Nutritional Tip of the Day

A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet

From: Laurel Esty - Clinical Nutrition Manager LTC

One of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health, boost energy levels, and prevent chronic diseases is to move to a plant-based diet. If you’ve seen Forks Over Knives, you know that science shows changing your nutrition is a powerful way to live longer, help the environment, and reduce your risk of getting sick.

  • Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.

You’re probably thinking that moving to a plant-based diet sounds like a great idea, but you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place—we’ve got the tools, insight, and expertise to make the change easy and enjoyable.

What is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?

It’s delicious! Before we get into what we mean by “whole-food, plant-based,” it’s important to dispel the myth that such a diet is hard work or boring. You might think that avoiding animal ingredients limits your options, but the reverse is true. You’ll become a more innovative cook, enjoying some of the best flavors you can imagine. You’ll try new ingredients and find a deeper appreciation of your food.

Let’s get into the definitions:

  • Whole food describes natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.

  • Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t contain animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey.

Here’s a quick overview of the major food categories you’ll enjoy on a plant-based diet, with examples:

  • Fruits: any type of fruit including apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, etc.

  • Vegetables: plenty of veggies including peppers, corn, avocados, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, collards, etc.

  • Tubers: root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, etc. Whole grains: grains, cereals, and other starches in their whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, oats, barley, etc. Even popcorn is a whole grain.

  • Legumes: beans of any kind, plus lentils, pulses, and similar ingredients.

There are plenty of other foods you can also enjoy— including nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, whole-grain flour and breads, and plant-based milks. However, we recommend eating these foods in moderation, because they are more dense and can contribute to weight gain.

No More Food Math

One of the major advantages of the whole-food, plant-based diet is that you won’t need to count calories or practice portion control.

Plant-based foods have a lot more bulk because they contain more fiber and water than the standard American “diet” foods.

This bulk takes up more space, so our stomachs end up stretching sufficiently to shut off hunger signals despite our having consumed fewer calories overall. As such, a whole-food, plant-based diet is the only way to eat to feel full while also consuming fewer calories.

Reference: Naomi Imatome-Yun

If you have any questions, please call Laurel Esty, Clinical Nutrition Manager LTC at ext. 6979.

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