Plant-based eating is not “all or nothing.” You don’t have to go meat-free to be more plant-based. 

What It Is

Fruits and vegetables, whole grains and a variety of protein-rich foods like beans and peas, nuts, seeds and soy (like edamame) are the mainstays of plant-based eating. Low-fat milk and dairy products, seafood, lean meat, poultry and eggs can also be included if desired, but are not the focus of plant-based menus. It is not exclusionary, but rather about being more mindful of plant sources of protein. The use of sugars, salt and saturated fats should all be minimal.

Why Plant-Based?

Compared to a typical American diet, a plant-based philosophy is higher in unsaturated fats and fiber, both of which support better health. It can be more nutrient-dense, and contain more vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which help to reduce your risk for chronic disease. Plant-based diets offer a great variety of flavors and textures. 

Less Meat, Not Meatless

Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be vegetarian or vegan. There are a number of plant-based eating plans like the Mediterranean Diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) that include small amounts of poultry, lean red meat and seafood. If you prefer an entirely vegetarian regimen, however, there are plenty to choose from. Part of the beauty is that plant-based eating is customizable to your unique preferences. For some, the transition to a diet with more plant-based foods is best accomplished through gradual steps. In general, the recommended serving size for animal protein in a meal is three ounces. Try making that three ounce threshold your first goal, then reduce the meat content from there as desired.

Plants & Protein

Plant sources of protein include nuts, beans and other legumes, peas, seeds, tofu, tempeh (a fermented soy product), and whole grains like brown rice, farro, sorghum, and quinoa. When combined with walnuts, plant-based dishes can be just as satisfying as comparable portions of meat-based dishes, due to plant-based meals being higher in fiber. They don’t call it “walnut meat” for nothing.

Good Fats

Good fats are good for you. Research has uncovered benefits to eating good, unsaturated dietary fats found in foods like nuts (walnuts), flaxseed, plant oils (canola, soybean, safflower, and extra virgin olive oil), salmon, mackerel, and avocado. Walnuts are the only nut that has a significant source of the plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA (2.5 grams/ounce).

Where to Start

Focus on adding. Instead of dining on just chicken and rice, add a cup of sautéed broccoli, roasted carrots or mix in cauliflower rice. Fruits like peaches and berries make for delicious plant-based additions to desserts. For snacks, try setting out a bowl of toasted or seasoned walnuts to nibble on throughout the day. Plant-based eating is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If it helps you get started, choose just one day each week to focus on plant-based meals.

Too Busy to Cook?

A slow cooker or pressure cooker is the most important ally a busy plant-based eater can have. One-pot meals can simmer to flavorful perfection while you’re working or sleeping. They also happen to be a great way to cook dried beans. When dining out, Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican cuisines typically offer more options for people wanting to include vegetables and beans.

Your Next Meal

Now that you know, it’s time to take action. Check out the plant-based recipe collection page for a variety of tasty ideas, and make your next meal the first in a shift toward healthier eating.

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