You don't have to be a vegetarian to reap the potential health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Even if you're a confirmed carnivore, eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds may do your body good.
Plant foods are full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (healthy plant compounds) that may help protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and birth defects. They also may help with weight management and promote eye health.
Try these 10 tips to put more plant foods on your plate:
- Start the day the fruitful way. Top whole-grain cereal or toaster waffles with banana, peach or strawberry slices. Sip a glass of 100% orange or grapefruit juice.
- Lunch on hummus. Instead of toting your usual sandwich, pack hummus (chickpea dip) with whole-grain pita bread and lots of cut-up red peppers, cucumbers and radishes. Toss in an orange or some grapes for dessert.
- Snack on a plant. Munch some baby carrots and celery sticks, a few almonds, plain popcorn with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, or an apple or pear.
- Eat a vegetarian meal at least once a week. Treat your family to tasty meatless dishes such as chili loaded with beans and veggies, whole-wheat spaghetti topped with tomato sauce (add soy crumbles for protein and a meaty texture), or a veggie-topped pizza (create your own on a purchased whole-grain crust).
- Give meat less plate real estate. There's no need to give up meat, just don't make it the main attraction on your plate. Fill at least two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods and one-third or less with lean meat, poultry, fish or low-fat dairy products.
- Beef up veggies in favorite recipes. Add extra chopped veggies to soups, stews, casseroles and meatloaf.
- Get supermarket assistance. Visit the supermarket salad bar to assemble a huge vegetable salad for dinner or gather chopped and sliced veggies for recipe ingredients. Pick up a fruit salad, too.
- Use kitchen short cuts. Trim time by microwaving frozen or canned veggies for a dinner side dish. Toss a fast salad with bagged lettuce or baby spinach (add some rinsed and drained canned beans, too), or make a speedy stir-fry with precut broccoli florets and cubed tofu. Zap a side dish of sweet potatoes or quick-cooking brown rice.
- Try a meat substitute. Experiment with vegetarian burgers, hot dogs, sausages and bacon. Pair them with whole-grain buns, toast or bagels.
- Get sweet on berries. Use fresh or frozen berries in smoothies or to top a dessert of angel food cake or low-fat frozen yogurt.