Eating “plant-forward” means building your meals around high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. “It’s about making plant foods the center of the plate,” says Wegmans nutritionist Kirby Branciforte, RD. “But it doesn’t exclude other food groups.” So, if you want to eat meat and cheese, you can—the rules are flexible!
Plants are the sole source of fiber, a non-digestible carbohydrate that helps you feel full and prevents sugar from flooding your bloodstream. And studies consistently show that people who eat the most plants live longer than those who don’t. “There are decades of really strong research to support eating plant foods,” says Branciforte. “It’s associated with a lower risk of type two diabetes, depression, obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers.”
Our gut is an ecosystem filled with trillions of bacteria, fungi, and parasites! They all create a happy equilibrium that helps us digest food, keeps our metabolism humming along, and provides enough energy to survive between meals. Without the right balance, our gut isn’t able to work properly, triggering symptoms like bloating, belching, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation, as well as moodiness, anxiety, and depression.
Having different strains of bacteria keeps the gut balanced—and the body and brain healthy. A diet deficient in plant-based foods (or taking antibiotics, which kills both good and bad bacteria) results in a lack of diversity of bacteria, contributing to things like diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, and other chronic diseases. Replenishing our good bacteria is important to help rebalance our gut.
Heart health has a lot to do with the foods we eat and adopting a plant-forward mentality is a great way to eat more fiber. Think fruits & veggies, beans & legumes, nuts & seeds, and whole grains when building your plate. You can still leave room for other foods like seafood and dairy that support good health, but plant foods are the only place you’ll find fiber—a nutrient solidly linked with keeping your heart healthy and strong.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our bodies, and it supports heart health in a few different ways. It helps lower blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol—main risk factors for heart disease. It’s also filling and helps keep hunger at bay, helping us maintain a healthy weight, which is key to heart health.
All plant foods contain different amounts and types of fiber. So, eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day is your best bet. A good daily goal for fiber is 25g for women and 38g for men. To boost your fiber, make your meals Half-Plate Healthy by filling half the plate with fruits & veggies and the other half with whatever you like!
Simply fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with whatever you like. Pasta, meat, a big buttery croissant—literally anything! Over time, as you start to enjoy the plant side of the plate, you can work in more seeds, beans, nuts, and whole grains, to help you stay the course.
FACT: There is no set number that’s right for everyone. Hydration needs vary based on several factors including age, gender, activity level and climate. Let your thirst be your guide.
FACT: All beverages provide hydration, including tea and coffee; the water in them offsets caffeine’s mild diuretic effect.
Healthy hydration options are those that keep calories and added sugars in check. Also, 20% of water intake comes from food! Enjoy nourishing foods that boost hydration, such as fresh fruits & vegetables, yogurt and soups. Nothing beats water for zero-calorie refreshment—and it may also aid weight loss! For more flavorful options with no added sugar, try sparkling water, Wonder Water, or unsweetened coffee or tea, like our Just Tea.
There are basically two types of sugars in food—added and naturally occurring. Added sugars are put in during the processing or preparation of food and include things like table sugar, syrups, and honey. Naturally occurring sugars are found in fruits, veggies, whole grains and dairy foods.
These naturally occurring sugars aren’t cause for concern because the foods they’re found in are full of other nutrients and antioxidants that support health in a big way. Added sugars, however, contribute calories and no nutrients. Consuming too many added sugars can increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
How much is too much?
Check out what the American Heart Association recommends here.
Reducing added sugars can have a huge impact on how you feel and help reduce your risk for certain health conditions. Here are tips to get you started:
As of January 1, 2020, it’s required that Added Sugars are listed on the Nutrition Facts panel, making them easier to spot.
Most of us know which snacks are best left for the occasional indulgence (think potato chips, donuts, and that oh-so-tempting 3 o’clock candy bar). Smart snacks on the other hand are relatively lower in calories while packing a nutritious punch: fruits & veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and dairy. Go for snacks around 200 calories—just enough to keep away the cravings and stop you from overeating at your next meal.
So, you’ve come up with a nutritious snack that’s around 200 calories. You’re all set, right? Not so fast. To truly be a smart snacker, you need to set yourself up for success by making sure they’re easy and delicious. Two things are key: pre-portioned and portable so snacks are ready to go. Packing something you don’t love is like buying a pair of shoes that don’t fit. You have to want to eat your snack. So, make sure you’re choosing snacks that appeal to you and offer a variety of tastes and textures that make snacking into an experience.
Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in dip recipes to cut down on saturated fat and add a boost of protein. Swap out refined grain crackers and put in whole grain crackers. Offer carrot chips and veggie slices as an alternative to potato chips to eat half-plate healthy.
Healthy eating is about an overall pattern of eating, not a single day—allow yourself a game day treat without the guilt. Your health is a result of what you do most of the time, not just what you eat on Sunday.