so easy to prepare in a rice cooker or InstantPot. Just add the required amount of water (use vegetable broth for more flavor), and push the start button. That’s it! Then use these grains as a foundation for all of your meals, such as breakfast porridge, grain bowls, stir-fries, casseroles, stews, and salads.

My fruit-forward Apricot Almond Tart is light in sugar and fat, yet delightfully decadent with naturally sweet apricots—the perfect after dinner treat.

6. Dish Up Fruit for Dessert. Eat delicious, naturally sweet fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned without sugar) as your after-meal treat every day. Think berries, peaches, melons, apples—wonderful on their own, or happily adorned with a squeeze of lime, a dash of cinnamon, sprinkling of nuts, or a dollop of plain, soy yogurt. You can also find creative ways to showcase fruit in fruit-forward desserts, like crisps, crumbles, and tarts.

For some of my favorite plant-based recipes, try the following:

Mediterranean Edamame Quinoa Bowl
Classic Tomato Soup
Thai Tofu Veggie Noodle Bowl
Green Goddess Buddha Bowl

Main Image: Nourish Lentil Bowl, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN


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