By Caroline Young Bearden, MS, RD, LD
Did you know that eating more plants can help your health and the environment simultaneously?
It’s true. Eating more plants and plant-based foods like peanuts is linked to better health for both you and the world around you. Going plant-forward is simply eating more plant-based foods without eliminating animal products.
Nutritionally, eating more unsaturated fats (in plant-based proteins like peanuts) than saturated fats (in animal proteins) can lower the risk of heart disease and improve healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, including peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Plus, plant-based proteins often have fiber, which helps with digestion and weight maintenance, and can lower your risk of some diseases. In fact, one ounce of peanuts gives you 10 percent of your Daily Value (DV) for fiber.
And a diet higher in plant-based foods than animals foods is linked to less environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions, energy, land and water use. The good news is that going plant-forward does not mean excluding any food groups or losing balance and pleasure in eating, because small changes can make a big difference.
Here are some simple shifts you can make it your everyday life to move in the plant-forward direction, to benefit your health and your family’s health and the environment:
1. Make the protein flip.
Move the meat or animal products to the side of the plate or like a condiment, as a supporting role instead of the star. For instance, you can transform a “meat-and-three” with a large steak and sides, to a stir-fry with rice, vegetables, a smaller portion of steak.
2. Go halvsies.
Reduce your animal protein portion and sub in plants or plant-proteins. Love a good burger? Try a mushroom- (or other vegetable) and beef- blended burger. Or halve the grilled chicken on your salad and add some chopped peanuts on top.
3. Have a plant-based day.
Pick one day out of the week and go plant-based. In place of your animal protein, sub in foods like peanuts and peanut butter, seeds, beans and legumes. For breakfast, try waffles with fruit, peanut butter and honey, or a peanut butter coconut berry bowl. At lunch, go for a quinoa salad with veggies and chopped peanuts, a bean burrito or hummus & veggie sandwich. For dinner, try peanut butter noodles, a veggie burger with sweet potato wedges, or a veggie flatbread, made of naan bread, vegan pesto and roasted veggies.
4. Or a plant-based meal.
Maybe you’d like to start with one meal – and perhaps it’s at a vegetarian or vegan restaurant that is known for its delicious plant-based cuisine. If you’re not used to cooking in a plant-forward or plant-based way, this may be how you’d like to begin.
5. Switch up your snacks.
Not into a meatless meal or day? Start easy with plant-based snacks, like trail mix with peanuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate or a piece of fruit with peanut butter.
 Part D. Chapter 1: Food and Nutrient Intakes, and Health: Current Status and Trends - Continued. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/06-chapter-1/d1-3.asp. Accessed August 4, 2017.
 Executive Summary: A Taste of What’s Ahead. 2017 Menus of Change Annual Report. Menus of Change. http://www.menusofchange.org/images/uploads/pdf/2017MOC_AnnualReport.pdf. Published 2017. Accessed July 26, 2017.
 Part D. Chapter 5. Food Sustainability and Safety – Continued. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/10-chapter-5/d5-3.asp. Accessed August 4, 2017.