March is National Nutrition Month and perhaps one of the easiest ways to keep track of personal nutrition is by meal prepping. In fact, a study of 40,000 French adults found that people who meal prepped at least a few days were less likely to be overweight and more likely to stick to nutritional guidelines. The survey also found that meal prepping led to eating a wider variety of quality foods throughout the week.
While food variety is important, not all foods are created equal and understanding what foods to include in your weekly meal planning routine is key. For example, plant-based diets tend to be rich in fiber, good fats, vitamins and minerals that can help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes, and help maintain a healthy weight. Many dietitians, nutritionists and doctors recommend a more plant-based diet for optimal nutrition and making the switch isn’t as difficult as some might think when it comes to meal prepping.
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, explains, “You don’t need to completely overhaul your entire meal plan to make it more nutritious. You can make simple swaps that will have a big impact on your well-being. For example, you can use options like plant margarine and vegan cheese instead of their dairy counterparts to lower the saturated fat — and often the calories, too — in a dish, while still getting the texture and flavor you crave.”
Swapping out dairy butter for margarine is, in fact, recommended. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), “a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods … and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting.”
So why aren’t more of us swapping out dairy for plant-based options? A recent study of 2,000 adults commissioned by Upfield, a leader in plant-based nutrition, uncovered a number of food myths, including that 32% of those surveyed admitted that they thought margarine was less healthy than dairy butter.
“I’m shocked at how many people still believe that margarine is highly processed and contains trans fats,” said Gorin. “In reality, margarine is a plant-based product — and market-leading margarines removed trans fats years ago. On the other hand, dairy butter contains naturally occurring trans fats.”
To jump start your meal prep this month, Amy shares two of her favorite plant-based dishes that are nutritious, full of flavor and easy to round up before any busy week.
Ginger Berry Crumble
1 stick margarine, divided
4 cups strawberries, halved
2 1/2 cups blackberries
2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 cup gooseberries (or berry of choice)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with margarine; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, gently toss berries with lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, ginger, and granulated sugar. Transfer fruit mixture into baking dish. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Slice margarine into several large pieces, and add to dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work margarine into dry ingredients until heavy crumbs form. Spread the topping over the berry mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the topping is firm to the touch and the berry juices are bubbling at the dish’s edges. Cool slightly before serving. Makes 10 servings.
Nutritional information per serving: Cal: 260 Fat: 8 g Sat fat: 1.5 g Pro: 2 g Carbs: 48 g Sugar: 28 g Fiber: 6 g Chol: 0 mg Sod: 150 mg
Roasted Spring Vegetables
Spray margarine, as needed
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons tub margarine, melted and divided
2 bulbs fennel, de-stemmed and sliced into thick wedges
12 carrots, de-stemmed and peeled
1 bunch (about 18-20 spears) asparagus, ends trimmed
2 bunches radishes, de-stemmed and halved
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray two large baking trays with margarine. Place melted margarine in a large mixing bowl; toss fennel slices with margarine. Place fennel on baking tray, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until fork tender, 35-40 minutes; flip halfway through. Meanwhile, if you are using larger carrots, slice them lengthwise. Toss carrots, asparagus and radishes with remaining margarine. Place on remaining baking tray, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until fork tender, about 20 minutes; flip halfway through. Remove vegetables from oven, and sprinkle with rosemary and oregano. Makes 6 servings.
Nutritional information per serving: Cal: 150 Fat: 6 g Sat fat: 2 g Pro: 3 g Carbs: 21 g Sugar: 10 g Fiber: 7 g Chol: 0 mg Sod: 220 mg
Recipes and photos courtesy of Amy Gorin.