FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — As a registered dietitian, I hear it time and time again: “Which diet should I be following?”
Personally, I am not a huge fan of the terms “diet” or “dieting.” Generally, following a diet means temporarily eating a certain way, with the exception of certain plant-based diets such as vegan or vegetarian diets, which many individuals adopt for life.
On average, humans spend just over 60 minutes a day physically eating. I don’t know about you, but I want to ensure the choices I make during this hour each day are enjoyable and benefiting my body and overall health. I also want them to be sustainable.
Make it a lifestyle
The best “diet” I could ever recommend is a lifestyle of eating that makes you feel your best, aligns with your schedule and consists of foods you love. Importantly, however, that should include a wide variety of whole foods to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, dairy — or fortified plant-based alternatives to dairy — and oils.
As a dietitian, it is my job to help individuals discover just what this lifestyle and dietary pattern unique to them can look like.
In recent years, more and more individuals have warmed up to the idea of eating more plant foods, but they’re not entirely sure they’re ready to give up meat completely.
“Plant-forward” and “flexitarian” have become common terms that describe an eating pattern that consist of plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils and moderate intakes of animal products.
It’s not necessarily a diet that is “anti-meat,” it’s simply just “pro-plant.”
The newly updated 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported that 75 percent of Americans have an eating pattern that is low in fruits and vegetables.
I know firsthand the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and I think plant-forward diets should receive a gold star.
The cool thing about this concept is there are no taboo foods. It offers the mental advantage of being plant based without any overbearing restrictions. The ultimate goal is for consumption of those nutrient-dense plant foods to increase as meat consumption decreases. Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting components. They also have little added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.
Studies have reported the flexitarian diet provides a variety of health benefits related to metabolic health, weight loss and diabetes prevention.
Adopting a plant-forward diet also has quite the ecological impact on the globe by consuming less animal products.
What does the actual composition of a flexitarian diet look like?
— Plant proteins: Black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, lentils, tofu.
— Whole grains and potatoes: Quinoa, brown rice, oats, white and sweet potatoes.
— Vegetables: All.
— Fruit: All.
— Milk: Cow’s milk and plant-based milk such as soymilk, almond milk, and oat milk.
— Healthy oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, fish oil.
— Animal protein: Chicken, turkey, red meat, pork.
— Processed white grains: White bread, white rice.
— Animal fats: Butter, lard.
Resources to help
If you need help or guidance on how to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, registered dietitians are available to help you.
Call 573.596.1762 to make an appointment today and make healthy lifestyle changes for good. No referral is necessary.