“Variety is the spice of life!” Literally. When it comes to food, variety is so important, not just for making sure we eat enough of every nutrient, but also for reducing food waste, and for keeping our palettes satisfied.
The New York Post recently did a survey detailing that 53% of Americans claim to be “foodies.” This means that they are interested and willing to try new foods, and are curious about where their food comes from – which cultures, animals, plants, etc.
Another study determined that 50% of American dieters follow fad diets that require the elimination of large components of an everyday diet. These statistics leave one question unanswered: How can the majority of Americans consider themselves “foodies,” yet many are simultaneously restricting themselves from major food groups?
What if an element of sustainability is added to the definition of “foodie,” and we were able to find freedom from restrictive eating patterns in a healthy way? Enter plant-forward eating.
What is plant forward eating?
Plant forward eating is not the same as plant-based eating (a.k.a. a vegan diet), which restricts consumption of all animal products. Plant-forward eating encourages the reduction, not removal, of animal proteins while prioritizing the consumption of diverse fruits, vegetables, and whole grains available. Plant-forward eating takes into consideration how the food we eat impacts the environment by promoting the reduction of food waste and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. It also allows for a lot of creativity in the kitchen!
Better for you, better for our planet
In what ways does increasing plant food consumption promote environmental sustainability? Here are some facts:
- Nearly 15% of all carbon emissions come from animal agriculture.
- By reducing animal consumption, there is less need for so many animals on each farm which decreases overall carbon emission.
- Raising animals for consumption uses more than 50% of the world’s fresh water supply
- Since water is both critical for human health, and it’s availability is decreasing (as seen by the droughts in western America), future you will be thankful for choosing the black bean enchiladas rather than the steak ones!
- Animal waste is causing ocean dead zones
- Animal waste entering ocean environments is creating sections, known as dead zones, where there is no longer oxygen to sustain any sort of life.
Packed with protein
A common concern people have is whether or not they will get enough protein when decreasing their animal product consumption. However, when comparing animal to plant proteins, you may be surprised to see how plant products stack up.
One ounce of cooked meat, which is proportionate to 3 dice, contains 7 grams of protein. For the same amount of protein, you can enjoy ½ cup cooked lentils, ⅓ cup of nuts, or 1 cup of quinoa. These options are great because they provide you with a larger volume of food which will increase your sense of satiety. Plus, they also boast significantly higher amounts of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals!
Up your foodie game with plant -forward meals
For those who enjoy cooking, the creative potential for plant-forward meals is thrilling. Rather than having a meat-centered meal, it is fun to experiment with various spices, vegetables, and grains to create interesting, tasty meals that any foodie will enjoy!
Below are some fun plant-forward meal ideas that you can prepare in advance, and customize to your flavor preferences!
Breakfast: Overnight Oats – there are so many variations available online!
Lunch: Salad with hard boiled eggs, chickpeas, and vegetables
Snack: Seasonal Vegetables with Hummus or a piece of fruit with nut butter
Dinner: Tofu and vegetable stir-fry with rice
Plant-forward eating will look different for everyone. For some, it may be reducing meat consumption to only one meal per day and for others, it may look like having meat for only one meal per week. Remember, starting small is better than not starting at all 🙂
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