Eat Your Vegetables! Why Eating a Plant-Based Diet is Good for You and the Environment
Everyone seems to be trying to live a healthier lifestyle. From increasing physical activity, to practicing meditation, to consuming more mindful and sustainable foods – people are seeking information and making positive lifestyle changes to improve their health and well-being, as well as the environment. If you happen to have a millennial or a member of Generation Z in your life, then the odds are this need for information and quest to “do the right thing” may resonate even more strongly with you…there is certainly no hesitation -at least in my house- in their expressed opinions on the topic. One easy, effective way to reach a healthier lifestyle is to adopt a plant-based diet; or perhaps you might even say a “plant forward” mindset. In the last year or so (in truth-mostly as a result of the aforementioned teenagers and young adults in my house), we have been on a mealtime journey to do just that. In that spirit, here is some information that might just give you something to think about.
What is a plant-based diet?
Don’t be misled. Eating a plant-based diet isn’t only about consuming more vegetables. What kinds of vegetables and grains you consume are also critical to getting the right balance of proteins and other nutrients for a healthy diet. Here is what the experts have to say on the topic:
- Eat more plants — plant based foods should account for at least two thirds of the volume of each meal.
- Eat a variety of foods – enjoy a colorful plate, including fruits and vegetables sourced according to seasonality.
- Eat meat in smaller amounts – animal protein should account for no more than one third of the volume of each meal.
- Eat less processed food — replace refined grains with whole grains.
- Buy food that meets a credible certified standard.
- Add sugar and salt sparingly and choose dairy products that are lower in fat.
- Serve standardized portion sizes and waste less food.
A plant-based diet that follows these important principles will ensure a positive impact to your health; not to mention the planet.
You’ll live longer
Who doesn’t want to celebrate their 100 birthday? Consider this: Vegetables provide nutrients such as potassium, fiber, folate and vitamins A, E and C. These nutrients are vital to maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, maintaining regularity, red blood cell formation and protecting against infections and illnesses.
Eating more vegetables also reduces the risk for a multitude of diseases. Plant-based diets are proven to prevent, treat and even reverse the effects of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Consuming a diet higher in plant-based foods also increases your intake of antioxidants that provide energy—allowing you to feel more energized and balanced throughout your workday.
In addition to providing vital nutrients, vegetables also aid in weight loss and build muscle! Eating your recommended four servings of vegetables each day will fill you up and help to prevent overeating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of adults aged 20 and above are overweight and this makes them more at risk for weight-related disorders (heart disease, stroke and diabetes). With obesity rates on the rise, many scientists have turned their research to preventative measures—one of which is the plant-based diet. The only thing better than turning 100 might be looking and feeling great along the journey to get there.
You’ll help the environment
The environmental impacts of producing plant-based foods are often measurably lower than producing meat. A plant-based diet contributes to mitigating climate change by avoiding methane emissions from meat production. A shift in diet can help decrease these greenhouse gas emissions. Other environmental benefits include: saving water, and reducing the degradation of the topsoil, rainforests and wildlife habitats that so many endangered species rely on. When we eat more plant-based proteins, we are reducing our ecological footprint and supporting environmental sustainability. Think about it; environmental impact without even having to drag the recycling bin to the curb. Not bad.
At Sodexo, we understand and encourage the trend towards making healthier, more sustainable choices. As part of our “Plant-Forward” Culinary Approach, Sodexo incorporates plant-based choices in everything we create; we aim to increase the prevalence of fruits and vegetables on our menus and promote more and varied vegetarian and vegan choices.
At home I just try to keep everyone happy and healthy. It’s pretty cool when what you do at work and what you do at home come together so nicely. Don’t you think?
I know a 25 and 16 year old that do…
Join the conversation! How are you incorporating more vegetables into your diet?
Chris Weiser is Vice President of Culinary for Sodexo North America. With more than 30 years of experience, his passion is connecting people through food and he believes food can create lasting memories that can be enjoyed long after mealtime is over.