Want to con­trol your weight, have more en­ergy and even live longer? Ve­g­ies can help you do all th­ese things — and more — if you eat them ev­ery day, says di­eti­tian He­len Bond.

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Dis­cover how a plant-based diet can help you con­trol your weight, en­joy more en­ergy and even live longer. We show you how to eat less meat and more veg — and feel great!

Only 7 per cent of us are eat­ing the rec­om­mended five daily serves of veg

The health­i­est di­ets in the world have one im­por­tant thing in com­mon: They’re all based on plant foods.

Take the Ja­panese, for in­stance. Renowned as one of the world’s health­i­est peo­ples, they eat small meals full of grains, soya, fish, seaweed, shell­fish and green tea — but rel­a­tively lit­tle meat and dairy pro­duce.

Sim­i­larly, peo­ple living in Mediter­ranean coun­tries en­joy long life ex­pectan­cies and low rates of heart dis­ease thanks to their tra­di­tional di­ets. They too eat plenty of veg­eta­bles, fruit, whole­grains, fish, nuts, olive oil and legumes (such as beans and lentils), and eat only mod­est amounts of meat.

Tellingly, as th­ese cul­tures have be­come more Western­ised, the per­cent­age of plant foods in their di­ets has sig­nif­i­cantly shrunk. As a re­sult, their peo­ple are now suf­fer­ing from obe­sity, type 2 di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and cer­tain can­cers, among other health prob­lems that we in the West know only too well.

Na­ture knows best

Over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence from nu­mer­ous stud­ies proves that plant foods are pow­er­ful al­lies in our quest for good health. In fact, many lead­ing in­ter­na­tional health bod­ies, in­clud­ing the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and the World Can­cer Re­search Fund (WCRF), em­pha­sise the link be­tween eat­ing plant-based di­ets and en­joy­ing good health.

Still, an­i­mal foods con­tain a wide range of es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents, too. Red meat is rich in iron and zinc, dairy prod­ucts are loaded with cal­cium, seafood is high in io­dine and se­le­nium, and oily fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids and vi­ta­min D. Th­ese an­i­mal foods also pro­vide en­er­gis­ing pro­tein and B vi­ta­mins, such as B12, which plants lack. (Be­sides, many of us find th­ese foods pretty tasty, too!)

Hap­pily, nu­tri­tion ex­perts say there’s no need to cross meat, fish and dairy off the menu for good (un­less you want to, of course), but in gen­eral, we do need to put the brakes on our con­sump­tion of an­i­mal foods. Aus­tralians are cur­rently among the most en­thu­si­as­tic meat eaters in the world, ac­cord­ing to the Vic­to­rian Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Pri­mary In­dus­tries, which con­firms that we’re chew­ing our way through ap­prox­i­mately 110kg of meat per per­son ev­ery year.

The 2013 Aus­tralian Di­etary Guide­lines, which are based on the lat­est sci­en­tific ev­i­dence, ad­vise us to eat no more than 455g of cooked lean red meat a week. That’s roughly 100 to 120g of raw meat, a serve no larger than the palm of your hand, three to four times a week. Mean­while, th­ese same guide­lines tell us that we should be eat­ing five serves of veg­eta­bles ev­ery day, but only 7 per cent of us ac­tu­ally do. The good news is that 54 per cent of us are man­ag­ing to eat our two daily serves of fruit.

The health mes­sage is sim­ple: Put plants first. Make plant foods the stars of all your meals and snacks, and let an­i­mal foods take more of a sup­port­ing role.

Want to eat more ve­g­ies? It’s easy!

When you’re de­cid­ing what to have for din­ner, you prob­a­bly start by say­ing some­thing like “I feel like chicken” or “I think we’ve got some chops in the fridge”. Many of us are in the habit of au­to­mat­i­cally plan­ning our meals around meat.

The key to eat­ing a health­ier diet? Stop think­ing of veg­eta­bles as sides and start ex­plor­ing their in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile flavours and tex­tures. Con­sider the many ways you can spice up a capsicum, for ex­am­ple, or which flavours work well with sweet potato, or whether your stir-fry needs ex­tra veg.

Grow th­ese changes grad­u­ally. If your fam­ily eats meat ev­ery day, why not in­tro­duce them to meat-free Mon­days? Once you’re all used to hav­ing a veg­e­tar­ian din­ner once a week and are en­joy­ing tasty new recipes, build on this by in­clud­ing more vegie-based meals and snacks on the other six days of the week.

Now green your eat­ing plan

Kick-start your plant-pow­ered diet with our fab­u­lous quick and easy meat-free meals on p52. (Some of th­ese star in our fill­ing vegie-based meal plan on p94.)

When you do eat meat, be mind­ful of por­tion sizes. You can make a re­ally sat­is­fy­ing meal with just a palm-size por­tion of steak, fish or chicken if you pre­pare your veg­eta­bles in cre­ative and flavour­some ways. Have fun!

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