Powered by Plants: How to Get Started with a Plant-Based Diet
By Corinne Glazer, RDN and Kristen Hung, MPH, RDN
A healthier heart, decreased rates of diabetes and obesity, reduced risk
of certain cancers and cognitive decline - who wouldn’t want to
reap the benefits that have been found to accompany a plant-based diet?
Though the benefits are well documented, many people remain uncertain
about what a plant-based diet entails and how to start incorporating it
into daily life.
Plant-based diets emphasize plant-derived whole foods that are minimally
processed, while limiting or eliminating foods derived from animals, such
as meat and dairy. A plant-based diet includes any and all fruits and
vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans.
Adopting a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you have to become
a vegetarian or vegan overnight. In fact, converting completely to a plant-only
diet may not always be possible or even necessary, as there are health
benefits to eating meat as well. However, incorporating more plant-based
foods, which are high in fiber and essential nutrients, will certainly
do your body good.
Here are some easy ways to get started with a plant-based diet:
Redefine your relationship with meat. According to the USDA, meat should
not be the center of your meals. Try having smaller amounts of meat or using
it as a garnish instead of the centerpiece of your plate.
Make vegetables a priority. Try replacing one meat-based meal each week with a vegetarian option,
or try incorporating more vegetable sides with each meal. You can add
some munchable veggies for snacks throughout the day to boost your daily
veggie intake (ex: carrots & hummus or celery & peanut butter).
Eat fruit for dessert. You’ll be surprised how satisfying a ripe peach or some strawberries
will be after a meal. This is a great way to make a healthier dessert
choice while keeping your taste buds happy.
Go for whole grains. Whole grains are wonderful source of nutrients and fiber that are necessary
for proper digestive functioning and overall health. Start by choosing
grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat or barley.
Incorporate more healthy fats. Being a plant-based eater does not mean you have to go hungry. Healthy
fats will help keep you full and are an important part of a balanced diet.
To get started try incorporating olive oils, avocados, nuts and seeds
into your cooking and snack regimens.
Buy seasonally. Fruits and vegetables that are in season will be less expensive, not
to mention full of delicious nutrients at the peak of their ripeness.
Visit your local farmer’s market and aim to try one new fruit or
vegetable each time. Look up some recipes for ways you can cook or use
Eliminate highly processed foods. While some processed food products claim to be made from plant-based
sources, they might also be high in refined sugars, sodium or saturated
fats that can cause inflammation or other health-related issues. Reducing
or eliminating fried foods, sugary beverages, and other foods from fast
food restaurants is a good idea for any healthy diet.
If you have questions or would like further information on leading a healthier
lifestyle, contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the
Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy Office or our Diabetes Self-Management
Program located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita
Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance. Call 310-891-6707. torrancememorial.org/Nutrition