That’s a much more fun proposition, at least for those of us who love our food!
You hear me talk often on the nutritional attributes of plant foods and how these should form the basis of our diet if we want to eat well. That applies whether or not you also eat animal foods. Plant-based eating is all the rage and for once this is a good trend to follow.
You can be vegetarian or vegan if you want to follow that route, but for the rest of us we can still enjoy a steak or a piece of fish… the idea is to simply to boost your whole plant food intake whatever end of the vegan-to-omnivore spectrum you fall on.
What are whole plant foods?
There are lots and lots of food products in the supermarket that are made from ingredients that originally came from plants. That doesn’t mean they count towards your whole plant food intake. Sugar after all comes from a plant!
What we mean by whole plant foods are those in their natural intact form, such as fruits and vegetables, or minimally processed like canned tomatoes or roasted nuts.
Wholemeal/wholegrain flours baked into breads and good quality breakfast cereals also count. However, those made from refined white flour, often also mixed with sugar, flavours, colours and so on, do not.
So, in considering your plant food intake include:
- Vegetables & fruits – fresh, frozen, canned or dried
- Nuts & seeds – raw, roasted, ground or blended into a paste/butter
- Wholegrains – cooked whole or cracked (e.g. bulghur), ground into flour and then baked or cooked (e.g. wholegrain breakfast cereal, bread or crackers – don’t count such foods made from white flour – only foods made from the intact whole grain count)
- Legumes – cooked or ground into flour and then baked or cooked
- Herbs & spices – since these are usually used in pretty small amounts you can’t count each one individually. They do contribute to your plant food intake however, so provided you use them ubiquitously across your week you can count them collectively as one.
How do I make it to 30?
Dishes that include lots of different plant foods are an easy way of giving you a boost towards your target of 30. A salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, capsicum, celery and walnuts is already 6 plant foods. Add cooked quinoa or a can of red kidney beans and you made it to 8.
A bowl of oat porridge with milk is only 1 plant food. But sprinkle your porridge with pepitas and almonds, and top with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and suddenly you have a mighty tasty breakfast and 6 plant foods!
Serving sizes don’t matter so much here (although if you only had one blueberry including it as one of your 30 is pushing the friendship). The challenge is more about plant food diversity. To that end once you have counted one plant food, you don’t count it in your total again no matter how many times you consume it.
It is of course good to eat each food more than once, just try to mix it up as much as possible. If you always use cos lettuce in your salads, try using spinach, rocket, watercress or radicchio instead. If you always snack on a banana, fill your fruit bowl with many different fruits and mix up what you have each day.
To get to your 30 you need to aim for plant foods to have a starring role at most meals. You can certainly add animal foods, that’s a personal choice, but regardless of whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, omnivore or anything else along the eat spectrum, we all need to eat lots of plants!
Keep a little check list on your phone in notes, or physically in a notebook in your bag, and see how you stack up this coming week. If you find you easily exceed 30 awesome job – you just need to keep it up. If you struggled to make it then keep the exercise going and each week try to score a little higher until you make it. Hopefully over time you’ll find that you are replacing the less than healthy, packaged foods with more whole plant food… and feeling better for the shift.
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