As the weather heats up, so do the barbeques... what are you grilling this season? Might I suggest a few more plants? Whether you've got vegetarians or vegans coming to dinner, or you are simply looking to eat more plants, there has never been a better time to put a few more plant-based meals on your table. Add grilled vegetables to your favourite BBQ recipe as a side or make them the start of the main dish. So let's talk vegan and vegetarian BBQ ideas, plus why it's so important to put more plants on your plate.
Why You Should Eat More Plants
A dietitian telling you to eat your veggies might not seem so revolutionary until you realize this: plant-based and plant-forward diets are associated with decreased risk of cardiometabolic diseases such as heart disease, as well as decreased mortality. In fact, when you add the volume of literature on the Mediterranean diet – which is largely plant-based – a plant-based diet is the most researched dietary pattern in the world. Plant-forward diets are also critical for supporting gut health, whether you want to keep your healthy gut well… or it needs a little extra support. Why? Because plants contain a host of fermentable prebiotic fibres.
Plant foods contain a spectrum of carbohydrates such as fibres and oligosaccharides that we do not fully digest and absorb, so they travel through the gut where they can be fermented by our gut microbiota, leading to a healthier and more resilient microbiome. While a probiotic like Bio-K+ can help shift your microbiome in a positive direction, you need to keep your gut bacteria well fed so they can thrive!
Data from the American Gut Project suggests that people who eat more than 30 different plant foods each week have a more resilient and stronger gut microbiome than folks who eat fewer than ten. This is easier than you think, especially in the summer, when there is an abundance of flavourful fruits and veggies at the market.
In case you’re nervous about making radical changes to your diet, know that it isn’t necessarily about becoming vegetarian or vegan. All eaters can benefit from eating more whole plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit and vegetables. In fact, one study suggests that it is eating whole plant foods that matters most, as opposed to eating hyper-processed vegan snack foods or meat substitutes.
So how can you get more plants on your plate at a BBQ, which is so often centred on grilling meat? Let’s explore some easy vegan and vegetarian BBQ ideas that you can enjoy all summer long.
Vegan and Vegetarian BBQ Ideas
Whether you're hosting vegetarians or vegans or you simply want to eat more plants, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan BBQ ideas for a delicious plant-based fare at your next backyard gathering.
When in doubt, throw it on the grill! With just a little oil, salt and pepper, grilling will bring out the best in summer produce. The good news? Grilling recipes are very easy, and you can pretty much make your own as you go. Try whole spring onions or Japanese white turnips. Char corn on the grill instead of boiling it. Grill classics like eggplant or zucchini - or explore new favourites like kohlrabi or lion's mane mushroom. Even quartered romaine lettuce or kale create new and interesting flavours when grilled. For smaller pieces, use a grill basket to avoid pieces falling through the grill!
Try a dip
Dips are perfect for picnics or a barbeque spread. Create a mushroom pate from grilled mushrooms and onions. Puree grilled eggplant to make baba ghanoush. Whip up a quick hummus for dipping raw vegetables from the garden.
Consider a sandwich buffet
Grilled vegetables and dips can be layered with fresh summer salads and spread to make a DIY sandwich buffet packed with plants.
Extra firm tofu and vegetable skewers are easy to put together and can be marinated ahead of time with your favourite sauce like any skewer. Mushrooms make wonderful skewers too.
Main-dish worthy sides
All too often, the vegetable sides are the most exciting part of the meal. Use vegan mayo to make a potato salad; try a grain salad with quinoa or farro, or add chickpeas or lentils to a vegetable salad to add protein.
Looking for a more traditional main course?
There are so many wonderful plant-based sausages and burgers on the market, ranging in style from “I can’t believe it’s not beef” to those made with beans and vegetables you can see. You can also marinate slabs of extra firm tofu or tempeh in BBQ sauce for another whole food option that goes well in a bun.
Summer – and it’s flavours – are all too fleeting. Take the time to savour the moment, share a meal and make a few memories with your family and friends.
Savor the Flavors and Reap the Healthy Benefits
When it comes to vegetarian BBQ ideas, it's not necessarily about only making vegan dishes and ditching the meat altogether. But adding vegetables in the forms of grilled corn, grilled mushrooms, and potato salad, for example, not only enriches the flavor but also provides a variety of health benefits, like a healthy gut microbiome. Another option? Add probiotics to your diet! Probiotics, like Bio-K+’s drinkable probiotic, can help support and boost healthy gut function for a healthier lifestyle.
Summer - and its flavours - are all too fleeting. Take the time to savour the moment, share a meal and make a few memories with your family and friends.