No one is suggesting you become a vegan overnight. Still, most experts agree that eating less meat—or even giving it up entirely—reduces your risk of disease and improves your overall health. Meat and full-fat dairy products are often chock-full of saturated fats and cholesterol. A plant-based diet helps you fill your plate without clogging your arteries at the same time.
Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be intimidating. And it doesn’t require giving up all your favorite foods or living on carrots and beets. You’ll see results if you focus on adding more plant-based foods to your diet and reducing the number of less-healthy choices.
According to the American Heart Association, plant-based diets take several forms, including:
- Vegan: consists of plant-based food and beverages with no animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy, and fish.
- Vegetarian: may include eggs and dairy products but not fish or meat.
- Flexitarian: relies primarily on plant-based foods but sometimes includes fish or meat.
- Plant-forward: emphasizes plant-based foods but does not entirely eliminate meat and dairy. Meat may be included, but it is not the primary food or focus.
Change Your Diet, Change Your Health
Once you’ve made the commitment to prioritize plant-based foods in your diet, it can be a little daunting to know where to begin. Start with meatless Mondays or tofu taco Tuesdays and slowly add more plant-based choices to your menu. Before you know it, you’ll have a healthier way of eating.
These tips will help you get started:
- Pick a new protein to take the starring role in a familiar food. Try pizza with vegetable toppings, black bean burritos or a veggie-heavy stir fry for a meatless meal your family will enjoy.
- Unsalted nuts are a nutritious addition to your plant-based menu when you use them to boost the fiber, healthy fats and protein you’re eating.
- Choose snacks such as veggies and hummus that supply protein for a winning combination of taste and nutrition.
- Beans, peas and lentils are excellent protein sources, several minerals, fiber, and folate. Cook up a hearty bean-based chili or lentil soup and you won’t even notice the lack of meat.
Plan Your Plate Differently
If your standard menu relies on some combination of a meat, a starch and a vegetable, it can be challenging to devise a plant-based alternative.
These tips will help you visualize your plate.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Include a wide variety of many colors to ensure you’re getting the maximum nutrients and health benefits from your changing diet.
- Fill one-quarter of your plate with whole grains. Healthy choices include whole wheat, oats, brown rice, barley and quinoa.
- Fill one-quarter of your plate with plant-based protein options such as soy products, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.
Create a customized food plan with The United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate Plan.
Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.