The key to looking and feeling great

What if I told you the secret to looking and feeling great is all around you? You can grow it at home, purchase it at grocery and convenience stores and enjoy it at restaurants. It’s not another “quick fix” or “diet” that can oftentimes lead to feelings of deprivation and failure.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

We can look and feel great by making fruits, vegetables and other plant-strong foods the stars of our meals.

Greening our meals is something we can all celebrate together this Food Day, on Saturday. Food Day “inspires Americans to change their diets and our food policies” by focusing on healthier, sustainable food practices.

This year’s focus, Toward a Greener Diet, encourages each of us to adopt more humane food practices, which means avoiding foods from the worst production systems that confine animals to spaces so small they can barely move. A plant-strong diet isn’t only great for our health and the environment, but it also helps spare animals from suffering.

Increasing the variety and frequency of plant-strong meals can cleanse and detoxify the body while strengthening immunity. Studies have confirmed the positive impact these foods have in cancer and heart disease prevention, and overall weight management.

These benefits can be attributed to the army of nutrients packed in plant foods ready to defend your body from unwanted invaders. Simply put, micronutrients are the essential vitamins and minerals. With potentially more than 4,000 varieties, phytonutrients are getting more attention for their role in disease prevention, proper body function and even anti-aging.

Filling more of your plate with fruits, vegetables and other phytonutrient-rich plant foods (think whole grains, beans, tofu and almonds or pistachios) keeps the volume of food consumed the same, but with less calories and fat. Even better, these foods can all provide the protein, carbohydrates, fiber and fat we need daily with many added bonuses.

Opting for a satisfying bowl of oatmeal or quinoa with mixed berries and an apple is a perfect start to the day. Fuel up mid-day with mushroom and black bean street tacos with avocado and tomato salsa. Cozy up to a warm bowl of roasted butternut squash soup paired with eggplant bruschetta.

By emphasizing plant-based foods while decreasing animal products in our meals, we can reduce our carbon footprint as well. Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization advised reducing our consumption of meat to avoid continued global warming. The Sierra Club says choosing plant-strong meals as little as once day a week has the environmental benefit of switching from a standard vehicle to a hybrid – hello, Meatless Monday!

At The Humane Society of the United States, we advocate for compassionate eating, or the three R’s: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.

By filling up on phytonutrient-rich plant foods, you have the power to improve your health from the inside out, all while adopting more sustainable and humane food practices. Break free of the dieting roller coaster. Make a lasting change starting this Food Day. As the saying goes, “the greatest wealth is health.”

Karla Dumas, RDN, is a registered dietitian with The Humane Society of the United States.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of The Office of Student Media.