What is a plant-based diet and why should you care? I enjoy throwing around words like tofu, edamame and lentils. It’s sure to evoke a response from people in the group, usually in the form of a scowled face. Negative reactions to topics like vegetarianism and plant-based foods are understandable. There’s a stereotype, often incorrect, that adopting a plant-based diet means giving up all meat and instead eating a diet consisting of lettuce with a side of seeds, and perhaps more lettuce. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
A plant-based diet is one that focuses on plants. It’s exciting, colorful, tasty and with lots of texture. It does not necessarily mean that someone adopting a more plant-based diet abstains from meat all together. As one woman protested, “I’m not giving up my red meat!” HA! Fair enough and thank you for proving the point. You can adopt a more plant-based diet and still have red meat. The difference is that your diet is plant-centric, seasoned with meat. There are different types of plant-based diets ranging from Vegan (no animal products), to a more flexible approach such as the Flexitarian diet. For our purposes, we discussed the Flexitarian diet approach which seeks to incorporate more plant-based foods into your existing diet. So instead of subtracting or cutting out, we focused on foods to add—a concept known as crowding out.
Benefits associated with plant-based diets are too many to mention, but here are the most notable:
- Lower body weight, weight loss
- Eat more, weigh less (plant-based diets are typically lower in calories)
- Decrease risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases
- Reversal of atherosclerosis
- Reduced inflammation
- Healthy gut microbiome
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduce risk of cancer
- Better brain health
- Increased intake of important nutrients and fiber
If you would like to learn more about the benefits associated with plant-based eating, visit http://www.nutritionfacts.org which is a website dedicated to providing evidence-based nutrition advice. Adopting a more plant-based diet is exciting and fun, but can undoubtedly be intimidating to some. Below are some practical and simple suggestions. I’d encourage you to start gradually and build your culinary skills as you go.
- Vegetable omelet with black beans and salsa
- Plain or Greek yogurt with berries and almond slivers
- Steel Cut Oats with ground Flaxseed and walnuts
- Tofu scramble with black beans, onion, spices and red peppers
- Breakfast smoothie with almond butter, frozen fruit and soymilk
- Gingery Maple Glazed Tempeh on a salad of mixed greens with cashews
- Black Bean, vegetable and cheese burrito
- Chickpea, spinach and feta salad
- Beef & Lentil Taco’s
- 3 Bean Chili
- Tofu Curry
- Tempeh Stir Fry
- Edamame Pasta with meatless crumbles and marinara sauce
If you’re looking for an even lower commitment, start with a “Meatless Monday,” or pick one meal and replace the meat with a plant-based protein such as beans, seasoned tofu or marinated tempeh. Gradually adopting a more plant-centric diet will produce dramatic health improvements. Try it for yourself and see if you don’t feel better!