Next week is National Vegetarian Week, which could be a great opportunity to challenge yourself to up the veggies on your plate!
As we know, eating more fruits and vegetables comes with a variety of benefits, and is without a doubt a beneficial step when working to improve overall health and wellbeing.
This isn’t to say that having a completely plant based diet is right for everyone, no one size fits all.
It’s more about continuing to eat in a way which suits you and your individual needs, whilst making sure plants are a priority.
Why is it so important?
Firstly, plants are filled with fibre.
Fibre is a micronutrient which leaves us feeling fuller for longer, but also has a huge impact on the health of the live bacteria which live in our gut. These bacteria are often referred to as our ‘gut bugs’ or our ‘gut microbiome’. Aiming to nourish these bacteria can support us in so many ways, including helping to manage our weight, absorb key nutrients, aid healthy digestion and support immune function. Alongside this, because 90 – 95% of our feel good hormone ‘serotonin’ is produced in our gut, making gut health a priority can alter the production of serotonin and influence our mood and mental wellbeing. As fibre is our gut bacteria’s preferred source of fuel, it makes sense to up consumption when possible.
Fruits and veggies also mean more colour. ‘Eating the rainbow’ or including a range of different colours to our diet will encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut. Colourful foods also provide us with a micronutrient called polyphenols, which travel through the body working to lower inflammation.
Colourful foods welcome variety, and a well varied diet is easier to achieve when eating more plant sources. Recent recommendations have suggested aiming to consume 30 different plant foods per week, however if that doesn’t seem achievable, even adding one or two new fruits or vegetables to your shopping trolley welcomes a new element of variety. Remember, plant sources aren’t just fruits and vegetables, but beans and pulses, legumes, oats, wholegrains and nuts and seeds too!
How can we make it happen?
During a busy working week with so much to juggle, it’s not always easy to prioritise a healthy, well varied diet. Hopefully these tips will help to get you started:
Adding frozen spinach / banana / berries to a smoothie, grating a fruit or vegetable (e.g. carrot) into your morning oats or adding some greens to your omelette can be quick and easy ways to include plant sources to your breakfast plate.
If you know you have a busy week ahead, consider making a meal plan and get yourself to the supermarket to grab the things you need. That way you’re already half way there when it comes to preparing your meals for the week. Stock up on those long lasting cupboard essentials such as tins of beans and legumes, dry rice and quinoa, oats and nuts and seeds. These will last in the cupboard for a long time, work as a really nutritious base to many meals and help to up plant consumption.
Remember, frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. Utilising these can help to save both waste and money. Adding a handful of frozen berries to your porridge or some frozen spinach to a curry can be another quick and easy way to welcome a more diverse range of nutrients.
Chopping and freezing vegetables ahead of time can also work as a head start during a busy week. With a bag of pre-chopped onions or peppers in the freezer, you have the base for many main meals on an evening, saving time and helping to up veggie intake too.
We’re creatures of habit; every trip to the supermarket tends to involve grabbing the same foods we are used to and know how to prepare. Try challenging yourself to opt for something new. Each time you go to the shop, see if you can grab just one new fruits or vegetables that you haven’t tried for a while. That will be a great way to add another element of colour, variety (and excitement) to your meals.
Understandably this isn’t always do-able, however aiming to fill your plate around half full of plant sources could help to up that all important fibre intake and ensure you’re getting enough complex carbohydrates to fuel your body and brain for a busy day. Think: what can you add to your plate to try and make this happen?
There is evidence to suggest eating a more whole food plant based diet could be beneficial, both physically and mentally. Remember, that doesn’t mean going completely plant based, try to think of it as plant focused – how can you focus your plate around plants, with the option to add meat, fish or dairy depending on personal preference.
With enough plant persuasion, why not challenge yourself this National Vegetarian Week? Whether it’s including something new, partaking in a ‘meat free Monday’ or heading to The Garden to get your veggie fix – we’ve well and truly got you covered!
Holistic Health Coach - Anna Whyte
The ‘Wellness with Anna’ philosophy focuses on taking a more balanced and holistic approach to health. Often, the tools needed to make a lasting change are already in your toolbox. I offer client led guidance in order to support the progress of an individual working to meet their personal wellness goals. I will not diagnose, treat or take responsibility for bringing about wellness change, but direct, listen and support development.
We work together on a journey to make health a main priority, both physically and mentally.