Plant-based diets have taken root in American culture in recent years, primarily due to growing awareness of the health benefits of this eating pattern. But contrary to what some people think, herbal doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up all animal products. On the contrary, you could just eat meat or dairy products less frequently or in smaller portions. To replace those lost calories, you should eat more beans and legumes, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. These foods, mostly low in fat and high in nutrients, have been linked to improvements in many health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Better for your budget and the planet
A vegan diet can also help reduce your food budget. And there is yet another reason to feel good about this eating pattern: it helps keep our planet healthy. A diet that contains only small amounts of food of animal origin requires a fraction of resources such as water, energy and land to cultivate, and generates less greenhouse gases. Plus, by eating unprocessed or minimally processed foods, you avoid the extra energy and packaging that goes into producing processed foods.
“Following a plant-based diet can be an important way to reduce your carbon footprint,” says Teresa Fung, associate professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Research suggests that diets high in red meat are five times the emissions of plant-based diets.
How much plant-based food should you aim for if you want a truly sustainable diet? In early 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health – a multidisciplinary group of 37 leading scientists from 16 countries – outlined the type of diet needed to support a global population of 10 billion by 2050 in a healthy, sustainable way. His report urged people to double the amount of fruits, vegetables and nuts they eat, and to cut red meat and added sugars by at least 50%. The recommendations are quite different from what most Americans eat – allowing only one 3.5-ounce serving of red meat per week. The commission included a graphic representation of its “planetary health plaque” that shows how much a person’s overall diet should come from plant sources.
Easy Plant-Based Dinner Recipes
If you need inspiration to switch to a plant-based diet, try these easy recipes from Monique Tello, MD, MPH. Both contain a variety of vegetables and are very adaptable – just swap out your favorite veggies or whatever you have on hand. Frozen or low sodium canned vegetables are a convenient and always nutritious alternative to fresh produce.
Frittata in the pan
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 Chopped off red and green peppers, thinly sliced or chopped into small pieces
- 4 cups spinach and / or other leafy vegetables, torn or chopped (1 cup if using frozen)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and / or basil (or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs)
- 4 eggs
Use a medium-sized pan over medium heat and heat the oil until it is shiny.
Add the onion, stirring until just tender
Add the peppers.
Stir until the onions and peppers are very tender and just golden brown.
Add the spinach / greens to the pan and stir until wilted and hot.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whip them with a fork until they are evenly yellow and a little frothy.
Pour the eggs over all the vegetables, lower the heat and cover the pan.
Shake the pan several times during cooking, which distributes the eggs more evenly and prevents sticking.
Check the frittata after three to four minutes.
If the eggs appear to be cooked, loosen them with a spatula to make sure there is no dripping. If there is, cook 30 seconds to a minute more, covered.
Using a spatula, gently slide the frittata onto a large plate and serve. We cut it like a pizza.
Make your own sweet tacos
- 1 15 ounce can of unsalted black beans
- 1 corn cans, unsalted
- 2 lawyers
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 cup of salsa (fresh or in a jar)
- 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), unsalted (optional)
- 1/2 cup of green olives (optional)
- 8-12 corn tortillas (made without lard)
Dice the avocados and mix gently with the lemon juice.
Heat the beans in the microwave or on the stove; stir.
Heat the tortillas (you can wrap them in a clean towel and put them in the microwave on high power for 30 seconds).
Arrange all the ingredients on the counter (or table) and let everyone make their own healthy tacos.
The post 2 Easy, Affordable, Plant-Centered Dinners first appeared on Harvard Health Blog.