People often get confused when considering what is a healthy diet for them. Mixed messages from advertising and other media often don’t help. Some experts encourage avoiding meat completely as it contains saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels and increases risk for cardiovascular disease. Researchers also indicate that animal protein has unhealthy effects, such as releasing cancer causing toxins during high-temperature cooking (grilling for instance) and causing loss of calcium due to high amounts of amino sulfur acids. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, have phytochemicals which help fight off cancer. Their important fiber lowers unwanted LDL cholesterol and maintains the well-being of the intestinal tract. However, other experts warn that going completely meatless would not be beneficial as it is difficult to get all necessary nutrients from a strictly vegan diet.
The best healthful diet is one that increases plant-based foods and decreases animal protein and fat.
There are many easy ways of adding more fruits and vegetables to your current meal plans:
- Plan meals around vegetable entrees instead of meat ones. Some examples include…
- Pasta with marinara sauce
- Veggie burgers
- Vegetarian chili
- Stuffed baked potatoes
- Begin your shopping in the produce section of the grocery store. Plan your meals around what’s available and what looks good for the price.
- If you’re short on time, look for prepared salads and stir-fry mixes. These are fast when prepared with instant brown rice, a microwaved potato, or pasta and marinara sauce.
- Sandwiches are the quickest and easiest meals to prepare with more vegetables.
- All types of greens from spinach to red leaf lettuce can be used.
- Try fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and bell peppers for good flavor.
- Cucumbers and carrot slices add a crunchy texture while onions and chiles add a bite.
- For condiments, consider your favorite nonfat Italian dressing, whole grain mustard or nonfat sour cream.
- Pasta is the perfect canvas for a variety of vegetables.
- A simple pasta primavera dish with low-sodium store-bought marinara sauce can be quickly spruced up with all kinds of fresh vegetables.
- A few ideas might include broccoli, mushrooms, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers and onions.
- The vegetables can be cooked right in the marinara sauce while you heat it up- add them in the order that they cook.
- Salads, especially side salads, add variety, color, flavor and texture to meals.
- Quick slaws can be made with shredded cabbage and your favorite nonfat dressing (such as poppy seed, mustard or nonfat vinaigrette).
- Tossed green salads can be awakened with warm dressings by heating vegetables such as mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions with nonfat Italian dressing.
- Toppings might include bagel chips, freshly ground black pepper, an additional sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, or Parmesan cheese.
- Add fruit to your breakfast cereal!
- Strawberries, bananas, and fresh peaches are all great options.
- Bircher muesli is made with raw oats, skim milk, yogurt, and a medley of your favorite sliced fruits such as apples, pears, oranges and bananas.
Tips for going meatless in restaurants:
The important thing to remember is to ask questions and make substitutions. Here are a few common items that will help you get started:
- Vegetarian Pizza (without cheese, Parmesan on the side)
- Pasta (without oil or cheese, Parmesan on the side)
- Vegetarian Sandwich (without cheese, ask for mustard and/or nonfat salad dressing )
- Baked Potatoes (with nonfat sour cream, yogurt or salsa)
- Salads (with vinegar or nonfat salad dressing)
- Stir-fries, Fajitas, and Sautéed items (specify using broth instead of oil to cook)