Plant-Forward Thinking: What Does a Plant-Based Diet Look Like?

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

On the third day of creation, God made every flavorful fruit, vegetable, and plant imaginable. Every color of the rainbow, every unique flavor and texture conceivable – and it was good.

In fact, only a few scriptures later He proclaims, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”

We have scientists and researchers looking for keys to health and longevity, but I think God stated it pretty clearly. Plants.

Plant-Forward Thinking for Better Health

plant basedIt’s true that we don’t live in the Garden of Eden. Maybe the soil that used to grow crops may not be as nutrient-rich as it once was. But, if we are seriously wondering about the next step to take to nourish our bodies, I think it is pretty evident.

And, it protects our God created earth, too.  The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee states:

“A dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact.”

Chances are you grew up in a home where you were told to ‘eat your vegetables’ – maybe even required to eat them before you left the table. Sadly, scare tactics and reprimands haven’t helped us eat more vegetables. In fact, less than 10% of adults eat the recommended 5 servings of vegetables each day.

But, it’s exciting to see in the last few years that a plant-forward diet is gaining media attention and popularity, an awakening if you will.

Does a Plant-Based Diet Mean Plants Only?

plant based

Instead of serving some boring vegetables on your plate, chefs, restaurants, recipe developers and foodies are inspiring us with a fresh take on veggies. Instead of leading with the idea that plants are nutritious, (yep, already know that!) they are telling us they can be absolutely delicious!

So, what does a plant-forward diet look like?  Does it mean no more meat? Does it restrict you from enjoying a grilled steak for dinner OR some broiled salmon on your salad OR scrambling some eggs for breakfast?

On the contrary, it doesn’t restrict or limit you.  It’s not really a diet. Instead, it’s a new way of looking at how we are composing our plate, what we are putting in our basket, and what we are reaching for when our stomach begins to grumble. It doesn’t make any foods ‘off limits’ and instead emphasizes the very thing God highlighted in the garden – plants.

Interestingly, a meta-analysis in the Journal of Epidemiology shows that 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and premature death by about 30%! As was discussed in this article,

“The researchers believe that it is not just about the powerful effects of specific nutrients (Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin A, etc.), but instead, the ‘complex network of nutrients’ within varieties of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin supplements just cannot duplicate the synergistic power of real plants!”

How Can I Think Plant-Forward?

plant basedWhy are 90% of us having difficulty getting even 5 daily servings of vegetables?  Often because making a change to eat plant-forward brings questions about the actual execution. And to be honest, sometimes there is conflict (or potential conflict) from family members who aren’t on board.

Even if your spouse isn’t thrilled about the idea of ‘meatless Monday’, you can still begin to implement this approach in your meals.  While there are no hard and fast rules, these are some tips to help you think plant-forward:

  1. Make a vegetable or veggie dish the star at the dinner table. Many of us think we don’t like veggies very much because we remember boring, dull, limp and unattractive dishes sitting in a bowl at dinner. While there is nothing wrong with some steamed broccoli with butter and salt, or some carrot sticks with dip, there are aromatic and flavorful veggie recipes just waiting for you to try. And, don’t equate flavorful with complicated. These Parmesan Carrot Fries have a robust flavor with only 4 ingredients.  And, this Loaded Mashed Cauliflower gets compliments every time I make it but doesn’t require any fancy skills or special ingredients.
  2. Load up 75% of your plate with plants. Ideally, cover 50% with colorful, non-starchy veggies and 25% of your plate with starchy vegetables or whole grains.  This concept can be followed when eating out, in, at a neighbor’s or a potluck. This method is one of the easiest ways to create balanced meals no matter where you’re eating so that you are nourished, energized and satisfied.
  3. Create your meal plan with a veggie dish first, then decide a meat ‘side’ (or opt for a plant-protein). Many individuals enjoy eating meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. All of these protein foods are rich in nutrients and don’t necessarily need to be eliminated. But, a plant-forward approach means giving veggies actual thought in the planning process instead of just filling in at the meal. Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What veggies am I craving this week?’  Did you see a recipe posted on social media or made on a cooking program that looked appetizing? Even if only for a few days of your meal plan, try planning the veggies first.
  4. Try a new or unfamiliar vegetable. Have you ever roasted delicata squash?  Can you ever recall cooking bok choy? Did your friend tell you about the amazing beets she added to a salad the other day? Whether you are browsing the produce department or scanning the farmer’s market, look for something that gets you curious. One of the best ways to get excited about eating more plants is to mix curiosity with anticipation.

Plant-forward eating isn’t about going and buying vegan entrees and products at the grocery store. It’s about appreciating and enjoying the food God created from the very beginning. Eating those foods more often will naturally reduce your intake of highly-processed foods and those that are inflammatory.

So, what’s the play call?

To be honest, we don’t need another label.  Labels simply cause restrictive thoughts and snobby groups that isolate themselves, deeming their way to be the ‘right’ way to eat. Enough of that. Let’s pull from Truth the wisdom to nourish our body and let’s live based on our convictions, not anyone else’s.  

How can you begin thinking and eating more plant-forward?  First, get rid of the lies that you don’t like veggies or that they are boring  Then, go explore the flavorful creation just waiting to be noticed.

More Recipies

Parmesan Carrot Fries
plant based recipes
Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Noodles

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