The glorious thing about plant-based eating is your grocery store or farmer’s market is full of an incredible array of foods, flavors and textures just waiting to be discovered. Even a typical grocery store has a produce section with seasonal and ethnic foods that often get passed-over, but are convenient, inexpensive and best of all, yummy.
If you’re stuck in a rut and getting the same lettuce-tomato-onion-types you always get, take a walk down the produce aisle. Check out some of the other plant-based foods and see how you can work them into your diet.
Not sure where to start? In the spirit of a number that signifies longevity, here are six plant-based foods I totally love that are healthy and tasty, but not part of the average diet.
Also known as a Mexican potato, jicama is a big, heavy, brown fruit that really does look like a weird potato. The excellent thing about jicama is it is very crisp and crunchy, but has a mild flavor like a cucumber. Jicama can be sliced and used with dips as an alternative to chips, eaten in sticks like any other crunchy veggie, or added to salads for a snappy texture without confusing the flavor profile. It’s also a great summer side dish served with a spritz of lime juice and a dusting of chili powder (if you like a little kick).
2. Bok Choy
In Asian cuisine, bok choy is a staple. For most of us, though, we’d never think to work bok choy into a dish. This is unfortunate because of how versatile and healthy this veggie is. Bok choy can be added to a salad, and it can also be eaten like celery with a little hummus or nut butter. It can be added to soups or stir-frys, braised or grilled on its own, or given a little seasoning to become a brilliant side dish.
Pluots are an incredible, juicy little snack that come from mixing a plum with an apricot. Plums aren’t terribly uncommon, but not a lot of people are familiar with pluots. They taste a little sweet with the benefit of both plums and apricots, are easy to carry in a lunch for you or your children and are inexpensive. They might be seasonal depending on where you live, but look for a fruit that’s a little smaller and more yellow in color than a plum in the fruit section of your grocery store (usually placed near the plums).
Rutabaga is popular in some countries around the world, but it frequently gets forgotten in the U.S. With a little bit of a punch like a radish, rutabaga is an awesome root vegetable. If you like the spicy snap of it, it’s great eaten as a raw veggie. You can also enjoy rutabagas along with potatoes, parsnips and squash in a cold-weather harvest stew.
Many people feel strange about eating cactus, but prickly pear cactus (also known as nopal) tastes great and is so good for you! It can have positive effects on blood sugar and managing diabetes, and it can help lower cholesterol. I suggest buying it already cleaned because the spines can be difficult to deal with if you’re new to the food. Many grocery stores (and I imagine every Mexican or Hispanic market) carry cleaned nopal ready to cook. Similar in texture to something like a green pepper, nopal is great in dishes like scrambled tofu, or really anything sautéed. It tastes like other green veggies (think green peppers or green beans) with just a little lemony tartness. It pairs really well with spicy dishes.
6. Dandelion Greens
The wonderful world of leafy greens affords us plenty of options, but dandelion greens aren’t something most people eat every day. The green leaves are great in salads and slaws, but they can also be boiled like spinach or sautéed and seasoned. They’re just a little bitter, but fun to try, and you can even forage for them outdoors if you’re really up for an adventure!
Even with great options and an endless menu of flavors and colors, most people fall into a routine of eating the same things all the time. This is your wake-up call to use plant-based eating as a way to expand your diet, and bring in fantastic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans that you otherwise never would have enjoyed.
Vanessa Chamberlin is a certified holistic health practitioner, lifestyle coach and author of The Fire-Driven Life: How to Ignite the Fire of Self-Worth, Health, and Happiness with a Plant-Based Diet. For more information, visit www.vanessachamberlin.com and connect with her on Twitter @vkchamberlin.