Plant-based Diet Considered Healthiest by Dietitian

Posted on: January 28, 2015

Healthful Eating: The Plant-based Diet

By Jill Ashbey-Pejoves

As a dietitian I am often asked what I consider to be the healthiest diet. This is an easy question to answer because the research is fairly clear that a plant-based diet is best for farmers market 2overall health. You may be wondering exactly what a plant-based diet is. Well the definition ranges from one in which no animal products are consumed, a vegan diet, to one in which some animal products are consumed and not others, a vegetarian diet, to one in which all foods are consumed, but plant foods comprise the majority, a flexitarian or Mediterranean diet. A well balanced plant-based diet provides all the essential amino acids necessary for adequate protein and is high in fiber.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of a plant-based diet:
• Improved weight control – most plant-based foods are high in nutrients and low in calories by volume.
• Improved blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar control.
• Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and numerous cancers.
• It is cost effective. Vegetables, grains and legumes are less expensive than meat and dairy products.
• It’s good for the planet. It takes less environmental resources to sustain a plant-based diet than a meat-based one. Plants produce oxygen, not CO2.

“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”  
– Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Ways to incorporate more fruits, vegetable, beans, legumes and whole grains into your diet?
• Replace 1-2 meals per week with a vegetarian option. Think meatless Monday!
• Replace refined grains with whole grains such as brown rice, millet, bulgur, wheat berries.
• Get sneaky; add beans to soups, salads, and stews.
• Drink your greens, blend spinach or kale into your fruit smoothie.
• Aim for 3-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruits every day.
• For convenience, keep canned beans on-hand; just remember to rinse them to remove the excess salt.
• Join a co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture) to always have a variety of seasonal, local or organic vegetable and fruits available.

If you, or someone you love, are interested in changing your diet to improve a chronic health condition, a Registered Dietitian can help.

For more information on plant-based diets, visit and

To learn more about co-ops, CSAs and to find one in your area, visit


Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos
Courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant & Recipes

6 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 21⁄2 pounds)
2 cups chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 fresh hot pepper, minced (for a milder “hot,” seeded first)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, drained (3 cups)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste
6 10-inch flour tortillas

1. In a covered saucepan, bring the sweet potatoes to a boil in salted water to cover
2. Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Drain and mash. Set aside.
4. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, in a covered saucepan on low heat, cook the on-ions, garlic, hot peppers, and salt in the oil until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
5. When the onions have softened, stir in the cumin and coriander and cook for another minute or two.
6. Preheat the oven to 350°. Oil a large baking pan or sheet.
7. Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, the onion-spice mixture, and the black beans.
8. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro; add salt to taste.
9. Place about a 1 cup of filling on the bottom half of each tortilla and roll up.
10. Lightly brush the tops of the burritos with oil and cover with foil.
11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until hot.
Try these Variations: Add a diced bell pepper to the onions as they cook. Replace the fresh hot pepper with 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne or 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. For a smoky flavor, use a minced canned chipotle pepper with a spoonful of adobo sauce. Stir a cup of corn kernels into the filling. Use corn tortillas instead of flour for a gluten-free alternative.
Per Serving:
312 Calories;  1.9g Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  423mg Sodium;   62g Carbohydrates;  12g Fiber;  12g Protein

Recipe by Moosewood Restaurant & Recipes | Ithaca, NY at burritos/

Spiced Chickpea “Nuts”
Courtesy of

When roasted in a hot oven, chickpeas become super crunchy. They’re a great low-fat substitute for nuts when salty cravings hit.

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 450°F.
2. Blot chickpeas dry and toss in a bowl with oil, cumin, marjoram, allspice and salt. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until browned and crunchy, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.

Per serving :
103 Calories; 5 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 0 mg Cholesterol; 14 g Carbohydrates; 4 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 303 mg Sodium; 2 mg Potassium

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.