This month, we sat down with Sharon Palmer, a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition and Communications Expert to the Tomato Products Wellness Council. We asked Sharon a few questions about her plant-powered lifestyle, newest book, and love for tomatoes. Check out what she had to say below!
1. You’re known as The Plant Powered Dietitian™ and your newest book contains practical advice for people who want to start living a plant-powered lifestyle. What tips do you have for people who are accustomed to eating meat, but want to start making plant-based foods apart of their diet?
I like to suggest that people take some of their favorite foods—lasagna, spaghetti, tacos—and make them plant-based! It’s easy, just make a few changes by swapping meat for plant proteins. For example, you can use extra veggies and tofu in the lasagna, try nuts and white beans in your spaghetti recipe, and use soy crumbles in your tacos with beans and more veggies.
Start with Meatless Monday—try just one day a week going plant-based and see how easy it is. After that, you may want to add another day or two.
Remember that plant-based can be easy—it doesn’t have to involve complicated recipes, and hours of chopping. It can be as easy as a hummus and veggie filled pita, or lentil soup with a big salad, or three-bean chili with cornbread.
2. For some people, cooking with a plant-based diet can be difficult. Are there any ingredients that you like to have on hand that can easily fit into this lifestyle?
I like to suggest creating a plant-based pantry that you have on hand at all times—these foods are shelf sable, economical, and easy. They include: whole grains (i.e., oats, wheat berries, wheat pasta, brown rice), canned vegetables (i.e. canned tomatoes, corn), beans, lentils (dried and canned), and a variety of spices, herbs, healthy fats and nuts and seeds (peanuts, sunflower, pistachios).
3. We love using tomato sauce in our pasta since it’s so versatile and one of the easiest ways to get a serving of vegetables! Working with the Tomato Products Wellness Council, we’re sure you see lot of other uses for canned tomatoes, can you share a few?
You will always find canned tomatoes in my pantry: marinara sauce, canned diced tomatoes, salsa, tomato paste, tomato sauce. These ingredients are the start to a healthy soup, pasta dish, stew, curry, casserole, and more. They make cooking easy and healthy.
4. We know that tomatoes are one of the healthiest foods in the kitchen! Can you share some of the health benefits of tomatoes with our readers?
Canned tomato products are rich in fiber, vitamins B6 and C, iron, potassium, as well as lycopene—a compound that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, lycopene is more available to your body when it is cooked, such as it is in canned tomatoes. Hundreds of studies have found health benefits linked with tomato intake, such as lower risk of prostate cancer and reduced risk of heart disease.
5. During the summer, we love to grill tomatoes and also use them in seasonal dishes such as gazpachos and salads. Now that it’s winter, what seasonal dishes do you like to make using tomatoes?
I like to switch to canned tomatoes when fresh are not in season. I like to use sauce to make a healthy pizza, I have a mean kale vegetable lasagna recipe in my first book The Plant-Powered Diet, I love to make ratatouille with canned tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant; my family loves my curried chickpeas, which includes canned tomatoes; and I generally make a big pot of tomato and vegetable-based soup once a week during the cooler months.
6. Finally, we were so happy to see a ton of pasta recipes on your recipe page! Can you share a favorite pasta recipe with us?
One of my favorite pasta dishes is this Cauliflower Spinach Lasagna that’s 100% plant based and packed with good-for-you nutrients.
Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Yoga Journal. Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Sharon is also the nutrition and communications expert to The Tomato Products Wellness Council. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets. She serves as the consultant dietitian for the Oldways Vegetarian Network, an editor for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s website eatright.org, and judge for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.