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8 ways to start a plant-based diet

March 5, 2019

Grace Chao, M.S., RDN, LDN, Clinical Dietitian at Northwest Community Healthcare

Interested in improving your health, boosting energy levels or helping the environment? Consider eating plant-based foods.

There are many benefits to consuming a diet composed primarily of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain, nuts, seeds and legumes. These foods are low in less-desirable ingredients such as saturated fats, and high in health-promoting, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber. Plant-based diets have been associated with lowering the risk of most chronic diseases including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.

There are varying degrees of plant-based diets, ranging from decreasing the consumption of animal products to completely eliminating them. In order to enjoy the health benefits of a plant-based diet, it’s not necessary to make sudden, drastic changes. Begin by making one change at a time.

Below are eight ways you can start a plant-based diet. This week, try taking one of the following steps:

  • Consume a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.
  • Try a whole grain such as millet, quinoa, barley, whole wheat, brown rice or oatmeal.
  • Incorporate beans into soups, stews and other dishes.
  • Introduce nuts/seeds to the diet. A handful of nuts is a nutritious and high protein snack (instead of chips, candy or other comfort snack foods).
  • Decrease cheese consumption. For calcium and vitamin D, try plant-based dairy products such as fortified almond milk, soymilk or hemp milk. Plant-based yogurts are delicious options, too.
  • Reduce intake of red and processed meat to once per week or less.
  • Reduce portions of meat, poultry and eggs to no more than the size of your palm or a bar of soap.
  • Try making an entirely plant-based meal starting with once a week. Examples include vegan chili or tofu stir-fry with quinoa and vegetables. This Korean Stir-Fry recipe will get you started.

Need more help? NCH has registered dietitian nutritionists who can teach you how to make better choices when shopping, preparing or ordering food. Learn more about the NCH Nutrition Clinic and call 847-618-3700 to schedule an appointment today.