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 slow-digesting 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.”
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.
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.
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.