Happy Earth Day! It’s time we look at our actions and see what we can do to reduce our carbon foot print to promote a cleaner, more healthful environment for future generations. We’re highlighting the benefits of a plant-forward diet for the health of the earth (and you), plus give you tips on how to start.
The benefits of including more plants in your diet is truly endless. Diets with a high intake of unprocessed plant foods have been shown to reduce depression, increase longevity, reduce risk for certain cancers (colon, prostate and breast), reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Food production is responsible for up to 30 percent of total greenhouse gas admission. And animal products account for majority of those. Reports show that plant-forward diets are associated with the greatest reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. That being said, the more plants in your diet the better for the planet and for you.
What is a Plant-Forward Diet?
Unlike vegan or vegetarian diets, a plant-forward diet does not completely eliminate meat or animal foods. What it does is highlight and build the meal around plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. When looking at your plate, you will see mostly whole plant foods as opposed to animal foods, such as cheese or meats – think of animal products as a side as opposed to the main component of the dish.
Tips on How to Start
Tip #1: Start slow.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Pick a day, a meal or a snack to be plant-forward. I’ve had clients go plant-forward for breakfast and lunch then have more animal products at dinnertime when there are more mouths to appeal to.
Tip #2: Use a plant-based protein powder.
Incorporate a plant-based protein powder into your routine – such as Designer Plant made with 22g of protein from non-GMO pea protein and organic sprouted rice or Designer Soy made with 20g of 100% absorbable protein from soy protein isolate plus added biotin, hyaluronic acid, and prebiotics. Protein powders are easy to add to pancakes, waffles, smoothies, baked goods, oat meal, puddings and much more. Check out the meal plan example at the end of the blog for more ideas.
Tip #3: Count your colors.
A good rule of thumb when choosing plants for a plant-forward diet is to make sure there are 2-3 colors, at minimum, in your snack or meal (brown not included). This is a good way to confirm you’re getting a variety of plants filling the plate since plants provide most colors in what we eat.
Tip #4: Try a meat alternatives.
Meat isn’t our only protein source. We can also get a good amount of protein from tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, edamame, peas and grains.
Tip #5: Add in some umami flavor.
Meats tend to have an umami flavor. If you’re used to cooking dishes with meat and want a similar taste, try adding ingredients that naturally have an umami taste, such as nuts, seeds and mushrooms.
Tip #6: Cook with plant fats.
Try cooking with extra virgin olive oil, algae oil, avocado oil or grapeseed oil instead of butter or lard.
Tip #7: Use a plant based milk.
Try using a plant-based milk instead of dairy milk. Carbon foot prints from the farming and production of plant-based milks are lower than for dairy milk. Almond milk has the lowest carbon footprint, but the greatest water use. Soy milk has the second lowest carbon footprint followed by pea, oat and coconut milk.
Plant-Forward Meal Plan Example
- Rolled oats with almond butter, cinnamon, almond milk and 1 scoop vanilla Designer Soy
- Vegetable scramble with mushrooms, tomato, black beans and topped with avocado
- Smoothie - 2 scoops Designer Soy or Designer Plant, 2 cups leafy greens, 1 banana, 1/2 peach, 1 cup strawberries and 2 cups oat milk
- Whole avocado with Everything but the Bagel seasoning on high fiber toast and/or an egg
- Almond butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
- Barely Kale soup
- Mediterranean salad with chickpeas, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, walnuts, oil and vinegar
- Almond butter and cacao smoothie - 2 scoops Designer Plant in Belgian chocolate or vanilla, 1 cup oat milk, 1 large frozen banana, 2 Tablespoons peanut butter, 1-2 tsp cacao powder
- Grilled vegetable kabobs with tofu, peppers and onion with a side of mushrooms farro risotto
- Tempeh tacos with a side of black beans and cabbage salad
- Portobello mushrooms stuffed with lentils, tempeh, wild rice, vegetables, and topped with provolone
- Half avocado with flaxseed crackers
- Hummus with vegetables
- Handful of nuts or seeds
- Avocado on sweet potato toast
It doesn’t have to be complicated to make a plant-forward plate. Just follow some the tips in this blog and enjoy the good feeling of doing both your body and the earth a favor.
- Physician Committee - How Eating More Plants Can Save Lives and the Planet - https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/how-eating-more-plants-can-save-lives-and-planet
- Harvard Medical School - What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it?- https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-a-plant-based-diet-and-why-should-you-try-it-2018092614760
- Today’s Dietitian
- BBC: Climate change: which vegan milk is best? https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46654042
- The carbon footprint of plant-based milks: https://greenstarsproject.org/2020/12/22/carbon-footprints-plant-based-milks-dairy/