Making the Shift Towards More Plant Foods
As a Registered Dietitian who writes about food and nutrition, I am constantly mulling over research – and it doesn’t take long to realize that evidence is mounting to support a plant-based diet as the healthiest way of eating on the planet. In my book, The Plant-Powered Diet, you can read about the overwhelming amount of science backing up this dietary trend.
As people are learning more about our modern animal-agriculture practices and the toll our typical American diet is taking on our health, the plant-based diet is catching on. It goes hand-in-hand with the movement to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables and the increasing interest in farmers markets and community supported agriculture.
People are starting to ask questions about the food on their dinner plate such as “How did it grow?” “Were pesticides used in growing it?” “Were laborers paid a fair salary?” “Were animals treated humanely?” “To what degree is the food processed?” “How far did it travel to get to you?” – and these questions are a good thing.
It’s getting people talking and thinking about our typical American, meat-loving ways. In the United States we consume meat at more three times the global average. But what’s the big fuss about eating so much meat? Well, it looks like a high-meat diet – especially red meat and processed meat – is likely to cause health problems down the road.
And let’s not forget about Mother Earth. You can make a serious dent in your carbon footprint by eating fewer animals. Simply eating one to two vegetarian meals per week it is more effective than driving a Prius in terms of global warming.
Making the shift towards more plant-based foods is not as difficult as you may think.Try one of these 5 shifts in mindset and before you know it, you may be making friends with plants.
1. There’s room for the grey area. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines defines a plant-based diet as a diet that “emphasizes plant foods.” By simply cutting back on your animal intake and adding more plant-based foods to your diet, you’re already on your way.
2. Forget the old cliché. The “veggie” lifestyle has come a long way since the days of when munching on alfalfa sprouts and granola was the stereotype. There is a huge variety of plant foods now available – a much bigger variety than meat, chicken and fish.
3. Think “yes.” Take a trip to the produce section of your farmers market and feast your eyes on the rainbow of plant foods. Think about all the foods you can enjoy rather than those you can’t.
4. Plants for protein. It’s a widespread misconception that it’s difficult to get enough protein from plant foods. We now know that it’s very simple to achieve an adequate intake of protein and all the amino acids from plant-based sources. Legumes, soy, nuts and seeds are your best bets for protein – but whole grains and veggies have it too!
5. Change the plate. When planning your meal, start with the vegetable or whole grain component. Meat doesn’t need to be the “center of the plate.” You can even try using on individual portion of meat or chicken and use it to flavor an entire family-size meal of stir-fry, casserole, or stew.