Have you thought about making a trade for more plants and less animal protein? I’m a believer in the “everything fits” approach (in the absence of specific health conditions) that warrant restricting foods or food groups, but there are some scientifically supported reasons that support the choice to include more plants. Better heart health, reduced risk of dementia and cancer, and environmental benefits are all great reasons to consider when making a shift to include more plants. That’s not to say that animal protein is out, though! Responsibly sourced pastured, grass-fed meat, poultry, and dairy, and sustainable wild fish all have unique properties that also contribute to good health.
Below are four practical tips for including more plant foods without feeling like it’s a major overhaul on your eating pattern.
1. WHAT CAN YOU ADD?
Rather than thinking about excluding animal protein, think about ways to ADD plant-based foods to your meals/snacks as an enhancement. A simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and whole grain toast can be brought to the next level by incorporating leftover veggies, spinach, or some avocado. In the same way, Greek yogurt can be topped with walnuts, flax, and berries for a more optimal choice than simply adding granola or nothing at all.
2. EAT VEGGIES, FRUIT, OR BOTH WITH EACH MEAL
Aim to include a vegetable and/or fruit with all meals/snacks. A sandwich with lean protein on whole grain bread with sliced avocado, a leafy green vegetable, and a side of fruit has a totally different nutrition profile compared to a basic sandwich with none of those things. Paring a piece of fruit with healthy, plant-based fat/fiber is actually better than eating the fruit by itself, so dip your apple slices in nut butter or have a handful of nuts along with some fruit for a blood sugar friendly snack!
3. SHIFT THE RATIO OF VEGGIES TO ANIMAL PROTEIN
Make veggies the emphasis on your plate instead of animal protein or starch/carbs. In order to be successful with this, consider having multiple veggie options (your kids will do better with this too!). A roasted or grilled veg plus some salad with nuts/seeds is a great way to fill up *more* of your plate and leave less room for whatever protein and carb you’ve selected for the meal.
4. EXPLORE PLANT-BASED PROTEIN OPTIONS THAT YOU HAVEN’T TRIED
Using tofu, tempeh, edamame or legumes like chickpeas and black beans in lieu of or in combination with animal protein every so often is a great way to explore new options. Learning how to prepare these in appealing ways is key, so be sure to get creative and seek out ideas that will work for you.
Bottom line: A completely plant-based diet is not for the faint of heart and can be a challenge in delivering the nutrients your body needs. Adding more plant foods and shifting towards a mindset of changing the ratio of plant foods to protein and carbs can provide major health benefits without feeling like restriction.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to help you find a customized approach to incorporating more plant foods in your diet, or partner with you in meeting your nutrition, health and fitness goals.
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Interested in more tips? Check out 4 Tips for Better Heart Health