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Natural Awakenings - Alachua, Citrus, Marion, Sumter Co & The Villages, FL

Start the New Year Fresh With Healthy Eating

“Eat your veggies” is made easy and delicious with this example of a healthy meal plan. The recipes are based on the principles of a whole-food plant-based diet that checks all the boxes when it comes to health, sustainability, environment and cruelty-free eating. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, greens, berries, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds is most beneficial for our bodies.


The ingredients of these recipes are vibrant foods that are recommended daily and include all the items from Dr. Greger’s daily dozen checklist, which includes the healthiest foods that are known to aid in weight loss, support the immune system and help fight diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.


Starting the day with a green smoothie, berries and pancakes made with oat flour is great for fueling up healthy carbs, protein and fiber while providing the body with lots of needed vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Oat flour is more nutritious than wheat flour and provides protein and minerals and soluble fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar and is beneficial for heart health and hormone balance. Using ground flaxseed mixed with water instead of eggs provides cancer-fighting compounds and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids without the cholesterol.


For lunch, we have fresh mushrooms and white bean hummus on whole grain bread, and a kitchen sink salad topped with nuts and whatever veggies are at hand. The veggies, salad greens and whole grains provide minerals, vitamins and fiber. The nuts add healthy fats, the white beans add lots of protein, fiber and iron, and the mushrooms add cancer-fighting properties, anti-inflammatory compounds and immune-boosting antioxidants.


For dinner, we have the mighty buddha bowl (macro bowl), which usually consists of whole grains, veggies, greens, a source of protein plus other toppings, and a dressing of choice. This recipe substituted cauliflower rice for whole grains because we already had grains for breakfast and lunch, plus it makes the buddha bowl a lighter meal. For the vegetables, it uses asparagus, golden beets, acorn squash, red cabbage and a mix of beet greens and red Russian kale, but of course, any of the vegetables can be substituted with another favorite choice.


We add pan-fried marinated tofu for the protein source, and for the toppings, pumpkin seeds and a delicious tahini-ginger-maple-miso dressing. Cauliflower, cabbage and kale belong to the group of cruciferous vegetables that provides cancer-fighting compounds. It is recommended to eat a minimum of one serving of cruciferous veggies per day. Pumpkin seeds provide healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, plus minerals, including zinc, which is important for immune health, metabolism and nerve function. Tofu counts as a serving of beans and legumes, as it is made from soybeans, and while its raw version is quite bland and boring, it turns into a delicious option when marinating before frying or baking. Other options of plant-based protein sources are beans, chickpeas, lentils, seitan or tempeh.


The joy of the buddha bowl is that the options are endless as any type of vegetables and other ingredients can be combined. Use whatever is at hand and try different toppings and different dressings, as well. Tahini is a great base for many flavors when creating a dairy-free dressing. Favorites include chipotle, cilantro, dill, basil, garlic, jerk, Thai peanut butter and curry variations.


Using seasonal vegetables that are grown locally is always recommended, as they are most fresh and nutrient-dense, such as acorn squash, cabbage and cauliflower in the buddha bowl, mushrooms, radishes and lettuce for lunch, and strawberries for breakfast, which all are in season in January in Florida. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat a fruit or two for a snack as needed


Green Smoothie:

Yield: 2 servings


1 ripe banana

1 cup frozen fruit (mangoes, peaches or pineapples)

1½ cups fresh spinach, kale or other greens

1 cup water


Add 1 cup of water to the blender, wash the spinach, peel the banana, and add both to the blender and the frozen fruit.

Blend on high speed for a couple of minutes until a smooth consistency is reached. Fill into a glass and enjoy.




Oat Flour Pancakes:

Yield: 2 servings


2 Tbsp ground flaxseed

5 Tbsp water

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats or 1½ cups oat flour

1 cup almond milk

2½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 pinch salt

1 cup fresh berries

Maple syrup or agave syrup

Non-dairy vanilla yogurt

Coconut oil or vegetable oil for cooking


In a bowl, add the ground flax seeds and water and mix well, then let stand for a few minutes until the mixture thickens and becomes slimy.

In a blender, add the rolled oats and pulse until the oat flakes turn into flour, then add it to the bowl.

Add baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and non-dairy milk and whisk until the batter has a smooth consistency. If the batter is too thin, add more flour. If it is too thick, add more milk. The batter should drip down slowly from the whisk when lifting up.

Put a non-stick frying pan on the stovetop, add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and set to medium-high. Add the batter with a spoon to form small to medium-sized pancakes, let it fry until lightly brown, then turn over and let fry until perfect. Add more oil as needed.

Stack the pancakes, add a couple of spoons of vanilla yogurt onto each layer, decorate with berries, and drizzle with a little maple syrup. Serve and enjoy!


Mushroom Tartine with White Bean Hummus

Yield: 2 servings


4 slices whole-grain bread

4-6 mushrooms (crimini or baby Portobello)

¼ cup vegetable broth

1 can white beans

1 garlic clove

1 lemon, juiced

¼ cup water

Fresh thyme (or other herbs like rosemary, tarragon, oregano or sage)

Salt and pepper to taste


Open the can of white beans, drain all liquid, and then place it into a food processor or blender.

Peel the garlic clove and juice the lemon and add both to the blender.

Add salt and pepper and half of the water and blend, then slowly add more water until the desired consistency is reached.

Wash and drain the mushrooms, then slice, or cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a non-stick frying pan, add the vegetable broth (just enough to coat the bottom) and put heat to high, then add the mushrooms and thyme and saute while frequently stirring, until the broth has evaporated.

In the meantime, put the bread into the toaster until both sides are lightly browned.

Put the toast on a plate, add a generous layer of white bean hummus, top with mushrooms, sprinkle with fresh thyme, and serve with the salad.


Kitchen Sink Salad and Herb Vinaigrette

Yield: 2 servings


2 bowls of mixed salad greens

Any veggies at hand

1 handful pecan nuts

1 tsp tahini

1 tsp mustard

4-6 Tbsp water

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 garlic clove minced

fresh herbs (dill, parsley, cilantro, basil)

salt and pepper


Wash and drain the lettuce and add to a bowl.

Wash and cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces, add to the lettuce in the bowl, and then add the pecans.

In a smaller bowl, add mustard, tahini, and water and whisk well until smooth, then add vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Wash and drain the fresh herbs and chop into small pieces, then add to the dressing and mix well.

Pour the dressing over the salad and mix all well, then serve.



Cauliflower Rice with Oven-Roasted Vegetables, Marinated Tofu Buddha Bowl

Yield: 2 servings


2 cups cauliflower rice (minced raw cauliflower)

1 bunch asparagus

1 large golden beet

½ acorn squash

1 handful purple cabbage

½ shallot or small onion

3 cups of greens (beet greens, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach)

2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

1 firm tofu

¼ cup soy sauce

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 small garlic clove

hot sauce or cayenne pepper

¼ cup vegetable broth



Ginger-Maple-Tahini Dressing:


¼ cup tahini paste

1 tsp miso paste

1 lemon juiced or ¼ cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp maple syrup, agave or honey

2 tsp fresh ginger, diced

1 garlic clove




Take the tofu block, put it on a plate, cover with another plate, add some weight (i.e., a big can or medium jar), and let stand for about 5 minutes to let the tofu expel its liquid. Drain the liquid and repeat a couple of times until no more liquid is expelled from the tofu.

Gently take the tofu and cut it into slices, then cut those slices into triangles.


In a flat bowl, combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, minced garlic clove, and hot sauce or pepper and whisk the marinade until smooth.

Add the tofu to the marinade and coat evenly, then set aside.


In a blender or food processor, combine the tahini paste, miso paste, lemon juice or rice vinegar, maple syrup, peeled ginger, and garlic clove and blend until smooth. If needed, add a little bit of water until a creamy consistency is reached, place it into a gravy boat or serving dish, and set aside.


Wash and drain all vegetables and greens.


Peel the beets and cut them into bite-sized pieces, then put them on a baking sheet.

Cut the acorn squash and add to the baking sheet, then drizzle the beets and squash with 1-2 tbsp of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper and bake in the oven 475F for about 30-40 minutes. Turn the veggies halfway so both sides will get tender and lightly browned. (To forgo this step, all veggies can easily be steamed instead of roasting them in the oven).


Fill a pot with ½ cup of water, add a steaming basket, chop the cabbage and greens into bite-size pieces, then cut the hard ends off the asparagus and add all to the steaming basket, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Set the pot on one of your stove top burners, ready to go, but don’t turn on the heat yet.


Put a non-stick frying pan on a second burner on the stovetop and set the heat to high. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the tofu on both sides until lightly browned. Add more oil as needed during the process to prevent it from sticking.

Once the tofu is about halfway done, put the pot with the steaming basket on high heat and let the veggies steam for about 3-5 minutes, but don’t overcook to keep the bite a bit crunchy.


Add the chopped onion to a frying pan with 2 tbsp of vegetable broth and stir-fry until fragrant, then add the cauliflower rice to the pan together with a couple more spoons of vegetable broth and stir-fry for a couple of minutes until the cauliflower is slightly tender but still has some crunch to it. Make sure to use only a little vegetable broth, just enough so the cauliflower does not stick to the pan when stir-frying.


Once all is done, serve all the veggies in a bowl, placing the cauliflower rice on the bottom, then placing the steamed and roasted veggies, greens, and tofu on top.

Sprinkle the buddha bowl with pumpkin seeds and serve together with the miso/ginger dressing and enjoy!


Eliane Baggenstos, RN, LMT, is a certified health coach, and plant-based diet expert. For more information, visit