Written By: Elizabeth Elam MS, RD, LDN
As a registered dietitian, I wear many hats. I’m an avid home cook, a science geek, sometimes a counselor, and now (thanks to countless health documentaries) a myth buster! If you have Netflix, you’ve probably seen these film titles before – “What the Health,” “Cowspiracy,” and “Forks Over Knives,” just to name a few. Each documentary criticizes certain foods and suggests an alternative eating plan for acquiring a perfect slate of health. I see patients completely ditch one way of eating for another based off one night’s entertainment!
The definition of “documentary” is a movie, television or radio program that provides a factual record or report. These documentaries are factual…or are they? Each film provides countless statistics from real studies and interviews with experts in the field. Without putting on my “science geek” hat and explaining why some studies in these documentaries shouldn’t have been used, or explaining which facts are false, I will offer this simple word of advice – any film that makes you cringe in disgust and revolt against entire food groups should be looked at with a very critical eye.
I see some patients “go vegan,” turning to pasta, pop-tarts, or peanut butter and jelly for every meal because they don’t know what else to eat. I see others change what they eat dramatically for 3 weeks and then “fall off the wagon” because they feel guilty about enjoying a steak dinner on their anniversary. My goal as a registered dietitian is to encourage variety. Variety in the diet ensures adequate vitamins, minerals, and fiber which leads to health. But, variety also ensures a myriad of flavors and textures leading to pleasure and satisfaction…equally as important as health!
A balanced diet is simply that, balanced – allowing all foods to fit, if possible. As a health professional, I applaud efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption because, let’s face it, we generally lack those foods – thus, creating imbalance. Use the tips below to add more plant foods into your current way of eating and if you choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, seek the help of a registered dietitian.
Start your day with fruit and vegetables
- Add fresh fruit, nuts or seeds, and a handful of greens to smoothies
- Scramble eggs with spinach, peppers, and onions
- Top peanut or almond butter toast with chopped bananas, pears, or strawberries
- Mix fruit and nuts or seed into a bowl of oatmeal
- Enjoy a breakfast salad- top greens and whatever vegetables you have on hand with a soft or hard-boiled egg and a slice of crumbled bacon (if desired)
- Smear nut butters on whole fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas
- Rather than topping yogurt with fruit, try doing the opposite – top a cup of fruit and nuts or seeds with a couple dollops of Greek yogurt
- Snack on edamame or roasted chick peas
- Dip veggies into your favorite hummus or guacamole
- Combine your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to make your own trail mix
Re-think salad toppings
- Replace meat and cheese with the following toppings to create unique textures and flavors;
- Canned and chopped artichokes (drained and rinsed)
- Roasted vegetables (beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Fresh fruit (berries, pear, apples, citrus, dried fruit, etc)
- Cooked grains (barley, farro, quinoa, bulgar, etc.)
- Canned beans (drained and rinsed)
- Nuts and seeds
- Black bean and veggie burger
Ditch the mayonnaise and salad dressings
- Use hummus, avocados, guacamole, or tahini as a spread instead
Use the plate method
- Instead of meat being the main event at a meal, make at least 1/2 of your plate vegetables and use meat as a side-dish or condiment
Get creative with beans and whole grains
- Use less ground beef or turkey by adding black beans, cooked barley, or lentils to hamburger patties, taco meat or meat sauce
- Add whole grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa, farro, bulger) and/or beans to the following:
- Soups and stews
- Scrambled eggs
- Tuna salad
If you are interested in learning more about plant based eating, or simply how to better balance your diet, schedule an appointment with an Avance Care registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) today! An RDN can assess your diet and lifestyle and provide realistic advice to help you reach your goals.