Why you need to eat more plus three fantastic salads to easily increase your fruit and vegetable consumption
Dinner Table Doctor tells all of his patients that the healthiest diet is a plant-based one. Even if a patient is a meat eater, DTD advises that the bulk of our diet should be fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. He recommends that patients eat a bare minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
The Difference Between Plant Based and Vegetarian and Vegan
A plant based diet is not the same as a vegetarian or vegan diet. A vegan does not eat meat or animal products, so no meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy or eggs. A vegetarian eats no meat, but depending on the individual, may eat animal products. In the United States, most of us eat carb or meat based diets, meaning those products make up the bulk of our meals. DTD suggests we return to the way many of our grandparents ate which is mostly plants with very little meat or carbohydrates. Grandma and grandpa probably ate that way because meat was expensive and they had huge gardens.
Many of DTD’s patients insist they have to eat meat for protein, but that is simply not the case. Beans and nuts will give you plenty of protein. DTD likes to refer to Tom Brady when making this point. Here’s one of the most famous fit people, and his diet is almost exclusively plants, nuts, and seeds. If he can play NFL football on that regiment, we will probably be fine on an less strict variation.
What’s so Great About Fruits and Vegetables?
Consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to good health! A Harvard study published in 2021 compiled health and nutrition information from 2 million participants worldwide. Over 30 years, people who ate two servings of fruits and vegetables a day were compared with those who ate five servings a day. Those extra three servings seemed to make all the difference. The risk of death from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease – actually the risk of death from any cause DECREASED SUBSTANTIALLY! Some risks seemed to decrease by as much as 35%! You can read more about the study using this link.
Filling up on plants first means you will naturally eat less bad stuff.
Since we know fruits and vegetables are directly related to good health and longevity, it makes sense that we need to eat more of them. If we force ourselves to include plants with each meal, we will naturally have a healthier diet, even if the rest of the meal is something very unhealthy such as hotdogs or pizza. The question is, how do we easily incorporate more plants into our daily diet? The answer is to find the fruits and vegetables that you love most and to make sure they are in your house, and you actually eat them every time you eat anything else.
A change in mindset will get easier and easier if you plan. For instance, instead of saying I’m going to add chicken or beef to my soup, how about adding beans and extra veggies? The same goes for a salad. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, try some nuts for a healthier snack.
Leave Your Comfort Zone and Try Something New
Eating carrots with every meal is a great start, but not the answer to a healthy diet. We have to eat a wide variety of plants to maximize the benefits. Experiment with fruits and vegetables. The internet makes this so easy. When you see something interesting in the produce section, give it a try. Google the item to see how to prepare it and get some ideas for yummy recipes. If you’re not much of a cook, try to buy items that don’t need to be cooked at all. There are plenty of plants that are delicious raw. A salad alone can include several servings when you throw in a bunch of berries, some shredded cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more. A salad is even more filling and becomes a hearty meal when black beans or chickpeas are added instead of or combined with seafood, chicken or other meats.
If even the idea of preparing a salad is intimidating at first, then start with bananas and grapes and apples and peppers, etc. There are so many different plants that you can wash and eat. Try them even if you think you don’t like them, because you may surprise yourself. I used to hate mushrooms, watermelon, eggplant, and olives, and now they are three of my favorite foods. I’m not referring to childhood aversions either. I was in my 20’s when I learned I love mushrooms and in my 40’s when I tried watermelon again! Now I have to make up for lost time by eating them all as often as possible. Remember, our tastes change through the years. Maybe you hate cooked broccoli but will find that you love it raw on a salad. Be adventurous and try something new or try something old again and again just to make sure.
Keep the Same Mindset when Eating in Restaurants
Eating a healthy meal in restaurants can be challenging. Once you change your mindset to include plants with every meal, it will get easier. It helps if you check out the menu beforehand and make a game plan. Try a salad before the main course or a side of fruit for dessert. Fast food will be your biggest challenge as far as options go, so do your best to avoid it altogether. If you’re going there for convenience, remember there is not much that’s more convenient than throwing an apple, banana, grapes, and some nuts in your bag when you’re on the go. If you eat fast food because you like it, I get it, because I like it too! The trick is to eat there less often. If you normally go every day, try going twice a week. I promise that once you start eating healthy plants with every meal and experimenting more, your body will crave the good stuff as often as it craves that cheeseburger.
Summer produce makes healthy eating easy. Take advantage of roadside stands and farmers markets and local produce sections in your grocery store. Nothing tastes better than a ripe from the vine tomato or recently picked, fresh green beans. While you don’t need to be a chef to enjoy a great peach or some crunchy cucumbers, there are countless easy recipes online to help you make use of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Salads Using Peaches
Here are two recipes DTD and I discovered using the wonderful peaches recently in season. You will see that in both dishes, peaches are used in an unexpected manner with other ingredients you might never have paired them with, but the combination is terrific. Online recipes make it so easy for you to find an unusual recipe utilizing some ingredients you love and some you may not be as familiar with but will learn to love.
I love this recipe! What a fantastic salad using fresh peaches and cherries and delicious burrata cheese! What’s not to love? Of course, the cheese is not healthy, but there’s so much of the good stuff in here that you can just ignore that fact and dig in. We enjoyed this with some crusty sourdough bread and a bottle of 2021 L&T Grüner Veltliner Weingut Bründlmayer. The Grüner Veltliner is a grape variety sourced from terraced vines, which are elevated due to rocky terrain. This award-winning crisp and citrus forward white wine paired perfectly with our summer salad.
Broiled Peaches and Green Bean Salad
This is a variation of a recipe I found online from delicious.com called “Chargrilled Peaches, Green Beans and Almonds.” I changed the original quite a bit, though, to suit my mood and my time constraints. Here is my version:
- Slice up 3 peaches, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and broil in the oven until they are well-browned
- Toss fresh green beans with salt and pepper and olive oil and roast until slightly tender but mostly crispy
- Toss the beans and peaches with slices of red onion and chopped nuts of your choice (I used sliced almonds)
- Add some fresh chopped herbs. I used mint and basil
- Drizzle with a quality olive oil, white wine vinegar and add salt and pepper
This is so yummy I have made it three times in the last two weeks. We have enjoyed an abundance of fresh peaches thanks to a generous patient of DTD’s. You can use the link above to get the idea and play around with the recipe. You could even add chopped pancetta if you want to be a little naughty!
Everyday Salad Recipe
Here is one of our go-to salad recipes. We make this year-round, but it is the absolute best in the summer when tomatoes and cucumbers and onions are fresh from the farmer’s market. While there are no peaches in this one, you could add some when they are in season.
- dice 2 or 3 fresh and ripe tomatoes
- dice a fresh cucumber
- dice a fresh onion
- add chopped garlic, salt and pepper to taste
- drizzle with quality olive oil
- add about 1/4 c lemon juice or more to taste
Make a large batch and have it in the fridge to use for several days in a row. It is addictive and so healthy! Plus, once you have it made, you can use it in a variety of manners. You can eat it as is, toss it with lettuce or shredded cabbage or kale, or sauté it with some scrambled eggs. If you’re in the mood for something heartier, toss it with some whole wheat pasta or grilled chicken. You could also throw in some chickpeas or other beans to make it a very filling lunch or side dish. Make it a healthy appetizer by spreading it on some whole grain toast. Use your imagination! We frequently have a batch in the fridge for a quick meal solution.
Don’t Give Up
Eating a mostly plant-based diet is not easy for many people, including me. Don’t give up! Each day is new and another opportunity to incorporate healthy options into your diet. DTD is always a good motivator for me, but for those of you who don’t dine with a doctor on a regular basis, post a copy of the study I mentioned above on your refrigerator and concentrate on all the benefits those fruits and vegetables will offer. Good luck!
For more ideas on how to be healthy, go to “Dinners and Conversations.” Find me and say hello on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest as well.