3 Ways to Get More Plants on Your Plate

Figure out how to sneak in some extra greens and grains into your meals without losing out on taste.


By Lani Muelrath


A whole-food, plant-based diet has been proven to reverse and provide protection from disease, reduce medications needed to treat chronic diseases, invite weight loss where needed, and reduce environmental impact - more than any other single lifestyle change you can make.

Whether you are plant-curious, plant-trepidacious, or already well on your plant-based journey, most of us could use some fresh ideas about how to simply sneak more plant foods onto our plates. My affectionate, action-oriented term for this is "plantify." Here are some simple ways to plantify your plate.

Think outside the salad bowl

We all have heard the advice to "eat more vegetables!" - which is why 7 Tips to Eat More Vegetables and 6 Ways to Jack Up Your Veggie Count are such welcome advice. Yet, when it comes to eating more plant foods, thinking beyond the standard fruits-and-vegetables paradigm opens up a whole new world of plant possibility and culinary adventure. 

In your quest to eat more salad and fresh fruit, remember that beans, legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables are also plant foods that are important players in optimal nutrition. Here are 3 fast ways to sneak beans, whole grains - and yes, dark leafy greens - into your diet.

1. Make meaty sauce without the meat. 

Bulgur wheat - seated proudly in the plant-foods category - creates interesting and satisfying texture in sauces, stews, and chili not unlike that of ground beef. Next time you heat your favorite marinara sauce, soup, or chili, don’t toss in ground beef, but instead add cooked bulgur wheat.

Bulgur wheat is the easiest whole grain to cook quickly:  simply cover one part bulgur with two parts boiling water and let sit for a couple of hours. If in a hurry, cook on the stove using the same ratio of grain to water. Bring to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for roughly ten minutes. Season quickly and easily with vegetable bouillon, herbs, or simply let it take on the flavor of the soup or stew.

2. Bean-up the brown rice. 

Beans and legumes are plant-nutrition powerhouses- not to mention the ultimate skinny food. You are probably already at home decorating salads with garbanzo and kidney beans, but what about adding their extraordinary plant potential to create flavor and interest in that pot of brown rice?

At the end of the cooking process - either on stove-top or in the rice cooker - open a can of garbanzo beans, rinse and drain, and add to the pot of rice. Stir to give the beans access to whatever you have flavored your rice with, cover the pot, and let it finish cooking.

3. Nutrify pasta. 

Yes, pasta is plant-food, particularly if you select the whole grain variety. It's role as universal comfort food and familiar to all make it the perfect candidate for embellishment as you incorporate more plant foods in your diet. Here's how.

After draining the boiled pasta, pour it back into the hot pot in which it was cooked. Grab handfuls of baby spinach, baby kale, or other favorite green - I buy mine by the bagful - and fold them into the still-hot pasta. Within a couple of minutes the greens will wilt yet brighten, adding gorgeous color and enhancing the nutrition of your pasta meal. 

To shorten the 'wilt' time, place a lid on the pot briefly to help steam-cook the greens. Serve as usual beneath your favorite marinara sauce, steamed vegetable, or as a gorgeous side dish.

Lani Muelrath, M.A., is an award-winning teacher, author, and top plant-based lifestyle coach. Certified Specialist in Behavior Change and Plant-Based Nutrition, Lani has been featured on CBS TV, ABC TV, Prevention, USA Today, and The Saturday Evening Post. Presenter for Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Complete Health Improvement Program, and guest lecturer at San Francisco State University, Lani is Associate Faculty at Butte College where her book has been adopted as required text. She is the author of The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight, recognized by VegNews as Top Media Pick for 2015, and Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Workouts. More from Lani at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Main Photo Credit: B. and E. Dudzinscy/; Second Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia/, Third Photo Credit: vm2002/; Fourth Photo Credit: Veronika Synenko/; and Fifth Photo Credit: TunedIn by Westend61/