Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much. – Michael Pollan
We love this quote from Michael Pollan. It sums up the one thing every nutrition expert agrees on, the fact that our health improves with the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. To be clear, this doesn’t mean we all need to be vegetarian or vegan – just that plants should make up the largest portion of our diets.
We’ve all heard that food is medicine or food is energy, but what’s really interesting to consider is that food is information. The food we eat literally gives our bodies nutritional instructions if you will, to not only prevent and treat disease, but to create a state of balance and health. Plant-based foods in their natural unrefined forms such as grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits provide the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that work with our bodies to maintain optimal health.
Although there isn’t a single perfect diet, you can let plant-based be your starting point and then refine it to meet your needs. Each individual is unique and food sensitivities and specific health conditions must be taken into consideration for any given dietary plan. If you’re interested in incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, then plan, start small, and be intentional.
Here’s how to get started.
Shop for ingredients
Make a grocery list every time you go to the store or farmer’s market. Shop at a local (organic if possible) market and eat what’s in season.
Make time to cook
Start by cooking 1-2 plant-based recipes per week. Eat at home as much as possible so you know what’s in your food.
Avoid ultra-processed foods
This includes partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, preservatives, fast food, and packaged foods with ingredients you don’t recognize.
Clear your kitchen of old and unhealthy foods. (Hint, also from Michael Pollan: If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t).
Keep your kitchen stocked with whole food ingredients
Having what you need on hand will reduce eating out. Begin with a few items you think you’ll use most often, and gradually add more.
Take a cooking class at your local co-op or health food store
Learn how to make a few things well. Taste unfamiliar foods.
Research the plant-based foods you like to eat. Learn about their health-promoting properties and how to incorporate more of them into your diet.
Get creative and try your own combinations of beans, grains, and vegetables.
Food for thought
Lasting change takes time, and you don’t need to do it all at once. If you start small, it will be easier to develop a routine and create more lasting and lifelong changes. The guidelines are simple: eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.