The Benefits of Plant-based Diets

Plant-based diets can lower your body weight and reduce your risk of heart disease. Here is more information–plus a recipe.

Try a plant-based diet.

BY AMBER MASSEY & NEVA COCHRAN, MS, RD, LD

Three in 100 American adults call themselves vegetarians. Lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals, plant-based diets are linked to a number of health benefits including a lower body weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

According to the American Dietetic Association, appropriately planned vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally adequate. This is not necessarily a suggestion to cut out all meat cold-turkey, but rather to eat more plant foods and try going meat-free one or two days a week. This will provide ample nutrition benefits without forgoing the fish, poultry, and beef we know and love here in Texas.

It’s easy to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your favorite meat-based recipes to create vegetarian entrées. Instead of meat, build meals around protein-rich plant foods that are naturally low in fat like beans, grains, and a variety of vegetables. Try pasta Primavera, bean tacos, veggie pizza, mushroom burgers, vegetable lasagna, or even a tofu-vegetable stir-fry. These changes will boost vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol.

So take the opportunity to try some new dishes and develop new favorites for your family’s table. Here’s a super simple, no-fail recipe that will surely please even the most avid meat-lovers, not to mention save on your grocery bill.

BARBECUE PORTOBELLO QUESIDLLAS

Ingredients

1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided

5 medium portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, diced

1 medium onion, finely diced

4 8- to 10-inch whole-wheat tortillas

3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

– Combine barbecue sauce, tomato paste, vinegar and chipotle in a medium bowl.

– Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until the onion and mushrooms are beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the barbecue sauce; stir to combine.

– Spread 3 tablespoons of cheese on half of each tortilla and top with about 1/2 cup of the filling.

– Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in the pan over medium heat. Add 2 quesadillas and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Repeat with the quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into wedges and serve.

Per serving: 311 calories; 13 g fat (5 g sat, 6 g mono); 19 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrates; 11 g protein; 5 g fiber; 710 mg sodium; 771 mg potassium. iT!

Recipe courtesy of EatingWell.com

Amber Massey is a June 2010 graduate of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas dietetic internship who works as a clinical dietitian at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. She completed a community nutrition rotation with Neva Cochran as an intern.

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