5 EASY Steps Toward a More Plant-Based Diet

tumblr_mtzvvyKGhC1qhlsrfo1_1280
Source

There are a lot of controversial nutrition topics out there that could be argued for days, but this isn’t one of them. Whether you’re a proponent for a vegetarian/vegan diet or not, there’s no question that making your diet more plant-based is definitely a good idea. The good news is, it doesn’t mean you have to go from eating bacon-wrapped chicken stuffed with pork to eating quinoa, kale, and salads for every meal. It’s about the small changes. Even if you grew up on meat and potatoes, it’s totally possible to adopt healthier eating habits that are more plant-focused. Umm, hello from a girl raised on steak and burgers in Indiana.

Why get on the plant-based “bandwagon”? (Get ready for a ton of links to recent studies and articles.) For starters, it can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, help with weight loss, reduce your risk for cancer, dementia, etc. etc. Even in kids. Bottom line: It’s healthier. But there are other reasons, too. Eating more plants over animal products can be cheaper. Subbing in whole grains, veggies, and legumes also means added fiber. Which keeps you fuller longer. Which means you don’t have to eat as much and there’s more to go around. Need another reason? It’s better for the environment. Surprisingly, about a third of the Earth’s land is dedicated to livestock and livestock feed, but nearly 100x more plant-based food can be produced for human consumption per acre than meat for human consumption. And animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Crazy, huh?

Alright, so how do we get there? Here are 10 ways to switch out animal products for plant:

  1. Trade meat for beans or legumes. 
    • Taco Tuesday? Try black beans instead of ground beef. You could even mix in brown rice and add some taco seasoning.
    • For chili and soups, chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans make great alternatives for chicken, ground beef, or pork.
    • Instead of using a pound of ground beef in your spaghetti sauce, trade out half (or all) of it for lentils. Lentils add a meaty texture and give you the protein you’d otherwise be missing.
  2. Follow the MyPlate rule. 50% of your plate should be fruits/veggies, 25% should be grains (whole grains), and 25% should be protein. Most Americans are nowhere near this, so thinking in those proportions would almost certainly be an improvement for you.myplate_yellow
  3. Throw fruit or veggies in it. Whatever it is. Then throw in some more. More recipes than you realize can easily be revitalized by adding in more fruit/vegetables, which also stretches the meal to feed more people (or allow more leftovers).
    • Spaghetti and meatballs on the menu? Before heating up the sauce, toss some onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant in the skillet first. Mix into the sauce, and voila.
    • Those tacos I just told you to sub beans in for meat? Throw in a ton of veggies, too, like greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, onion, peppers, avocado… the options are endless.
    • Yogurt: add blueberries or raspberries. Cereal: add strawberries or peaches. Oatmeal: add apples or bananas. See how easy that is?81a08013f7d140682a398b97fcfb6a34
  4. Try tofu. I know I know I knooooow. You’re crinkling your nose right now, aren’t you? If you’ve tried it more than a couple of times, there’s a good chance you’ve tasted how NOT to prepare it at least once. If you haven’t tried it, quit hatin’ and give it a shot. Here’s the key: press and drain it. Check out this article for how to avoid making tofu taste gross. And this recipe, or this one, or this one can get you started.BjPCdkiCIAAiU_M
  5. Try out some new recipes. Even the best of us get into recipe ruts, and if your go-to menu items are meat focused, maybe it’s time to do some browsing. Enter the majesty of Pinterest. Search out a couple of simple vegetarian recipes that look appetizing to try next week. Incorporating just a handful of new animal-free recipes in your lineup can make really add up long-term and make a huge impact. Here are a few to get you started: BBQ Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos, Edamame Fried Rice, Kale & Blackbean Burritos, Slow Cooker Barley Risotto, Eggplant & Zucchini Parmesan. (You can also follow me on Pinterest, where I often post vegetarian/vegan options.)

Skinny Black Bean & Veggie Salsa

EPlcX61454252976

While many New Orleanians will be out watching Thoth and Bacchus roll this Sunday, for the rest of the world it’s a day of Super Bowl-ing. And no Super Bowl party is complete without munchies. Let’s be real here. Your friends would probably scoff at a healthful spread of fruits and veggies. Many a beer and fried food will likely be had on this day. However, it’s easy to include a couple of healthier alternatives to make you feel slightly better about what you’re taking in.

Continue reading “Skinny Black Bean & Veggie Salsa”

The Real “Cleanse” Diet

mjaxnc02mdnhodyyzjyzowfjmji0

Ah, the cleanse. What is a cleanse? Webster’s says it’s “to rid of impurities by or as if by washing”. They’ve been around for centuries, apparently, but there’s been a huge trend of new cleanse diets in the past several years.

There are a few reasons folks choose to begin a cleanse diet.

  1. To lose weight.
  2. To feel better (physically maybe, but primarily psychologically), especially after a period of self indulgence. Ahem, Mardi Gras.
  3. To “clean out your system”. Or at least feel like you are.
  4. To torture oneself. No one has actually ever admitted this, but I have to believe it’s true considering the restrictions of many cleanse diets.

There are an insane number of cleanses marketed these days (seriously, who comes up with this stuff?!). First, I’ll touch on a couple of the more popular diet trends, then I’ll address the proper “cleanse”.

**Please note, this post is not intended to insult those who have tried these cleanses. All of these diets have lofty claims, and the originators are great at confusing even the most intelligent and informed of individuals. 

 

 

First, The Juice Cleanse. Continue reading “The Real “Cleanse” Diet”

10 Veggie Recipes that Won’t Make you Hate Your Life

It’s pretty common knowledge that vegetables are important in your diet. Recently though, there’s a great deal of evidence that suggests vegetables are even more important. Cancer prevention, Alzheimer’s prevention, weight loss, you name it. The MyPlate visual suggesting half your plate be fruits/veggies is a perfect example of how you can immediately determine if you’re getting enough produce in your life. If you’d rather have your left foot cut off than eat a green bean though (Umm… this actually happens. Hello, diabetes.), it takes more than just knowing you need more veggies to make it happen.

I spent most of my college years microwaving bags of frozen vegetables to accompany my dinner entrees. And gross. If you’re happy eating plain microwaved frozen veggies, I salute you, my friend. For those of us who need more encouragement (yep, even the dietitian here), there are a ton of ways to prepare veggies in a more appealing way. Since discovering all these alternative methods of veg-prep, I’m obsessed with vegetables. OBSESSED. Can you say that you genuinely enjoy vegetables? Either way, the recipes below will rock your socks off.

 

  1. Lemon Garlic Brussels Sprouts

The days of mushy, bland Brussels Sprouts are over and done. Sautéed with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, cheese, and garlic, Gaby’s recipe may actually lead to children liking this veggie. It’s a wild world.

lemongarlicbrusselsprouts1

 

2. Roasted Cabbage Wedges

This isn’t your grandmother’s cabbage. I literally consume half a cabbage every time I make this. With it’s loooong list of antioxidants and low calorie level (less than 25 calories per cup), I don’t feel guilty for shoveling it in while standing over the stove. Plus, it’s one of the quickest side dishes to prep. Rinse, slice, drizzle, sprinkle, roast.

med105471_0410_cabbage_wedge_vert

 

3. Garlic Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli never tasted so divine. It’s one of the only vegetables I’m happy with simply boiled, but this. This. I can’t. You just need to try it.

roastedbroccoli

 

4. Balsamic Sautéed Mushrooms

Continue reading “10 Veggie Recipes that Won’t Make you Hate Your Life”

Hello, 2016! How About that Resolution?

 

IMG_1394

 

It’s no mystery why New Year’s Resolutions are all the rage. New year, fresh start. You can metaphorically wipe the slate clean and start over. It feels good to think about making improvements in your life for a new year ahead, but are resolutions really a good idea?

If you’ve ever been a gym-goer, you’ve probably observed the life cycle of a resolution firsthand. The parking lot is bursting at the seams in January, and there’s not a treadmill to be had. But by February, you can practically feel the resolutions disintegrating around you.

So how can you avoid being one of the failed resolution-ers at the gym? Just as it goes with nutrition goals, there are many reasons a resolution fails. Typically, it’s a result of the the resolution itself. Crummy resolutions usually fall into one of these categories:

 

  • Too vague
  • Too challenging
  • Too rigid

 

Below are some resolutions I’ve heard more than a few times, and how to rework them for success:

 

1. “Eat healthier.”

The problem? Too vague. What exactly are you unsatisfied with in your diet? Do you even know where to begin? This is often where I come in. I’ve had a number of clients say, “I’m not eating what I should, but I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t know how to start or what to aim for.” At that point we’ll break down their diet, identify some key areas that are important to change first, and go from there. Getting help and support to continue making improvements is where a dietitian could be utilized the most, but this first step of identifying what to change – you can do on your own.

Tip: Start a food journal. Track what you eat/drink (everything – even that little “nibble” while you’re cooking, or the couple bites of your kid’s snack). After a week or so, it’s much easier to get a larger perspective of your diet. Examples for reworking this resolution: Continue reading “Hello, 2016! How About that Resolution?”