Updated: Jan 15, 2021
After the year we’ve had, I hope you are not in the mood for bossy, restrictive diet advice. Every year it’s a new diet fad and every year we aren’t any happier or healthier for the long haul. It was “keto“ in 2020 and it looks like “vegan” is already trending hard this month as #veganuary on Twitter. The past year should’ve taught us that life is utterly unpredictable and a lifestyle that requires too many specific restrictions or excesses easily falls apart when stress, anxiety, illness, and uncertainty come knocking.
I embrace whole food, plant-based eating as my eating mantra as a dietitian. To be clear, I am not a vegan or vegetarian. I may or may not gravitate to becoming a full vegetarian in the future, but as I write this, I am enjoying a salad with feta cheese.
What is whole food, plant-based eating?
What I like about whole-food, plant-based is that it’s all about what you want. In this eating, you eat a lot of what the harvest provides- fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes; but minimizes animal meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as refined foods like bleached flour and sugar. No matter where you are on the eating scale, you can strengthen how far into plant-based you want to go. It’s your call.
How does it compare with vegan or vegetarian? Plant-based eating includes vegan or vegetarian, but it can include some meat and still be healthier. Wait, hear me out! I‘ve worked with many who restrict animal meat and dairy, but easily eat a large amount of highly processed foods (vegan hot dogs/burgers/nuggets/cheese, fries, cookies, deserts). Eating like that isn’t healthier for your body nor is it friendlier to the environment. Don’t just be pressed with the name of your diet but embrace the wholeness of fresh food, balancing nutrients, and eating adequate protein to nourish you completely.
What does the research say about plant-based eating? Eating meals and snacks that include a variety of fruits, veggies and whole-grains have been shown to improve, reduce or reverse: Cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Of all the diets over the last few decades, the best and most researched is plant based.
Veggies and fruits are an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and natural fats. All of these contribute to the first line of defense and support for our body systems.
This sounds hard so where should I start?
Here are a few tips & tricks:
Don’t focus on restricting anything to start. Just add more plant-based foods and allow yourself to naturally shift. Restrictive thinking always leads to failure because you focus on what you “can’t” have, which leads to cravings for that very food.
Start by creating meals where half of the meal is a fruit, vegetable or both. This half-plate method has been shown to be filling and super healthy.
Add a veggie to breakfast every day! Add peppers and spinach to an omelet or add greens to a smoothie. Just begin each day with a plant.
Focus on feeling good and choose fruits and veggies you already like. Try some new ones or try cooking your favorites differently. Roasting or putting veggies in an air fryer will taste totally different than eating them boiled. Compare the taste of French fries with mashed potatoes— Not the same taste at all, right?
Shop for bargains and eat in season to save money. Buy items fresh, frozen, or canned ( choose what your budget and cooking skills allow- low sodium options are a great option)
Take a step up on the scale of plant-based and know that your body and mind will benefit tremendously from a renewed way of eating. Join my 21 day challenge to whole food, plant-based eating beginning February 1st- A creative food space to share and learn.