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On the Menu: A beginner's guide to a plant-based diet

No better time than the new year to improve your health and diet!

Liz Weber is a registered dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary's, and for today's “On the Menu” segment, she discusses the importance of starting a plant-based diet in 2018 and strategies to do so.

No better time than the new year to improve your health and diet!

There are plenty of fad diets out there, but why not try a diet that is less restrictive and more sustainable long term. An extra bonus: it can help reduce your risk of developing chronic disease and decrease your cancer risk.

This is a four-part series of segments, so today we will be covering some of the basics of the diet followed by plant-based recipes in the following weeks to guide you.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is a diet that puts a large emphasis on incorporating plant-based protein and/ or lean meats, ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy. While this diet may seem relatively simple on paper, most Americans consume diets high in red meat and refined grains, which may make getting starting on this diet a little more challenging than expected, especially if you have any picky eaters in your household.

The Basics


  • Limit red or processed meat intake to < 18 ounces per week. This includes lunch meat, bacon, sausage, and other cured meats.
  • Instead, choose fish, poultry, or other plant-based proteins, such as beans, tofu, or lentils.

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Aim for at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Eat a variety and try to incorporate a fruit or vegetable at each meal or snack.


  • Always aim for using whole grains over refined grains for higher fiber intake and less added sugar.
  • Refined grains include white bread, white rice, pastries, candy, and other high-sugar foods.
  • Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and pasta, oats, barley, quinoa, and farro.


  • Opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated fats.
  • Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats include avocado, olive oil, walnuts, nuts, seeds, soybeans, etc.


Choose low-fat dairy instead of full-fat to avoid excess calories from fat that can lead to an unhealthy weight.


  • If you don't drink, don't start.
  • Men: limit intake to 2 drinks per day.
  • Women: limit intake to 1 drink per day.
  • 1 serving: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor.


  1. Start planning. Meatless Mondays or Salad Sundays. Make a realistic routine out of incorporating these plant-based meals.
  2. Keep to the basics. Don't feel the need to recreate the wheel with new or complex recipes. Use your family favorites and find ways to adjust it to make it more plant-based.
  3. Make it work for you. Avoid getting overwhelmed and feeling the need to change every part of your diet by focusing on 2 aspects on the diet at a time.


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