Once a week or every day for better health
What Is Plant-Based Eating?
Plant-based eating means eating less meat and more whole, plant-based foods and is not the same as becoming a vegetarian or vegan. Simply reducing meat and increasing the amount of whole and plant-based foods you eat means you can enjoy some of the rewards of a meat-free diet. The benefits are numerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in the US is heart disease. Going meatless once a week or more has been repeatedly shown to reduce the risk of these chronic preventable conditions. An ever-growing number of medical and nutrition professionals is joining the call and the food industry is transforming to meet the increasing need.
Preserves freshwater supplies
According to the Water Footprint Network, a loaf of wheat bread requires about 110 to 250 gallons of water to produce, but one pound of beef requires about 1,800 gallons! Water Education Foundation numbers are pretty similar at 7 gallons of water for a slice of bread and 616 gallons for a ¼ lb hamburger.
Prevents deforestation and land degradation
Cattle ranching is a primary cause of deforestation in Central and South America. Since 1960, more than one quarter of all Central American forests have been razed to create pasture for cattle. Nearly 70 percent of deforested land in Panama and Costa Rica is now pasture for livestock.
Protects wildlife habitat and biodiversity
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the single biggest cause of environmental degradation in the U.S. is meat production, which threatens 175 endangered species living on public lands, including wolves and grizzly bears.
Cuts GHG emissions
The livestock sector accounts for 15 per cent of global emissions, equivalent to exhaust emissions from all the vehicles in the world. One reason is that methane, the primary greenhouse gas produced by livestock, and nitrous oxide, another contributor, are 25 and 298 times more global warming potential than CO2.
Not all meats are the same
Reasonable quantities of healthful meats is fine. However, processed meats like bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, and sausage contain unhealthful fats. If you do eat red meat on occasion, it’s best to eat small amounts and choose lean cuts.
Don’t worry about getting enough protein
Most of us eat more protein than we need. The USDA recommended daily dietary allowance for adults is 56 grams of protein per day for men (about one 8-ounce burger) and 46 grams for women (a small skinless chicken breast). If you’re just cutting back or eliminating meat for a day or two a week, you’re likely getting closer to the recommended amount rather than dipping below it.
If you must worry, think about this
Most people know that tree nuts and legumes — including navy beans, English peas, edamame, peanuts, and split peas — are great sources of protein, but not everyone knows that vegetables and whole grains provide protein, too.
Parents already know that many of the meatless meals kids love also come with tons of protein: Almond butter sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, hummus with pita bread, grilled cheese sandwich, noodle stir-fry with peanut or sesame seed sauce, whole grain cereal with milk (try soy or almond milk), cheese pizza, and burritos filled with beans and rice.
Practitioners are seeing awe-inspiring results
An article in the [Kaiser] Permanente Journal reports that “Plant-based nutrition has exploded in popularity, and many advantages have been well documented over the past several decades. Not only is there a broad expansion of the research database supporting the myriad benefits of plant-based diets, but also health care practitioners are seeing awe-inspiring results with their patients across multiple unique subspecialties.”
AMA recommending plant-based meals
The 2017 American Medical Association (AMA) annual meeting delegates resolved to “call on United States hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff and visitors by providing a variety of healthful food, including plant-based meals, and meals that are low in fat, sodium and added sugars.” Delegates also asked hospitals to “eliminate processed meats from menus.”
USDA Committee: Plant-based is more healthful
The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the USDA concluded that “consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact … than is the current average U.S. diet. A diet that is more environmentally sustainable than the average U.S. diet can be achieved without excluding any food groups.”
AAN article: Connected with better brain health
According to a study in June/July 2017 edition of the journal Neurology Now by the American Academy of Neurology, a Mediterranean-style diet, based on produce, legumes, grains, and healthy oils, with small amounts of fish and meat, is connected with better brain health in older adults.
PLANT-BASED DIETS? AWE INSPIRING RESULTS
"Not only is there a broad expansion of the research database supporting the myriad benefits of plant-based diets, but also health care practitioners are seeing awe-inspiring results with their patients across multiple unique subspecialties.” [Kaiser] Permanente Journal
Great sources of protein you might not have thought about
Asparagus 4g in 10 spears
Barley 23g 1 cup
Lentils 18 grams 1 cup
Pistachios 6g 1 oz.
Potatoes 5g medium (with skin)
Wild rice 6.5g 1 cup
Focus on the greens
Think about the vegetables you want to include in your meal first and fill at least a quarter of your plate with them. Pour healthful sauces over steamed broccoli and cauliflower and encourage the kids to let you know about their favorites. Try to include vegetables in every meal and snack on baked sweet potato slices, carrots, or sugar snap peas. Vegetable juices and smoothies are fun to whip up and easy to find locally.
Investigate new grains
Swap cooked bulger, barley salads, and buckwheat noodles in for pasta salads and wheat based noodles. Plan ahead so you have enough time to cook wild rice instead of plain white rice. Try different flours for baked goods like garbanzo, brown rice, and amaranth.
Rethink the role of meat
Skip the meat entirely when the other items capture your interest. When you do prepare meat, make it a side dish instead of the main course.
Call in the substitutes
Sliced, sautéed mushrooms and seared tofu are nice replacements for ground meat in meatloaf, tacos, chili, and pasta sauce. Add layers of cooked greens or butternut squash to lasagna.
Eat more whole foods and much less sugary or processed foods
Switch to steel cut oats and granola in place of cereal flakes. Replace highly refined crackers with whole wheat or other grains. Avoid snacking on large quantities of chips and refined sugar sweets!
Explain your goals to your family over a tried and true plant-based meal.
Set goals like a pledge to go meatless on Mondays or for weekday lunches.
Commit to cut 1/3 or more of the meat from your diet.
Try something new
Have fun trying new recipes.
Invite friends over for a delectable, plant-based meal.
Research local restaurants with plant-based options.
Subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) service or shop at farmer’s markets.
Make a meal-based list before you shop and avoid picking up unhealthy snacks.
Join with others
Join a MeetUp group that finds great restaurants for you (find your tribe).
Tell friends, extended family, and others why you’ve adopted a more plant-based diet and share your best recipes and tips.
Grow your own garden and swap harvests with friends and neighbors
- START SMALL but do start your journey towards plant-based eating with your next meal!
Forks Over Knives Plant Based Primer
Recipe of the Week (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)
The Post Punk Kitchen (Isa Chandra)
New York Times Cooking app — costs $2/month and is easily searchable by “vegan”, the recipes have a range of difficulty for every home cook’s skill level
Those Vegan Chefs – two former Davis residents, various levels of difficulty, some really creative ideas and tricks of the trade to share and there are terrific videos to follow. We learn a new skill with every video
Minimalist Baker – recipes are interesting, fun, easy to follow, and especially baked goods reliably turn out excellent if you follow the recipes exactly
Detoxinista – real food made fast and easy (favorite very fast treat is Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies)
Plant Based on a Budget – affordable, delicious, minimal number of ingredients
Simple Veganista – a range of simple meals and desserts
MOST PEOPLE GET TOO MUCH PROTEIN
The USDA recommended daily dietary allowance for adults is 56 grams of protein per day for men (about one 8-ounce burger) and 46 grams for women (a small skinless chicken breast). This is the total for one full day.
Vegetarian Meal Planning: A Guide for Healthy Eating, Kaiser Permanente
Simple Steps to Plant-Based Eating (Family Medicine Department/Rohnert Park)
BOOKS BY LOCAL AUTHORS
Vegan for Life by Jack Norris, RD
Healthy Heart, Healthy Planet by Dr. Rajiv and Cathi Misquitta
Dietary Guidelines for Americans (PDF)
Nutrition.gov (USDA website)
Smart Nutrition 101: Healthy Eating
Environmental Working Group: Keys to a Healthy Diet
Campus Wild Earth-friendly Diet Guide Center for Biological Diversity