As a Registered Dietitian, I live and breathe nutrition; it’s my job to pore over nutrition studies and current scientific research. But, when it comes to my very best diet advice, it’s actually quite simple: Eat more whole plants. And the conversation to do so is starting to flourish in mainstream media. Thanks to a long list of vegetarian celebrities, from Anne Hathaway to Woody Harrelson to Alicia Silverstone, who penned The Kind Diet in support of her vegan lifestyle – the plant based diet has come a long way.
While it’s true that many people no longer hold the old cliché that vegetarian eating is about as hip and tasty as munching on alfalfa sprouts or granola – the old stigma still resonates for a lot of people. In reality, there is much more choice than less when it comes to a plant based diet. Consider this: When you focus on animal foods at every meal, your choices are limited to the basic beef, pork, chicken, or seafood selection. But when you plan your meals around plant foods – such as a rainbow of delicious fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds – the sky’s the limit. A plant powered diet is about more what you can eat than what you can’t.
More About A Plant Based Diet
The definition of a plant based diet is one that simply focuses on plants. The great thing about transitioning towards a more plant based diet is that it covers a spectrum of dietary preferences. This leaves room for a wide range of choices, including vegan (no animal foods), lacto-ovo vegetarian (allows for dairy and eggs), pescatarian (allows for fish and seafood), and semi-vegetarian or “flexitarian” (small amounts of animal foods). Adding to the mix is today’s generation of plant-based omnivores – those that are not interested in giving up animal foods completely but recognizing the advantages of reducing animal intake.
When we picture some of our most iconic “American foods,” things like a hamburger on a white bun, an 8-ounce steak and a baked potato with butter and sour cream, chicken nuggets with fries, eggs and bacon with white toast, pepperoni pizza – it’s easy to see why shifting to a plant based diet can be a good thing. Our Western diet is stacked with calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, but low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Research indicates that plant-based diets reduce the risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, lower LDL and blood pressure, reduce body mass, and reduce overall cancer rate. Simply put, a diet diverse in a variety of plant foods offers you the best eating strategy for your health.
Let’s also not forget about the positive eco-impact that results from reducing our daily intake of animal food. This is because animals are essentially inefficient “food production machines.” Consider this:
- If you ate one less burger per week; it would be the equivalent of driving 320 miles less.
- If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road
If you’re looking for the perfect launching point into a plant based diet, start with these plant-powered Southwestern Stuffed Avocados.
Sharon Palmer is a registered dietitian, writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 750 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. Sharon makes her home with her husband and two sons in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles.