The Plant-Based Foods That Christen Harper Loves, and the Trusted Sources Where She Finds Her Recipes

The SI Swimsuit model shares some incredible meal inspo.
Christen Harper

Christen Harper.

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Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in embracing a plant-forward or plant-based lifestyle is the idea that you might have to give up many of the foods that you have grown to love. But that’s nothing more than a misconception, according to Christen Harper.

The model, who has been enjoying a plant-heavy diet for the past 10 years or so, hasn’t experienced that sense of loss that many people are wary of. On the contrary, incorporating more plants—and finding ways to remake animal-forward meals with greens—has been an interesting and enjoyable challenge for her.

She couldn’t do it without the help of several trusted recipe sources and a great deal of exploration. But that’s exactly what the last decade has been about. Here’s what she has learned along the way.

Where Harper finds her recipes

Harper has veered away from more traditional recipe sources in recent years. She finds many of her favorite meals—from main dishes to snacks—on social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok. The 30-year-old has her favorite sources, and she finds herself going back to them again and again for inspiration. Some of her go-to accounts are @thekoreanvegan, @peanutbutterandjillybeans, @nora_cooks_vegan_ and @healthygirlkitchen

But she doesn’t always stick to the script. One of her “favorite things to do is follow people who aren’t plant-based” for inspiration. “[I] see what they’re cooking up, and then I see how I can kind of make a plant-based version of it,” she explains. “It’s generally pretty easy. You just swap out a few things,” and you have yourself a plant-forward meal.

There’s a misconception surrounding plant-based lifestyles, according to Harper, that you have to “give up all [your] favorite foods,” but, in reality, it only takes a “few minor” changes to make existing animal-based recipes plant-forward.

Such has been her approach to cooking for her fiancé, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff. “It’s fun when I’m cooking for my fiancé to find something that he’s always loved and make it a more plant-forward recipe,” she remarks.

Her favorite plant-based foods

Recently, the California native has started weightlifting, a meaningful pastime that has simultaneously required her to up her protein intake.

Thankfully, with a plant-based diet, getting protein is not as hard as you might think. Many plant-based foods—and even those that you wouldn’t expect—are great sources of protein, among them “broccoli, brown rice and beans,” she says.

In order to increase her protein intake, she’s relied on things like lentils, soybeans and edamame. For snacks, Harper loves nuts, nut butters and seeds (which, she says, you can also add to your salads or smoothies for an added boost).

Smoothies are one of her favorite mid-day snacks, particularly with protein powder mixed in. Often, Harper will also throw in a bit of plant-based yogurt for even more protein.

A good chocolate protein smoothie is one of her staples. But so are tofu bowls and hearty soups. Many nights of the week, she can be found cooking up some tofu and rice—with various seasonings and sauces, of course—or a veggie chili. Roasted vegetables and baked potatoes are likewise part of the weekly rotation.

Ultimately, Harper’s always in search of “well-rounded” meals. It’s all about “finding little ways to make sure my plate is balanced ... with vegetables, a protein and a carbohydrate.”

A high-protein “sweet treat” that she loves

Speaking of protein, Harper’s recipe for this week offers an easy way to incorporate more into your regular routine.

She loves to make the following snack for a post-dinner treat or an afternoon pick-me-up. “I love these energy balls because they taste like cookie dough,” she explains of the snack.

Peanut butter chocolate chip energy balls

  • 1 c. oats
  • 1/3 c. agave or maple syrup
  • 1 c. peanut butter (or nut butter of choice—such as cashew butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter)
  • 1 scoop vanilla plant protein powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp. chia seed
  • 1/3 c. coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup cacao nibs
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • A pinch of Himalayan salt

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Scoop into small balls and place on a plate or tray. Refrigerate for one hour before enjoying.

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Martha Zaytoun


Martha Zaytoun is a Lifestyle & Trending News writer for SI Swimsuit. Before joining the team, Martha worked on the editorial board of the University of Notre Dame’s student magazine and on the editorial team at Chapel Hill, Durham and Chatham Magazines in North Carolina. When not working, Martha loves to watercolor and oil paint, run or water ski. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a huge Fighting Irish fan.