Going Green; Plant-Based Diet: January 24, 2014

Going green, it’s becoming a top dietary trend as more people look to better their health. Turns out, there is a wide field of variations.

“When I say plant-based, it’s all foods that are grown. Vegetarians typically will still allow dairy, they’ll have cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese things like that. Vegans have no animal products whatsoever,” says Jeanne Struve, registered dietitian with Lee Memorial Health System.

The plant-based diet is gaining momentum. Based on grains, beans and vegetables with little or no added oils, sugar or salt. With proper planning, people get proper nutrition, including protein, without touching meat.

“The interesting thing is, a lot of plant foods are very high in protein. Quinoa is a grain that is extremely high in protein. Most of your vegetables are at least 40% protein. Your grains have a lot of protein, so you don’t have to have a lot of animal products to get enough protein,” says Struve.

Plant-based benefits include improving heart health, controlling diabetes and trimming calories.

“For most people who are following a strict plant-based diet, the beauty is you don’t have to count calories,” says Struve.

If you want to give it a try, you don’t have to go cold turkey. The concept of Meatless Monday was devised as a way to cut out meat one day a week. Experts find any lowering of animal intake boosts health. And finding veggie options has never been easier.

Grocery stores, restaurants, even college dining halls all report an increase in plant-based menu items. Lee Memorial Health System upped salad bar offerings by 40% giving people who eat in the hospital cafeterias more smart choices.

“We're not going to change what they do every night, but little by little we will lead them in steps towards a better menu pattern and a better daily consumption pattern,” says Larry Altier, Director of food and nutrition with Lee Memorial Health System.

However you slice it, meatless meals are here to stay.