Become a Part-Time Vegetarian
Welcome back! Change is afoot in your life. I can feel it. I know because you found this course and returned for lesson 2. Don’t tell anyone, but you are on your way to becoming a casual vegetarian. Yes, you!
I am thrilled that you are making positive strides toward a healthy lifestyle, specifically in less animal protein and more plant-based foods in your diet. Today we are discussing fruits and vegetables and the science behind their disease-preventing qualities.
The Facts Don’t Lie
Remember as a child your parents always making you eat your vegetables? Turns out they were onto something. Science suggests that eating plants can aid in disease prevention. Numerous studies have shown a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, and have a positive effect on blood sugar, per the Harvard School of Public Health. Also, eating more veggies contributes to less stress, so says a study from the University of Sydney.
Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and high in fiber. Their fiber absorbs water, aids in digestion, and makes you feel full. Leafy greens—think kale, spinach, and collard greens—contain small amounts of protein and calcium. And while the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate.gov site recommends a plate that is half full of fruits or vegetables, raise the bar and fill the plate three-fourths full plus a lean protein like fish or poultry or beans in place of the animal protein.
You can also enhance your mostly plant-based diet with brain foods, nutrient-rich foods that help you maintain a healthy brain as you age. Research shows they may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and improving cognitive abilities. Vegetable and fruit brain foods include blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, avocados, black currants, olives, and seeds like flax and pumpkin.
Welcome Aboard the Plant-Based Train!
So mom was right about eating vegetables, but now it’s your choice to eat healthy. And here’s a switch—vegetables can taste great!
Remember that change is hard. Realistically, a healthy plant-based diet takes determination, planning, and discipline, but what I love about being a “flexitarian” is that I can tailor this diet to my needs. Just try to up your vegetable intake throughout the day, and visualize all those plant-based nutrients coursing through your veins, making you strong and fighting disease.
As you make changes, you might want to visit with a registered dietician to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals for your activity level and health. Many health professionals encourage the Mediterranean diet for its sensible approach. Similar to the flexitarian diet, this program includes lots of vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, some olive oil, and even red wine on occasion and can be tailored to a mostly vegetarian lifestyle.
For information, tools, and resources, MyPlate.gov is a good place to start. MyPlate.gov has a handy tool where you can input your gender, age, and activity level and it spits out a personalized diet recommendation. I bump up their fruit and vegetable recommendation to two servings at breakfast and three at lunch and dinner to suit my flexitarian lifestyle. For the most part, it is hard to go wrong when you add more plant-based foods—veggies, fruit, whole grains, and legumes—to your diet and lessen servings of animal protein.
Here are a few suggestions to add more plants to your diet at each meal.
• To get maximum servings of fruits and vegetables, try adding a leafy green to a fruit smoothie.
• Enjoy a yogurt parfait made with plain Greek yogurt, berries, and toasted almonds.
• Add a vegetable like spinach or roasted veggies to scrambled eggs.
• Try topping a nut butter toast with apples or blackberries.
• Try this nutrient-packed salad: baby spinach, yellow bell pepper, blanched green beans, a spoonful of white beans plus a lean protein like salmon, all dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
• Enjoy easy avocado toast with tomatoes.
• Make a large batch of roasted vegetables—summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes—to top salads.
• Stir-fries are a great way to cook lots of vegetables and a lean protein quickly.
Tomorrow: we discuss protein sources for the part-time vegetarian diet.
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