The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently published a position paper regarding the health benefits of vegetarian diets, suggesting that diets high in fruits, vegetables and grains may help prevent and manage various diseases.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help keep us healthy and energized, especially during the peak growing season of summer. By taking advantage of available fresh produce and planning more plant-based meals, you can increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables, and, when planned appropriately, still satisfy your protein and caloric needs.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently published a position paper regarding the health benefits of vegetarian diets, suggesting that diets high in fruits, vegetables and grains may help prevent and manage various diseases. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat (with the exception of avocado and coconut), and work in a synergistic manner to provide our bodies with essential nutrients. Meals with vegetables, fruits or grain as the main dish are higher in fiber, and will help promote digestive health and make you feel fuller longer.
However, despite popular belief, you do not need to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle to enjoy the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet. Here are three easy ways for eating plant-based this summer:
- Build a Bowl: Bowl meals, like those offered at the Whole Foods prepared-food counter, are becoming popular plant-based dining options. Create your own plant-based bowl by picking a base (lettuce, rice, quinoa), a protein (avocado, tempeh, tofu, beans), two vegetables (zucchini, sweet potato, beets, broccoli, etc.), a leafy green (spinach, kale, arugula, collards) and a dressing (lemon, olive oil, tahini). Seeds (such as chia, hemp, sunflower or flax seed) can also be added to boost the bowl’s protein, fiber and fatty acid content. Mix and match any of these elements to create a nutritious meal packed with fiber, vitamins and important phytochemicals.
- Choose a Day (or a meal): As mentioned above, you do not need to be a strict vegetarian or vegan to enjoy the benefits of a plant-based diet. Instead, focus on choosing one day a week (or one meal a day) that you will commit to being an herbivore!
- Make Meat the Side Dish: If you find it difficult eliminating animal products for an entire meal, you don’t have to! Simply build a meal with three colorful vegetables and a small 2-3 oz. serving of meat.
By Tara Levelle, a graduate student in Human Nutrition at Winthrop University and a RSF volunteer with Food and Nutrition Services