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Plant Forward Eating


“Eat your fruits and vegetables!” Sound familiar? Good advice, but how do we put this advice into practice? The USDA recommends filling half of our plate with fruits and vegetables… or rather, vegetables and fruit. The plate model pictures more than one fourth of our plate supplying vegetables. Although it may be easier to entice ourselves to consume fruit because of its naturally sweet taste, both fruits and vegetables are part of a balanced eating pattern.

Where to start?  Begin with a half-cup serving of vegetables at both lunch and dinner. Gradually increase the size of each serving until reaching the recommended goal of 2 1/2cups or more of vegetables /day. Due to the fiber-rich content of plant foods, it is advisable to increase the consumed amount gradually to minimize digestive distress.  Gradually increase intake of fruit to 2 cups or more/day, depending caloric needs and blood sugar management.

Why plant-forward eating? Plant foods provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are essential to well-being. These nutrients have been shown to reduce risk for diseases such as diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory diseases, and certain cancers.

Dietary fiber is only supplied by plants. Fiber feeds the “gut microbiome”: the good bacteria in the digestive system that are essential for overall health. Insoluble fiber moves things through the digestive system, helping the body to rid toxins and indigestible materials. Soluble fiber acts as a “sponge” and is helpful in controlling blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides). Rich sources of soluble fiber include oats, barley, apples, oranges, and legumes. Most plant foods contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, so eating a variety is recommended.

Vitamins A, C, K and B-vitamins are richly supplied in plant foods. Carrots, spinach, red bell peppers, cantaloupe, mango, and tomatoes are just a few fruits and vegetables that supply the pro-vitamin A named beta-carotene. Vitamin A plays an important role in the function of bones, teeth, skin, eyes, and immunity. Vitamin C  plays a significant role in immunity and skin health, as well as neurotransmitter function, and is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, and kale, just to name a few. Vitamin K is a key player in bone health and normal blood clotting; leafy greens, broccoli, turnips, and carrots are a great source of this important vitamin.  The B-vitamin folate (folic acid) is involved in the function and growth of cells, including red blood cells. Dark leafy greens, oranges, bananas, melons, strawberries, and lemons supply folate.

In general, B-vitamins are found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and are required for energy metabolism and proper nerve function.

Numerous minerals are readily supplied in plant foods: Magnesium, potassium, calcium, selenium, and iron support bone health, muscle function, blood pressure control, and more. Phytonutrients are plentiful by the thousands in plants! Anthocyanin's protect against heart disease and fight inflammation and the aging process. These phytonutrients are found in red/blue/purple fruits and vegetables. Garlic and onion are rich sources of allicin, which helps to fight inflammation and acts to block toxins released by bacteria and viruses. Most fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, powerful anti-oxidants that also fight inflammation, bacteria, and viruses. Apples, onion, kale, and green tea are especially rich in this phytonutrient.

Plant-forward eating supports a “health-forward” lifestyle!



Teirney, Alison, MS, FRD, CD, CSO, “Plant-powered Eating for the Prevention and Management of Chronic Disease”,

About the author

Leslee Blanch

Leslee Blanch is a registered dietitian and group fitness instructor with a passion to promote wellness for individuals and for the community. As a Family and Consumer Sciences associate educator with University of Idaho Extension in Bonneville County, she offers a variety of wellness topics, including nutrition, fitness, and mental/emotional well-being.

Registered Dietitian
Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Family and Consumer Sciences Associate Extension Educator

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