8 Practical Tips to Get Started with Plant Focused Eating
What is Plant-Focused Eating?
Plant-focused eating is one of the top nutrition and food trends for 2023 and this food trend is here to stay. You may decide you want to eat less meat for a variety of reasons; for your health, ethical, religious, cultural, or environmental reasons. It does not mean you have to eliminate all animal foods, rather you choose proportionately more foods from plant sources. Foods included are not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.
Benefits of Eating Less Meat
There are many benefits to eating more plant foods. The research is mixed showing one specific diet to follow for cancer prevention. However, it might reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Plant foods are naturally high in fiber. Foods high fiber foods have been shown to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer risk. Fiber containing foods can help you achieve a healthy weight because they are naturally low in calories and help you feel satisfied longer.
Plant foods also contain chemical compounds called phytochemicals that protect the body from damage by interrupting processes in the body that can encourage cancer production. In addition, phytochemicals decrease inflammation. Ongoing inflammation in the body has been shown to increase cancer risk.
Eating less meat reduces your food budget too!
Examples of plant-focused eating patterns:
Mediterranean diet: this eating pattern is not overly restrictive and easy to follow. It emphasizes whole foods, olive oil, seafood, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Red meat and added sugar are limited, while eggs, poultry, and dairy are recommended in moderation. Although the diet name suggests foods from the Mediterranean region it can be adapted to plant foods common to other cuisines or cultures.
Mayo Clinic diet: a long-term weight management program created by a team of weight-loss experts at Mayo Clinic to include healthy foods and increase physical activity through sustainable changes.
DASH diet: includes a variety of foods that can lower both blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood.
Flexitarian diet: describes someone who eats mostly plant-based foods, but occasionally eats meat, poultry, and fish.
Vegetarian diets: there are many types of vegetarian diets that include or exclude certain foods. Some that exclude most, or all animal products, may require more planning to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.
How to Get Started with Plant-Focused Eating
Making any kind of change can be hard. Begin slowly and try a few of these tips to get started.
- Examine your meals. Does each meal include either fruit or vegetables? Include ones you are most familiar with. You can branch out and try new fruit or vegetables prepared in a unique way.
- Bring your lunch from home. If you don’t normally bring your lunch to work, start by packing lunch 1-2 times per week. Be sure to include fruits and veggies!
- Half your plate. Fill half your plate with vegetables with your dinner meal.
- Make convenience your friend. Use frozen, pre-chopped, packaged vegetables, or salad mixes to save time on chopping and prepping at snack and mealtimes.
- Think about meat differently. You can still include meat in dishes but reduce the total amount and include beans as a plant source of protein.
- Cook a vegetarian meal once per week. It can be intimidating if you have never made a meatless meal. Plan a meatless version of one of your favorite recipes, lasagna, soup, or pasta. Check out this website for meatless meal options: Mayo Clinic Meatless recipes.
- Think creatively at breakfast. Breakfast does not have to be plain old cereal anymore. Try whole grain muffins, overnight oatmeal, or a smoothie. Breakfast recipes - Mayo Clinic
- Get creative with the typical salad. Salads can include so much more than just lettuce. It can include whole grain pasta or grains, fruit, nuts, and lesser amounts of no added sugar dried fruit.
Choosing to eat more plant-focused foods has many benefits. Whatever plant-focused eating pattern you choose be sure it is one that is easy to follow and includes a variety of whole foods.