Meet Wellness Collective, our new, immersive curriculum with Athleta that hooks you up with actionable advice from the smartest experts and brand founders in wellness right now. Get the goods at our monthly event series in New York City plus our online one-month wellness plans. Here, Mia Rigden, RD, founder of RASA, shares her four-week guide to a plant-forward diet.
If all the noise around keto versus paleo versus Mediterranean has made you totally tune out, we have good news: In 2019, Mia Rigden, RD, just wants you to eat more vegetables.
“I’m not dogmatic when it comes to food,” she says. “I prefer to stay away from prescriptive diets and restrictive eating patterns, but I do think we could all benefit from eating more plants.”
That mission has helped her land on a specific turn of phrase: plant-forward, rather than plant-based. The difference is subtle, but in the holistic chef’s experience it’s a distinction that makes it easier to follow. “Plant-forward doesn’t mean being vegetarian or vegan, it just means eating an abundance and diversity of fruits and vegetables,” she explains.
So simple it’s genius, right? We thought so too, so we asked Rigden to share her four-week plan for putting you on the plant-forward track for good.
Build momentum for the rest of the month (the remaining weeks will feel easy if you tackle the toughest task first) by challenging yourself to try 20 different vegetables in one week.
Rigden started the #20vegchallenge in January as a way to encourage people to add more veggie variety to their plates. “Each vegetable and fruit has its own distinct nutritional properties (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc), so the more diversity, the more nutrition you’ll get,” she says.
Make yourself a checklist (which doubles as a shopping list) so you can keep track of your goal and get the satisfaction of triumphantly crossing each one off in your notebook. Pro tip: As you’re filling up your shopping cart, don’t forget that herbs, different colors of veg like peppers and purple cauliflower, and different types of lettuces (oh hey, mustard, butter, and romaine) count.
Now that you’re intimately acquainted with your grocery store’s produce section (and have hopefully met some new meal-prep BFFs), you can stock up on enough veg to add a serving to every meal.
Breakfast is the tricky one here, but Rigden has a few suggestions for adding greenery to your first meal of the day. Toss it into a smoothie (like her favorite blend of spinach, cucumber, almond butter, chia seeds, non-dairy milk, and optional plant-based protein powder), or meal prep a frittata with fresh produce on Sunday. That way, you’ll be locked and loaded with plant-heavy breakfasts all week long.
Once you’ve covered off on getting enough plant life into your main meals, you can turn your attention to snacks. By swapping in fruits and veggies for whatever you usually find in your office snack cabinet, you’ll make major progress (just think of how many times you reach for the pretzels—and multiply that by carrots and hummus and apples and almond butter).
“Once you make an effort to eat more plants, you will start to crave them,” Rigden says. “Start by keeping a food diary and being really deliberate about eating more vegetables. Plants are energizing, so eventually it will become second nature.”
While a plant-based diet often suggests cutting out meat completely, Rigden says that when you’re focusing on plant-forward, you can still eat whatever proteins you prefer. The differentiator? Making sure the biggest part of your plate is made up of the fresh stuff.
Now that you’re comfortable with having one serving of veggies with every meal (thanks to Week Two), cap off your four-week challenge by piling your plate high with fruits and veggies to really make the most of all their nutritional benefits.
“Plants are really fibrous, so they will fill you up,” Rigden explains. “By focusing on abundance and adding foods to your plate, you can still enjoy all the other foods you love, but perhaps in smaller quantities, as your focus will be on veggies.” Dig in.
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