What are the benefits of eating a plant-based diet?
Most experts agree that eating less meat—or even giving it up entirely—reduces your risk of developing heart disease and other health conditions. Meat and full-fat dairy products are often full of saturated fats and cholesterol. A plant-based diet helps you fill your plate without clogging your arteries.
Plant-based eating does not have to be intimidating. It also does not require giving up all your favorite foods or living on carrots and beets. You will 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 eliminate meat and dairy. Meat may be included but is not the primary food or focus.
How do I create a plant-based meal?
Knowing where to begin can be a little daunting once you have committed to prioritizing plant-based foods in your diet. Start with meatless Mondays or tofu taco Tuesdays, then slowly add more plant-based choices to your menu. Before you know it, you will have a healthier way of eating.
These tips will help you get started.
Tip 1: 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.
Tip 2: Unsalted nuts are a nutritious addition to your plant-based menu when you use them to boost the fiber, healthy fats and protein you are eating.
Tip 3: Choose snacks such as veggies and hummus that supply protein for a winning combination of taste and nutrition.
Tip 4: Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent protein sources and several minerals, fiber, and folate. Cook up a hearty bean-based chili or lentil soup, and you will not notice the lack of meat.
Tip 5: Visualize your plate. If your standard menu relies on some combination of meat, starch, and a vegetable, it can be challenging to devise a plant-based alternative.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Include various colors to ensure you get 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.
Tip 6: Visit The United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate Plan to create a customized food plan.
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