How to Eat More Plants

Written by Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN

A plant-based diet shines a spotlight on grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, but doesn’t necessarily eliminate meat. The goal is simply to eat more plant foods and minimize animal products. Good examples of plant-based diets include the traditional Mediterranean diet, traditional Asian diet and flexitarian (mostly vegetarian) diet.

What these diets have in common is an emphasis on eating vitamin- and mineral-rich plant foods and, at the same time, eating nutritionally balanced meals that include high-quality protein from plant or animal sources, and healthful plant-based fats. Whole grains, legumes (beans including soybeans, lentils and split peas) and nuts are excellent sources of plant protein.

Healthful fats come from plant-based oils, such as olive, canola and sunflower, as well as from nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines.

For Health’s Sake

Follow a plant-based diet and you might lose weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. You may also be able to reduce the amount of medication you need to take to treat an established health condition. Plant foods are not only rich in essential vitamins and minerals, they contain many different antioxidants and phytochemicals (substances found only in plants) that are not technically nutrients, but are known to help protect us from deterioration and disease.

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Cook this Way

Here are some tips to help you shift toward a plant-based diet:

For a flexible, hearty and refreshing grain salad recipe that exemplified a plant-based, main dish, click here for my Farro and Wild Rice Salad with Mango and Avocado recipe. 

 

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