Dr. Saadia Alvi believes in the power of plant-based nutrition. Here, she discusses the benefits of changing your nutrition habits.
One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight is sustainable nutrition habits – making changes to, and sticking with, the types of food you eat on an ongoing basis. This does not mean you have to make sudden, drastic changes to what you eat; taking simple steps toward eating better will help your nutrition.
For many people, evolving their nutrition to better-for-them foods is a realistic approach to changing their habits and their tastes. If you like what you are eating, you will eat those foods. As you get more comfortable with “new” foods, spices and recipes, you’ll naturally expand your palette. Deciding to improve your nutrition is a great excuse to get creative in the kitchen.
I emphasize plant-based nutrition because the positive results of eating more whole and plant-based foods are well-documented. The quality of the food is also important – whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits are the healthier options. While technically plant-based, foods like potato chips and French fries are not great choices for your best nutrition or ideal weight.
Whole foods and plant-based foods are ones that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. They provide superior nutrition as they contain no cholesterol and less saturated fat and provide the protein, vitamins, iron and omega fatty acids your body needs for optimum energy and health. Nutrition benefits including pre-biotics, phytonutrients and flavonoids.
In the average American diet, it is estimated that 32% of calories comes from animal foods, 57% from processed plant foods and only 11% from total plant foods. Of that 11%, less than 6% comes from actual whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and nuts (U.S. Dept of Agriculture).
That average diet is reflected in our weights – 31.8% of U.S. adults aged 20+ are overweight and 39.8% are obese (cdc.gov). That’s 71.6% of Americans.
As you add more whole, plant-based foods to your daily nutrition, it does not have to be an “all-or-nothing” scenario. You can start by making some simple switches, like using plant milk in your coffee or tea instead of dairy; steaming vegetables instead of frying them; flavoring foods with spices and herbs instead of fatty sauces; and adding non-animal protein to your meals like tofu, quinoa, chick peas or lentils.
In helping my patients manage and prevent chronic health conditions, I encourage them to focus on nutrition and lifestyle changes that they will adopt as their “new normal,” and thus, stick to. Just like a person didn’t gain 50 unwanted pounds overnight, it’s not always realistic to try to change habits all at once. It is much simpler to find ways to fix your favorite vegetables or non-animal proteins so you love eating them.
This sustainable approach to nutrition is why fad diets rarely work for people for the long-term. They’re just a whole lot of work – measuring, counting and restricting what you eat. They may provide short-term results, most typically due to water loss, but as soon as you deviate from the diet, your weight gain will begin anew.
Plant-based nutrition can help you reach and maintain your healthy weight with no calorie counting. Eating healthier can also lower your risk of chronic diseases including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. A whole food, plant-based diet can be your simple “diet for life.”
Note: It is important to discuss nutrition changes with a physician to address any existing conditions or medications you take.