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Simple plant-based swaps for every meal

(BPT) - With fans ranging from Beyoncé to Tom Brady, plant-based eating has become increasingly popular in the U.S. for its multitude of health and environmental benefits. So what’s all the hype about? Not only does eating a plant-centric diet help to lower your carbon footprint, it’s also great for your health. In fact, plant-based diets are known to reduce the overall risk of obesity and chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, eating plant-based foods can help to improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and promote better sleep and energy levels.

With more than 50 percent of Americans planning to eat more plant-based foods this year, now is the perfect time to rethink your diet and try some delicious plant-based swaps for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sharon Palmer, registered dietician and spokesperson for Daiya, maker of plant-based foods that are dairy, gluten and soy free, shares some easy tips on how to make substitutions at each meal. The good news is tacos, pizza and cheesecake are still on the menu!

1. Breakfast: Power up with protein

To avoid getting “hangry,” filling up on protein is essential to kick starting your day. With so many easy, delicious plant-based breakfast options, there’s no need to turn to high-cholesterol meats like bacon or sausage for the most important meal of the day. “Pairing clean plant protein with whole grains and fruit makes for a balanced combination that will keep you full until lunchtime,” says Palmer. Her go-to breakfast option is muesli, fresh peaches and Daiya Greek Yogurt Alternative, which touts 6-9 grams of protein per serving. “It’s made from coconut cream, which delivers the same taste and texture as traditional yogurt but without allergens like dairy, gluten or soy.” If you’re looking to switch things up on the weekends, try these brunch-worthy recipes for Carrot Cake Overnight Oats and Veggie Breakfast Hash.

2. Snack: Fill up on fiber

Trade out fatty cheeses and meat sticks for fruit, nuts, grains and veggies. “One of my favorite snack options is garlic hummus or plant-based ranch dressing with a mini crudité platter,” says Palmer, who incorporates seasonal veggies like endive, broccolini, heirloom tomatoes and yuzu persimmons. If you’re craving something sweet, this recipe for caramel cream cheeze dip and apple slices provides a perfect midday pick-me-up that’s plant-based and guilt-free.

3. Lunch: Plan ahead

According to Palmer, planning your lunches in advance is the easiest way to stick to a plant-based diet. “Set aside 30 minutes over the weekend to prepare a week’s worth of healthy lunches in advance to ensure balanced nutrition and deliciousness,” says Palmer, who regularly opts for power wraps or lunch bowls, which she fills with sweet potatoes, quinoa, sprouts, beans and Daiya Cheeze Style Shreds, which melt and stretch just like dairy-based cheese. If you’re craving a sandwich, Palmer recommends swapping out mayo for a few slices of avocado to achieve the same creamy and buttery texture (added bonus: avocados have monounsaturated fatty acids that keep you feeling full). To switch things up, Palmer will melt dairy-free slices on top of a protein-style veggie burger or tartine with roasted tomatoes, basil and sea salt.

4. Dinner: Feast on flavor

Palmer swaps standard dinner options of chicken, beef or fish with plant protein stars, like lentils, beans, tofu or tempeh. To amp up the flavor, she fires up the grill or wok and experiments with bold seasonings like turmeric, chipotle and smoked sea salt. “Gain inspiration from the ethnic cuisines of Latin America, India and Asia, which really do plant-based eating right. My weeknight go-tos are jackfruit tacos and quinoa and black bean chili.” Keep a few quick and easy options on-hand for nights you don’t feel like cooking, like frozen falafel or Daiya’s plant-based pizzas, available in Meatless Pepperoni Style, Fire-Roasted Vegetable and Cheeze Lover’s.

5. Dessert: Sweet swaps

Plant-based eating has never been so sweet. “Simply swap in plant-based milk, like coconut or macadamia, for dairy milk in recipes for cookies, cakes, cupcakes and bars,” says Palmer. “Even creamy and decadent desserts, such as cheesecakes and mousse, can be made with plant-based yogurt, coconut cream and dairy-free cream cheeze.” To satisfy your sweet tooth, try these simple recipes for vegan Greek yogurt bark or cheezecake stuffed strawberries. If you’re having company over, this show stopping blooming strawberry plant-based cake is sure to have your guests asking for seconds.

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