As we start on this World Food Week of Action, ask yourself, “what is the single most important change that I can make in my eating habits to improve not only my health, but the health of the planet?” My answer would be to eat more plants!
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that just 1 in 10 adults in the United States meets the federal fruit/vegetable recommendations. To make matters worse, a portion of the fruits/vegetables being eaten by those 10% are processed and not whole as nature intended!
Fruits and vegetables in their natural state provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that help reduce the risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity. Seven of the 10 top leading causes of death in the Untied Stated are from chronic diseases. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables daily is one of the BEST ways to reduce your risk for chronic disease and live a healthier and longer life.
The bottom line then, is we all know, and probably agree, that we should eat more plants. So, why is it SO difficult? Some of the common reasons include high cost, limited availability/access and lack of time to prepare and cook. The truth is these are just excuses that keep us stuck in our old ways.
- Eating more plant-forward is only more costly if you fail to plan and end up throwing all the fresh items away at the end of the week. In addition, you need LESS high quality, nutrient-dense food to feel satisfied and full.
- There are plenty of local farmers and suppliers in your area if you search them out, and local grocery stores are stocking more and more fresh, local produce than ever.
- Preparation and cooking plant-based meals is not difficult or time consuming. You just need to learn a few basic cooking techniques and skills and schedule a couple hours for meal preparation and/or batch cooking each week.
Yes, making changes to eating patterns and changing ingrained habits can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to emphasize that every food choice is an opportunity to move toward a healthy eating pattern. Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal — can make a big difference. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.
Ready to get started? Here are some suggestions to start incorporating more plants into your daily diet:
- Change the way you think about meat.
Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
- Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week.(Meatless Monday, anyone?)
Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
- Aim for variety
If you’re used to only eating broccoli, zucchini, apples and one type of nut, then it’s no wonder why you hate eating plant-based foods. Variety is very important when starting out. Try new, different fruits and vegetables. Even if you didn’t like something as a kid, still be open to experimenting with that same food, but prepared in a different way. You might be surprised!
- Do a 50/50 swap for legumes
Legumes are a great way to up your fiber and cut down on your meat intake. Swap half of the meat in a recipe for cooked lentils when making Bolognese or meatloaf. For burgers or chili swap out a portion of the meat with black, pinto or even cannellini beans for a delicious, nutritious variation.
- Grate veggies into your favorite dishes
An easy, and almost undetectable way, to increase your vegetable intake is to add grated vegetables into dishes like stews, pasta sauces, soups, curries and even lasagna.
- Include veggies at breakfast
Many people don’t think about vegetables for breakfast, but it is a good time to load it on. You can add shredded carrot to your oatmeal, serve your poached egg on a bed of spinach or top your toast with avocado and tomatoes.
- Join the Zoodle Party
Spiralized zucchini, sweet potatoes or other vegetable is a delicious, fun way to get more vegetables in your diet. Use like regular pasta noodles with your favorite sauce, stir into soup or roast in the oven and top with your favorite add-ons for a low-carb nacho.
- Say yes to Cauliflower
It seems like cauliflower can do anything these days. Finely chopped it is a substitute for rice, cut into slabs it becomes “steak” and pureed it transforms into a creamy sauce.
- Embrace the mushroom
Mushrooms have a deep, early flavor that mimics that of ground beef in a dish. Substitute finely chopped mushrooms for some or all the meat in pasta sauce or meatloaf.
- Eat fruit for dessert.
A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
To help get you started, I am sharing one of my favorite plant-based dishes, Lentil-Mushroom Loaf. Download the recipe and check out the step by step video where you will also learn lots of general cooking tips and techniques.
Remember, every time you eat you are either feeding disease or fighting it. Which will you choose?
Eat Well. Be Well