Turn on any Dr. Oz episode, pick up any diet book, or read any article by a health “expert” and you’ll hear a different message. Eat carbs, don’t eat fat, go vegan, eat lots of meat, drink juice, and on and on. However, I propose that if we all listened a little more closely, read a little more between the lines, and opened our minds up to it, we would also hear a more common message in 99% of this media – eat more plants.
This plant-focused way of eating is simple and straightforward and without gimmicks. It guarantees that you can eat large quantities of food while still maintaining or losing weight and reaching your overall health goals. It’s not sexy or magical, but instead focuses on the simple principle of nutrient density. Nutrient density is a measure of the micronutrients that you get from a food as compared to the calories that food provides. For example, kale is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, but it only has 36 calories per cup (common serving size). On the other hand, chicken has fewer micronutrients (as compared to macronutrients like protein) but in a 4 oz serving (common serving size) has 223 calories. What does this mean in practical terms? That kale or other similar plant foods give us more bang for our nutritional buck and we can therefore benefit from following a more plant-focused diet.
At this point, you probably have visions of salads and steamed veggies floating through your heads and are thinking “I couldn’t just live on fruits and veggies forever more”. The good news is that a plant based diet is not just made up of fruits and vegetables, nor does it need to be 100% plant based to benefit you. Also included in the plant based category are beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. This combination of foods can provide you with endless culinary possibilities, delicious flavors, and filling food. For example, a day of plant focused eating might include:
Breakfast: Whole grain cereal with a banana and berries topped with ground flaxseeds and plain unsweetened almond milk
Snack: Green smoothie (see recipe below)
Lunch: Burrito in a whole grain wrap stuffed with fat free refried beans, lettuce, salsa, and guacamole
Snack: Brown rice crackers with hummus
Dinner: Red curry lentil soup (see recipe below) and a side salad
You may notice that the meal plan above doesn’t include any animal products and this is how I eat most of the time. However, research by T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, concluded that benefits of a plant based diet are found when the diet contains no more than 5% animal proteins. Therefore, eating the plant focused way 95% of the time and “splurging” or leaving some leeway for other occasions can be an effective way to maximize your health and experience the freedom to enjoy your favorite foods other parts of the time.
If you’re ready to get started with learning more, there are some great resources out there to help you, including:
Of course, you also need good recipes to open your eyes to how delicious plant based eating can be. Here are a few of my favorites:
Green Pina Colada – Serves: 1
1 cup coconut water
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup baby spinach
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds (optional)
Blend all ingredients together until smooth and serve for breakfast or snack.
Source: Amy Vig at www.deliciousbynature.com
Red Curry Lentil Soup – Serves: 4
1 cup French green lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp red curry paste (plus more to taste)
1 cup coconut milk
Rinse lentils and pick through to find any debris.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp vegetable broth and saute onion, adding more liquid as needed. After about 2 minutes, add in carrots and celery. Saute about 5 more minutes, watching liquid content, until soft. Add in curry paste and stir to coat vegetables about 1 minute.
Add in lentils and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and partially cover. Cook about 40 minutes, until lentils are cooked, and make sure to watch liquid content as it goes along. Add in coconut milk and simmer about 5 minutes longer. Taste and adjust salt and red curry paste as needed.
Source: Amy Vig at www.deliciousbynature.com
Amy Vig is a trained natural foods chef and Healthy Eating Educator at a large natural foods chain. Through her cooking classes and personal chef work, she has opened hundreds of people’s eyes to the possibility that healthy food can be satisfying and nutritious. Learn more about her services and philosophies and check out more of her recipes at www.deliciousbynature.com.