Tray of vegetables kebabs ready to put on the barbecue grill

Is a Plant Based Diet a Good Diet Plan?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013.

FOLLOWING A PLANT BASED DIET IS A GOOD PLAN WITHOUT GOING VEGETARIAN

It’s the first day of summer, let the harvest begin! This is my favorite time of year because it makes eating a plant based diet so easy. With so many more seasonal fruits and vegetables to choose from during the summer months, having meatless meals is the default menu option in my house.

You don’t have to become a full-fledged vegetarian to have the benefits of aplantiful” diet, just head in that direction by making more of your meals plant centered.

I not only get to reap the bounty from my own vegetable garden this time of year, I also enjoy the variety that shows up in my local farmer’s market. See my tips for shopping at farm stands to take advantage of this wonderful source of locally grown crops.

Why is a Plant Based Diet a Good Diet Plan?

Edible plants, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, provide us with the ideal combination of high nutrient-density and low caloric-density. That means you get more nutrients per calorie you eat, a great strategy for staying properly nourished without gaining weight. Plus, the high water and fiber content of plants helps us feel full, without filling us out.

Then there are all the phytonutrients (plant compounds that have health benefits but are not essential nutrients) you can only get from plants foods. Things like beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, quercetin and resveratrol can’t be found in beef, poultry or fish but are valued for their cancer-fighting, immunity-building, anti-aging, free-radical-fighting properties.

No matter what the Paleo Diet crowd may say, you are better off living exclusively on plants than on animals in this day and age.

How to Enjoy More Meatless Meals

As I said before, the goal isn’t to eliminate meat, but to eat less meat at meals. It’s not as hard as you may think. You can start by approaching every meal with a focus on what fruit, vegetable, grain, nut and/or seed you will feature in that meal, and treat the animal portion as a side-dish. This can be as simple as cutting the meat serving size in half while doubling up on the plants you normally serve.

Imagine a sandwich on whole wheat bread spread with hummus, stacked with layers of grilled vegetables and topped with sliced avocado. You don’t need, and won’t miss, the deli meat and cheese one bit. But if you want some, a single slice will do.

How about a baked potato (yes, it’s a vegetable) stuffed with black beans (another vegetable) and salsa (a 3rd vegetable), topped with shredded cheese?

For some great outdoor dinner ideas try assorted vegetable pieces threaded onto kebab skewers with just a few cubes of chicken or salmon basted with a flavorful marinade and grilled to serve over a bulghur pilaf. Or you can grill eggplant and tomato slices and stack them up with a bit of parmesan cheese and fresh basil in between for a satisfying summer appetizer.

You can find entrée ideas in vegetarian cookbooks that are easily embellished with a few ounces of meat or cheese, if needed, or just add a few shrimp or some diced turkey to your salad.

Summer is here. It’s time to start moving toward a plant based diet while the pickings are good!

Help yourself to some of these other posts on eating more vegetables, too.

  • 9 Nutritious Salad Toppers From Your Pantry Shelf
  • Make a Healthy Homemade Salsa – It’s Easy!
  • Quick Healthy Meals Begin With Pasta
  • Need Dinner Ideas? Soup Makes Quick Easy Meals
  • Winter Vegetables Make Meatless Meals More Satisfying
  • Focus on Healthy Eating Habits, Not Superfoods
superfoods can’t prevent cancer, healthy eating habits are essential

Focus on Healthy Eating Habits, Not Superfoods

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you follow nutrition news as closely as I do, you might be convinced that eating certain foods can cure cancer. Not only that, the top superfoods promise they can do everything from prevent acne to reverse aging.

If your hearing isn’t impaired, this should sound too good to be true.

When I hear these claims I’m reminded of Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth. While it did help him discover Florida, no one living there is getting any younger.

Similarly, there are no miracle foods that can save us from the other bad choices we make or our genetic predisposition. If we want food to save us, we need to establish healthy eating habits.

Pursuit of the Perfect Diet

Eating the top superfoods cannot spare us from the leading causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease, stroke and cancer. That’s because when it comes to good nutrition, it’s not individual foods that matter, it’s the total diet.

In its Position Paper on the Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) states it is the overall eating pattern that matters most, with attention to not only what foods are eaten, but how much and how often. A well-balanced diet must also be complemented by adequate physical activity to achieve a healthy weight.

The Position Paper further points out that classification of specific foods as “good” or “bad” (read as super or lousy) can have unintended consequences. Such simplistic categorizations may lead people to limit the scope of their food choices, rather than striving to eat a wide variety of foods, which can offer the best nutritional profile.

Making Moderation Your Mantra

Giving up the belief that a perfect diet is built upon eating only the top superfoods is not, however, the most difficult notion for most people to grasp in their pursuit of healthy eating habits. The real challenge is accepting the principle that all foods and beverages can be included in a healthy diet.

Moderation is a basic tenant of the “Total Diet” concept and one that will withstand the test of time.

There is much we do not know about food composition and how to best meet our unique nutritional needs throughout our lifetime. The future of nutrition science lies in identifying our individual nutrigenomic profiles. But until we have that information, we must rely on what we know. The evolutionary history of our species shows us that human beings have an uncanny ability to adapt to a constantly changing food supply. Limiting ourselves to only a few superfoods is incompatible with our evolutionary success.

Get help starting with your healthy eating habits here:

  • The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet
  • If Diet Means Don’t Eat, Don’t Diet!
  • Finding the Best Diet for You
  • Why is the American Diet So Bad?
  • Debunking Another Fad: Paleo Diets