Heading into the New Year nearly half of all Americans will set New Year’s resolutions. Typically, they involve losing weight. However, I suggest another approach that dumps the scale, makes your intake more nutrient-dense, and improves your health: eat more plant foods.
Plants contain several nutrients that are helpful in the short-term for feeling well and needed in the long-term for health, including carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, vitamins (A, B, C, K and more), zinc, and iron. Plants also contain other phytonutrients (phyto =plant), the full health impact of which is not yet known. A few examples and foods in which you can find them are:
- Carotinoids (spinach, bell peppers, peaches, nectarines)
- Quercetin (apples, strawberries, grapes)
- Flavonoids (onion, black beans, whole wheat, parsley, citrus fruit)
- Lycopene (tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon)
- Polyphenols (cucumber, tea, brown rice, blueberries, dark grapes)
- Isothiocyanates (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale)
You may think that it is necessary to eat organic plant foods to get the benefits. This is not true. Both organic and non-organic plant foods appear to contain the same nutrients and phytonutrients. However, organic foods are grown with fewer pesticides and without food additives. If you don’t want to purchase all organic foods, approaches to minimize your exposure to pesticides and additives are to:
- Wash foods to remove many of the pesticides on the plants.
- Scrub and peel them. The downside, in foods where the peel is meant to be eaten, the peel or just under the peel is often where a rich source of nutrients reside.
- Purchase mostly non-organic plant foods with a limited number of organic ones, often referred to as the dirty dozen.
All of this information can make it seem like eating more plant foods is very complicated! It really boils down to resolutions like these:
- Eat at least one whole plant food (orange, banana, tomato) at breakfast six out of seven days each week.
- Skip a packaged snack and make a plant-based snack four out of five week days (such as, homemade sweet potato chips, apple and nuts, quinoa tabbouleh, edamame, avocado and veggies).
- Eat at least one cup of vegetables at each meal five of seven days in a week.
A New Year’s resolution that you create may be a bit different, but you get the idea. A resolution, like any goal (See Miguel’s blog from Tuesday, Dec. 27 for great info about goal setting!), should be specific so that you can celebrate when you are doing it!
Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy New Year,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Questions about setting nutrient-dense eating goals for the New Year? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.