Friday, May 18, 2012

Plant Power...5 easy steps for moving towards a plant-based diet.

Earthly Delights...

Full disclosure...if you don't read a lot of my blog, you might not know that I am a vegetarian. Not a vegan - a vegetarian. This means that I don't eat meat of any kind, including fish and seafood. I do eat dairy and eggs although I try to minimize them in my diet. So right off the bat, I have a bit of a bias. 

Even if you have no desire towards a vegetarian diet, heck - even if you live for steak - I want to encourage you towards a more plant-based diet. Sound like an oxymoron? It isn''s why:

A plant-based diet means that most of your foods come from unprocessed plants. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains...these are the foods that will protect you from chronic disease with all that fibre and those vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. It will help keep your weight down over the years too. Most of your food should come from these plants. Then, if you wish, you can add a bit of cake, dairy, taco chips, eggs, seafood or meat. Your body will be so nourished it won't matter too much. 

A plant-based diet will also help lower your impact on the planet. Check out this carbon footprint chart from the Environmental Working Group (you'll have to scroll down a bit) won't look at a cow the same way again.

If you have been trying to shift your diet towards one that is more plant-based, it can seem overwhelming. Don't worry about transforming overnight; instead go slowly and build in habits that will become an effortless part of how you live. Here are 5 easy ways you can build up the plant power on your plate!

1. Celebrate Meatless Monday. Every Monday, join the millions worldwide who go without meat just one day a week to help lighten their environmental impact. 

2. Switch to a veggie milk. While other options might not be as effortless (or tasty), there are infinite varieties of vegetarian milks and surely one will tickle your fancy. Try almond, rice, coconut, soy, quinoa or even hemp "milks". Almost all of them are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong and B12 - a vitamin unique to the animal world. 

3. Make half your plate produce. No matter what the meal, shift the balance of fruits and veggies so that they make up 50% of your plate. You will boost nutrition and save calories. We all need that.

4. Snack on fruits and veggies. For some reason, we only think "snack foods" - the granola bars, cookies and chips of the world - when it comes to snack time. Instead, nosh on chopped veggies and dip; pack uber-portable fruits like apples and pears so that you always have something healthy to nibble. 

5. Go retro and "extend" your meat. That old cost-saving method of making meatloaf with veggies and breadcrumbs? Give it a modern spin. Canned lentils have the perfect taste and texture to substitute for 50% of your ground beef in a dish. Instead of serving big chicken breasts, stir-fry over lush beds of freshly "wok"ed veggies or sauté with veggies for a pasta primavera. Serve fish tacos, nestled into tortillas with a colourful coleslaw, instead of serving up big slabs of pricey salmon. Use all that money you save to splurge on some good fair trade chocolate.


Katie said...

Hey Desiree!

Have you read The Vegetarian Myth? I've been a vegetarian for 20 years and I recently read it after a friend of mine asked what I thought about it. It was a tough read - written by a woman who was vegan for 20 years and blames this for a myriad of health problems - but an interesting one. It didn't convince me to go back to eating meat, and I found her nutrition arguments to be heavily flawed, but some of her other arguments against a grain heavy diet were quite thought provoking. I liked reading it because I like things that really make me think about how I decide what to eat, and this book certainly did that. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it if you've read it!

Desiree Nielsen RD said...

Hi Katie,

Thanks for writing! I have never heard of the book and this is definitely going on my to-read list. Personally, I think it is important that we distinguish between high quality, unprocessed foods and so much of the processed grain we eat. I tend to eat grains more modestly than I used to but they are still an important part of my diet. I can't wait to see what she has to say, perhaps it will end up as a review here...

Katie said...

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. It's a bit of a slug and really made me value my critical thinking skills. Like I said, it didn't drive me back to eating meat, but it did make me really think hard about why and how I make my food choices, and it did change how I eat as a vegetarian a little bit. Definitely give it a read!