From a young age, many of us have been told to drink milk for strong bones and eat meat for important protein. But what if that isn’t the best way to be healthy?
Contrary to what many have been told, we don’t actually need to eat animal products to live a healthy, nutritious life. In fact, incorporating too many animal products into our diets can have the opposite effect.
By choosing a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle, we can improve our physical health, increase our overall wellness and reduce the risk of developing serious health conditions.
What is a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle?
Just like the name suggests, a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle emphasizes eating whole, minimally-processed foods and limiting the amount of animal proteins and other animal products. Replacing these are delicious foods that include fruit and vegetables. This lifestyle also helps by limiting refined foods like white flour and processed oils.
What are the health benefits?
Over 69 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. Choosing a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle assists with weight loss and the improvement of overall health and wellness. Eating this way introduces more nutrients and fibers while eliminating large quantities of sugar, sodium and unhealthy fats commonly found in processed foods.
Adopting a whole-foodsplant-based lifestyle can also help lower the risk and reduce symptoms of chronic health conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
What can you eat?
This question is quite common, as many are concerned that adopting a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle limits meal options. However, this lifestyle encourages expanding nutritional horizons. While traditional diets likely encompass only a few colors, a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle lets you incorporate a “rainbow” of healthy foods into your diet, providing delicious variety and allowing you to receive optimal health benefits.
Here is just a short list of tasty and healthy whole-food plant-based options to consider.
- Fruits –berries, citrus fruits, pineapple, bananas
- Vegetables –spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, avocados
- Starchy vegetables –potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash
- Whole grains –brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice pasta
- Legumes –peas, chickpeas, lentils, black beans
- Seeds, nuts and nut butters –almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter
- Unsweetened plant-based milks –cashew milk, almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk
- Spices, herbs and seasonings –basil, rosemary, turmeric, curry, black pepper, salt
- Condiments –salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice
- Beverages –water, coffee, tea or sparkling waters
All things in moderation
Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. It can be difficult to switch to a 100-percent whole-food, plant-based diet. Transitioning takes time and that is perfectly fine. For those interested in making the switch, experts recommend starting slowly by reducing your intake of processed foods and animal products like meat, cheese, milk and eggs. Next, gradually introduce whole-food opportunities like “Meatless Mondays” into your normal routine. Another fun way to get started is to try a vegan option the next time you eat out. Meal planning can help you choose nutritious options over take-out or other “quick and easy” meals that are often less healthy and not in line with whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle recommendations.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colors in choosing your vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa or guacamole.
- Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains and vegetables. Search for new recipes on the internet and try something different.
- Include whole grains for breakfast. Start with oatmeal or quinoa. Then add some nuts or seeds, along with fresh fruit.
- Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine or spinach. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans and/or peas.
- Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
- Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds and avocados are healthy choices that are loaded with energy and won’t leave you feeling sluggish or hungry later.
- Eat fruit for dessert. Watermelon, banana, grapes or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal. Craving ice cream? Frozen bananas are a perfect substitute.
Following a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle is something everyone can do – improving your overall health and changing the way you look at food.
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