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Fat: Healthy Plant-based Sources – Part II

April 15, 2019

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Fat makes you fat. Eat fat, lose fat. Fat causes heart attacks. Fat is Fuel. Any of these sound familiar? I’m not here to defend or criticize any of these statements. To sum up Part I, we need fat, we are built from fat, and fat makes veggies delicious! And we all know we should eat more veggies! So I’m going to share some of the best ways to incorporate healthy plant-based fats into your lifestyle. I’m not going into the proper amount of fat.  It’s another topic for another day that has a lot more if’s, and’s or but’s. This is purely about ways to incorporate dietary fat from plant sources for sustainable, delicious living that supports a healthy lifestyle.

Roasted or Sauteed Veggies

roasted broccoli and tilapia

A little blackened makes the best roasted broccoli!

How many of you thought the only way to eat veggies is to steam or boil them so they remain low in calories and “healthy?” I thought that for a long time, which meant I ate very few veggies because I just couldn’t stomach them. I believe eating should be enjoyable and not feel like punishment, so once I discovered you can use fat to cook veggies, I was hooked! It’s a toss up for me if I like sauteed or roasted veggies better, so I’ll share how we do both. For a veggie sautee, heat a skillet on medium. Once the pan is hot, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil, depending on your flavor preference (coconut oil has a distinct flavor, which I prefer with Asian-inspired dishes like stir-fries). Throw in your chopped veggies, and toss to coat with oil, stirring occasionally to cook evenly and prevent sticking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, or drizzle citrus juice, cooking vinegar, or soy sauce/coconut aminos for a dash of flavor. We frequently saute broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, kale, and spinach.

Roasting veggies produces a very similar flavor and texture as sauteing, but it’s obviously easier. I prefer to roast veggies if I already have a lot of other things to cook on the stovetop. I like to roast at around 400 to get veggies nice and crispy on the edges, so start that oven up and line a sheet pan with foil. Put your chopped veggies in a bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive or avocado oil, and toss with a spoon so the oil can coat the veggies. Spread the veggies evenly on the sheet pan – the more space between veggies the more the edges can crisp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, or other seasonings that you like, then pop in the oven. Roasting time will vary depending on the veggies and size of your chop. Denser, starchier veggies like potatoes tend to take longer.

Salad Dressing

salad with hemp hearts and avocado

Salad with healthy fats: hemp hearts and avocado

I know eating boring, low-fat salads have been a stereotypical girl-on-a-diet thing, but this girl here is breaking the stereotype. I actually love a big, hearty salad, and outside of having several colorful, nutrient dense toppings for the salad, a good homemade dressing can really bring it to life. Salad dressing doesn’t have to be complicated, either. The basics of a vinaigrette are 3 parts oil (extra virgin olive or avocado oil) to  1 part vinegar or other acidic ingredient like fresh squeezed citrus. Just those two ingredients shaken or emulsified with an immersion blender make a simple, healthy salad dressing, but you can liven things up with the addition of other ingredients, such as minced garlic, fresh herbs, berries, honey, mustard, or various combinations of the above. Don’t forget salt and pepper. My very favorite dressing is a home made, dairy-free ranch made with healthy, plant-based fats. Homemade salad dressing can be mixed up in a large batch and stored in a jar in the fridge for 1 – 2 weeks.

Nuts and seeds

You know, nuts and seeds have come a long way. They used to be considered for snacking (think roasted, salted, chocolate-covered) or baking toppings, but in the last several years as people have been looking for gluten free and dairy free options, several nuts have risen to the occasion. Almond flour has become a popular flour for baking cookies and breads (my favorite healthy chocolate chip cookies are almond flour based!). You can get nearly any kind of nut butter, like cashew, almond, ,and sunflower seed butters, and some companies make blends of multiple nuts! I love to rotate these in between peanut butter to switch up flavors and nutrient profile. I’ve recently begun experimenting with chia seeds and hemp seeds. I soak chia seeds for at least an hour, if not overnight, in a nut milk, and then add to my smoothies. In addition to fat, they also have a ton of fiber and protein, so they are kind of a super food. Hemp hearts make a great addition to sprinkle on anything that you want to add a little crunch; salads, avocados, even a savory stir fry. Finally, there are some great new dairy alternatives like almond or cashew yogurts and I’ve tried some cashew-based cheeses that make a pretty decent substitute! So as long as you tolerates nuts, there are a ton of ways you can use them as a healthy fat source in your lifestyle!

Fruit

Fruit? Yeah, I said fruit. But really I’m mostly talking about the most amazing and perfect fruit ever, the AVOCADO! Avocados are a fruit, but are primarily fat and fiber. They have that amazing umami flavor and creaminess that goes with almost any dish. And if you need a snack to get you by till dinner, slice open an avocado and eat it with a spoon! They are ridiculously filling and full of so many beneficial nutrients in addition to the fat and fiber: B vitamins, as well as C, E, K, potassium and magnesium. Don’t let me forget the other fatty fruit, coconut! Coconut flavor can be a bit divisive, but if you like coconut, it’s a lovely addition to your fat list! Unsweetened coconut flakes can be used in baking and as a nice crust for seafood and chicken. The oil is perfect for frying and various desserts. And if you can find a jar of coconut butter, try to keep from eating the entire thing with a spoon! It’s also high in fiber and might cause some digestive distress if you overdo it, which is easy to do! Finally, coconuts also have an amazingly creamy milk (the kind that comes in a can, usually found in the Asian food section at the grocery store). This milk makes a great coffee creamer substitute, delicious, creamy smoothies, and is great as a creamy base for soups and gravies.

While it isn’t an exhaustive list, the above examples of plant-based fats are the main things I use to incorporate healthy fats from a variety of sources and flavors. What I haven’t yet covered are animal fats, which can still be part of a healthy diet. So stay tuned for Part 3 when I cover how animal fats aren’t terrible for you and how to incorporate them in a healthy way.

In the meantime, tell me in the comments below what your favorite healthy fat is? Yummmmm…I love fats!

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