Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT discusses “plant-based” diets and what it means for animal protein.
Daily Protein Intake
Ah, January. A time for new beginnings, resolutions, and so many good intentions that we usually toss to the side by Valentine’s Day. As a registered dietitian and personal trainer, I’ve borne witness time and again to the empty promises of “lose weight/transform your body/get abs in 30 days” schemes that now clog up our social media feeds this time of year.
The problem? None of these “solutions” are sustainable, and if you’re seeing the term “plant-based” being thrown into the mix of bound-to-be-broken dietary promises, I’m here to tell you: proceed with caution, then “steak” your claim on the term (pun intended).
Yes, we’ve all gotten the memo: only one in ten of us are getting enough fruits and vegetables, and in many cases, consumption of produce is on the decline. Moreover, you’ve probably seen the term “plant-based” on everything from crackers to shampoo to dishwasher detergent.
If you’re reading that last paragraph and thinking, “hmmm…something isn’t adding up here…we’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and yet I’m spoiled for choice in the cleaning aisle with plant-based options…” then good on you for seeing through the nonsense that has taken over in the supermarket aisles.
My advice? It’s time to cut through the noise of “plant-based” eating and make it work for YOU to achieve YOUR optimal health. And I hope you’re sitting down for this one: your secret weapon in adopting a “plant-based” diet that puts the focus on actual plants (most importantly, produce in all forms) is animal protein.
The problem with “plant-based” is that there is no hard and fast definition, and hence it is has been co-opted by animal rights and environmental extremist communities to push the narrative that animal agriculture and animal proteins are “bad.” In reality, when we do some simple math, something as fool-proof as the dietary guidelines, specifically MyPlate, would qualify as plant-based: fill three-quarters of your plate with produce, legumes, and grains, and save that last quarter for lean protein. If we’re including milk as a beverage on the side (which I strongly advise you do), the math still adds up to a meal that’s around 60% derived from plants (if we’re getting technical, animals eat plants to produce wholesome, nutritious, sustainable protein sources, making the plates 100% “plant-based”).
Semantics aside, there’s great value in utilizing your favorite proteins as a vehicle for increasing produce consumption. Sandwiches and burgers are an excellent vehicle, but we can take it back to the most basic of plant-based dishes: the salad. Why let your greens and other crudité be lonely when pairing them with chicken, steak, or even leftover pork will leave you feeling satisfied for hours? The more enjoyment and satisfaction we garner from our meals, the more likely we are to make them habits, and increasing produce consumption can begin to feel like a joy – not a chore.
Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT