Veg Out for Vegetarian Month!
Today is World Vegetarian Day, and October is Vegetarian Month. So, please give a little thought to the impact your diet has on your health, and the health of the planet. There’s no underestimating the power of plants. Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, protein, healthy fats, and fiber, plants are virtually medicine for your body, boosting your protection against disease, promoting a longer lifespan, and even helping you to achieve a healthier weight. And you can seriously reduce your environmental footprint by eating mostly plants.
It’s no surprise that plant-appreciation is booming! While there’s no denying that Americans love their meat—we’re eating roughly three times the world average—an increasing number of Americans are starting to understand the value in enjoying more meatless meals during the week. In fact, surveys have found that about half of the population is trying to cut back on meat by eating more veggie-focused fare. Eating more whole, plant-based meals is a step in the right direction towards better health and a more sustainable food system.
In our culture of climbing obesity rates, it should be a wake-up call to remember that 815 million people around the world don’t get enough food to eat. Yet animal agriculture is more intensive in resources, land usage, and inputs, and produces a higher carbon footprint compared to agriculture of plant crops—animal agriculture is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Working Group, shifting towards a plant-centric diet can do Mother Earth some tremendous good.
Consider this: If you eat one less burger per week…It’s like driving 320 miles less in regards to climate-saving action.
The wonderful thing about a plant-powered diet is that it’s something everyone—from hard-core meat lovers to flexitarians—can strive for. The premise behind a plant-powered diet is to simply emphasize more whole, unprocessed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. The key is to start slow, even if it’s just one day a week.
In recognition of Vegetarian Month, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite plant-based recipes, nutrition blogs, cooking tips, recipe videos, and health news all month long! And I’m dong a special giveaway this month in honor of Vegetarian Month: The winner will receive my autographed book, Plant-Powered for Life, I am Plant-Powered T-Shirt, and I am Plant-Powered Farmers Market Bag. Make sure you check out my Veg Challenge to kick start a month of plant-powered eating! And don’t forget to try my Six Plant-Powered Strategies below.
- Autographed book, Plant-Powered for Life
- I am Plant-Powered T-Shirt
- I am Plant-Powered Farmers Market Bag
6 Plant-Powered Strategies
To kick-start your month of plant-powered eating, try my six simple strategies.
1. Boost your breakfast. Breakfast is a simple way to go meatless. With so many delicious options, you’ll hardly miss the meat. Try a warm bowl of oatmeal topped with dried currants, cinnamon, and toasted almonds. Or how about a stack of whole grain pecan pancakes with sliced bananas?
2. Plan your meals around the veggies. Rather than planning your meals around the typical beef, chicken or fish selection, turn the table! Start your meal planning with veggies first. You’ll soon realize that this offers much more variety than restriction. For example, you may have purchased some parsnips and turnips at the local farmers market. So, start there. Maybe you can combine them, along with carrots, celery and onions to a big pot on your stove. And perhaps you can add lima beans, lentils and some interesting spices, such as turmeric and tarragon. Now that’s an interesting—and health-promoting—meal.
3. Eat with the seasons. Not only does eating with the seasons offer more nutritional bang for your buck, it puts your palate in rhythm with the natural growing seasons. Isn’t it fitting that apples and winter squash are at their seasonal peak during the autumn months? Take advantage of Mother Earth’s offerings and add hearty chunks of sweet potatoes to your black bean stew. Or serve roasted acorn squash and hazelnuts over a bed of kale for a spin on a traditional green salad.
4. Snack smart. No need to bust open a bag of processed potato chips, a candy bar, or soda to satisfy your mid-afternoon slump. It just so happens that a variety of plant foods are pre-packaged by nature for easy, convenient, plant-powered snacking. Many fruits already come with single-serve packaging: their outer skins. Pack along apples, pears, oranges, bananas, peaches, and nectarines for a mid-day snack. Nuts, seeds, and even some legumes, such as edamame or vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes are the perfect on-the-go pick-me-ups.
5. Don’t over-complicate things. Not every plant-powered meal has to involve high-tech kitchen gadgets or gourmet cookbooks; cooking up a plant-based meal isn’t as hard as you may think. Top off salads, soups, rice, pasta, casseroles, and stir-fries with a mixture of vegetables, legumes, nuts, and tofu. It can be as easy as black bean burritos, vegetarian chili, or a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
6. Enjoy plants for dessert. Nutrient-rich plant foods can move beyond healthy meals and snacks to the meal’s final course—dessert. Mashed, ripe bananas or applesauce offer a sweet taste to many baked goods, such as breads, pancakes, muffins, and cookies. Chopped dates can replace refined sugars, such as cane sugar and corn syrup in cookies, creamy desserts, and pies. Whole fruit, such as in-season pears and apples, can be baked or poached to sweet perfection. Even better? Add toasted almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans to your cooked pears or apples for a surge healthy unsaturated fat.
For other helpful hints for eating a plant-based diet, check out the following:
Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN on September 30, 2013; Updated on September 24, 2019.