Thinking of going plant-based? Use these pointers
Hey guys! I’m super excited to share this post about why and how to shift to a more plant-based style of eating, written by my good friend (and a super-smart RD), Marisa Silver. Check it out.
Talk about blooming: Sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products (think veggie burgers and milk alternatives) have grown 29% in the past two years—to $5 billion—according to new data released in March of this year. We all know that eating more veggies and fruits, especially when they take the place of fatty meat and dairy products in our diet, is an easy way to boost our health. And given the recent meat shortages many of us faced during the pandemic, getting your beef fix has become more challenging and a bit pricier, so, why not consider opting for that veggie burger next time you’re at the grocery store?
One big caveat: Not all plant-based foods are created equal. Some products use added sugars, salt, saturated fats and chemicals to mimic the flavors and textures we’ve come to love in the real McCoys. And studies have shown the types of plant-based foods you eat may make a big difference when it comes to your health.
Researchers looked at the health of thousands of people after about a decade of eating different types of plant-based foods. Some followed a healthier pattern filled with veggies, fruits, nuts and whole grains. Others ate more processed plant-based foods including white bread and pasta, juices and added sugar. Not surprisingly, those with the less healthy (albeit vegetarian) diet patterns were associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and related deaths.
If you’re going to eat more plants, make it count! Here are easy, budget-friendly ways to get the job done:
1. If you don’t know what it is, it probably does not belong in your body.
Packaged plant-based burgers, nuggets and bars may seem healthier, more convenient, shelf-stable and cheaper than animal products. But too often, they have long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Before you buy, flip the package over and read labels. Choose products with mostly real foods, such as bean-based pastas (with beans as the featured ingredient) or frozen burgers containing lots of familiar veggies and whole grains.
2. Make cans and jars your new best friends.
You can find a variety of minimally processed veggies, nut butters and beans in cans and jars. Spice up your salads with canned artichokes, peppers, chickpeas or black beans. Try out nut and seed butters made with only one ingredient—nuts or seeds! They have a surprisingly crunchy and satisfying texture.
3. Take advantage of dairy alternatives.
Plant-based milk and yogurts are all the rage—they’re crowding supermarket shelves. Opt for unsweetened varieties, and brands that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Experiment until you find a few favorites.
4. Embrace frozen fruits and veggies.
The fiber from whole fruits and veggies will keep you full and satisfied, and buying them frozen will save you money. Purchase a variety of frozen produce without added ingredients, such as blueberries, pineapples, edamame and butternut squash. Make smoothies with frozen fruits and mild-tasting veggies like spinach and cauliflower. Or warm some fruit to make a healthy topping for your pancakes or dessert. Use frozen veggies in casseroles, soups and stews—the possibilities are endless!
5. Try This DIY Granola.
Granola is one of those tricky “health foods” that tends to hide a lot of added sugars. Also, buying brands with better-for-you ingredients can sometimes get expensive. With more time at home, make your own rendition using mashed fruit as your sweetener. Jar up leftovers and pass along as a fun gift.
- Preheat the oven to 300˚
- Combine 3 mashed bananas, 3 cups rolled oats, 1 cup dried fruit of choice (no sugar added), 1 cup chopped nuts of choice, 2 tablespoons flaxseeds, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Spread evenly on a baking sheet
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and crunchy (stir once or twice during cooking time)
- Cool for 10 minutes for serving or storing—and enjoy!
—Marisa Silver, RD