It’s the start of the New Year and many of us are resolving to take better care of ourselves by eating healthier and exercising more. With the endless amounts of nutrition information out there, it may seem like a challenging task to find the right approach. Luckily, many strategies to eating healthier have one key component in common – eat more plants … or rather, plant-based foods!
Plant-based foods include lots of delicious and nutritious options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Filling our plates with these types of foods is commonly referred to as plant-based or plant-forward eating. And, plant-based eating serves as the basis for several different popular lifestyle approaches including Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan and paleo. Although each lifestyle approach is varied and may be appropriate for different individuals, there is a common theme between each - plates are filled with mostly plant-based foods.
Filling our plates with a variety of mostly fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, nuts or seeds can help promote health and prevent serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In fact, followers of the Mediterranean diet, a plant-based approach, have some of the lowest rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease in the world. Enjoying a variety of nutrient dense, plant-based foods can help us achieve and maintain a healthy weight, while promoting long-term health.
Not only do plant-based foods provide a lot of quality nutrients, but plant-based foods also promote sustainability. According to the United States Geological Survey, it takes roughly 2600 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat compared to the 110-250 gallons needed to produce one pound of wheat. With staggering figures like this combined with the knowledge of our steadily growing world population, eating a plant-based diet may promote sustainability.
Resolving to eat more plants this year is the easy part. The “doing” is often a little more challenging. So, here are some ideas to help you make this 2017 resolution easier:
- Remember that all forms matter – meaning that fruits and vegetables, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned or dried or 100% juice, are all important and count toward your daily intake.
- Discover the world of herbs and spices! Add flavor to vegetables, whole grains or beans without adding calories or sodium.
- Experiment with global flavors! Many traditional cuisines from around the world consider plant-based foods staples.
- Magical meat extender! Substitute mushrooms or cooked pulses for half of the meat in some of your favorite recipes for soups, casseroles, meatballs and more.
- Sneak in plants! Blend beans into brownies, zucchini into bread or butternut squash into macaroni and cheese for extra nutrition.
Emily Schwartz is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with Festival Foods and certified in the state of Wisconsin