We know that to improve health and manage weight better, adding more plant-based foods to your daily diet is a winning strategy.
That’s because these good-for-you foods are generally lower in calorie density and higher in vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber than the foods they end up displacing such as meats and fried foods that are higher in calories and contain less healthy fats.
Plant-based foods can also help lower your risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
One constant in my weight management counseling is to help nudge my patients toward eating more plant-based foods.
This is not an all-or-nothing prescription where you can never eat meat or dairy products ever again.
Instead, here are some tips to help you ease into more plant-based eating:
1-Add Vegetable and/or Fruit to Each Meal
People who are on-the-go may think this is hard to do. But all it takes is a little planning ahead to find produce options that fit your lifestyle and meal schedule:
- Add fresh or frozen berries to your morning meal such as cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or cottage cheese
- Add lettuce or spinach to your sandwiches, or cut-up baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers as a vegetable side dish
- Make a side salad of greens and cut-up vegetables as a complement to any dinner meal
- Consider snacks that combine produce and protein such as strawberries and Greek yogurt, cucumber slices and hummus or apple slices and peanut butter
2-Go Meatless Now and Then
Creating meals without red meat (beef) or other meats (chicken, turkey, veal or pork) allows you to lower your meal’s calorie density while also increasing its fiber content and your feelings of fullness.
If preparing meatless meals is unfamiliar to you, go slow and try one new meatless meal each week by using recipes you find online, recipe ideas from my book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You! or ask friends and family members for their favorites.
Whether you’re making a vegetable chili, stir fry, burger, sandwich or entrée salad, make sure your plant-based meals have protein sources like nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, tofu or quinoa.
Fish, seafood or eggs offer other healthful protein sources to complement your meatless meals.
3-Use Restaurants to Explore Tasty Meatless Meal Options
For even more inspiration, order meatless meals at restaurants – either plant-based or with fish or seafood, and then you can reproduce them at home.
Whether it’s a thin vegetable pizza and side salad, bean chili, lentil soup and Greek salad, tofu and vegetable stir fry or an entrée salad with grilled salmon or shrimp, many tasty options exist.
It’s helpful to know that you don’t have to become a vegetarian to reap the many benefits of eating more plant-based foods.
With time, the goal is to eat more low-calorie-dense meals where ½ your plate is filled with colorful produce, ¼ is filled with lean protein and ¼ is filled with wholegrains or starchy vegetables.