Let me start with a bold, if somewhat obvious, statement: we should all be eating a more plant-based diet! But, we also need to know that plant-based diets can take many forms: vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian and yes, even omnivore. The common denominator is that they make plant foods the focal point of the plate. If you choose to eat animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy, they can play smaller, supporting roles. Let’s be clear; some meat and dairy products can fit healthfully into your diet. The key is moderation. Too much saturated fat (meat/dairy) and protein is bad for us. But, too much of anything is bad for us: A cupcake is still a cupcake, even if it’s vegan.
The research is overwhelming that diets that are full of vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains are healthier. Countries that have a Mediterranean or vegetarian based diet have less heart disease, cancer and obesity. Research has shown that the MIND diet, which emphasizes natural plant-based foods and limited intakes of animal and high saturated fat foods, may even slow cognitive decline.
As a registered dietitian, I do find it imperative to understand what my clients are doing, so, as an experiment, I attempted a vegan diet for several months (vegan = no meat, no poultry, no dairy, no fish). While I did eat healthfully, it felt far too restrictive for me.
The bottom line: Make a decision for you and your family, but don’t feel guilty about eating meat. Meat and dairy can be part of a healthy diet, and I definitely encourage organic or non-GMO products as you are able. However, base your motivation around health and personal beliefs, and don’t just follow the trends.
If you decide to cut out meat, great! I’ve counseled many patients on a healthy vegetarian lifestyle and preach the importance of vegetables and fruit in our diets to anyone who will listen. Just starting out? Try this super easy Vegan Chickpea Curry *.
- 1 package Jasmine rice
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 2 baking potatoes, cut into small pieces
- 3 large carrots, cut into slices
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon red curry paste
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 cup frozen peas
- black pepper
- cashews (optional)
- fresh cilantro (optional)
*for us non-vegans toss in some raw shrimp during the last few minutes of cooking
- Cook the Jasmine rice according to the instructions on the package.
- In a large pan, heat oil and sauté the potatoes and carrots for 2-3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of vegetable broth and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the red curry paste and the curry powder and cook for another minute.
- Add the coconut milk, remaining vegetable broth, chickpeas, peas, and salt and pepper and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Take off heat and serve over rice with a squeeze of lime and top with cashews and cilantro.
About the author: Kate Collins is a registered dietitian, Oklahoma City mom of three and author of the blog The Dietitian Diet. Because she’s struggled with weight herself, she takes a practical approach to helping her clients and readers maintain a healthy lifestyle and believes in balance.