The Dietitian Dish: Plant-Based Diets

October 04, 2017

By Saba Zahid, RDN
Patient Experience Manager

Whether it’s for personal health, health of the planet, or helping animals, many people are choosing to eat more meat-free meals. Food scientists, culinarians, and registered dietitians are continuously researching and exploring ways to help the general public incorporate more plant-based meals into their lifestyle. Plant-based eating is a growing movement and continues to be in the spotlight in the food and nutrition world.

Why Choose a Plant-Based Diet?
A growing body of research demonstrates that enjoying more meat-free meals can lead to significant health benefits, no matter your age. Unfortunately, data shows 90 percent of Americans regularly do not meet recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, two-thirds of the adult population is considered obese. Scientific research also shows that heart disease and certain cancers, two leading causes of preventable death, are strongly associated with diet. As research continues and understanding of food’s role in obesity and chronic disease grows, more experts recommend eating less meat and more plants.

People who eat a more plant-heavy diet have a higher intake of fruits and vegetables and consume more nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, folate, fiber and iron. Meeting daily protein requirements is a question that many ask about when considering plant based diets but it is actually not as difficult to meet your daily protein needs as many think. In fact, Americans typically consume more protein than they need. Foods such as beans, nuts, legumes and whole grains all provide protein with very little saturated fat or cholesterol.

In addition to the health benefits, eating a more plant-rich diet is better for the environment and animal welfare. Going meatless for even just one day a week can significantly reduce our carbon footprint and save valuable resources such as water. Producing a pound of animal meat requires more water than producing a pound of plant based protein. In fact, for every burger you skip, you can save enough water to shower with for the next 2.5 months! For more interesting statistics as well recipes and resources, visit www.meatlessmonday.com.

How to Get Started
Adopting a plant-rich diet begins with the basics of nutrition.

  • Remember to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit during meals.
  • Incorporate more beans, legumes, and nuts into your diet to meet your protein requirements. Try mixing your proteins by replacing some of your animal protein with plant proteins. For example, try using some legumes along with your ground beef in your tacos.
  • Jump on the Meatless Monday bandwagon and try going completely meat-free for just one day.
  • Remember to increase your vegetables and fruit intake slowly, particularly if you are not eating many vegetables and fruit now. These food groups are good sources of fiber and a drastic increase in fiber can lead to some abdominal discomfort and some unpleasant (although normal) side effects.

For help navigating a plant-rich diet, schedule an outpatient nutrition counseling appointment with one of our registered dietitians at Shore Medical Center. For more information, contact us at 609-653-4600, opt 5 or visit our website at www.shoremedicalcenter.org/nutrition-counseling