Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
Sharon has created an award-winning career based on combining her two great loves: nutrition and writing. Sharon is an accomplished writer, editor, blogger, author, speaker, and media expert. In particular, her expertise is in plant-based nutrition, cooking, and sustainability.
Sharon has authored over 950 articles in a variety of publications,including Better Homes and Gardens, Prevention, and LA Times. Her book The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, July 2012) was a critical success, which was followed by her second book Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes in July 2014.
In addition, she has contributed to several book chapters on nutrition and sustainability. Sharon serves as the nutrition editor for Today’s Dietitian, provides here expertise to many publications and organizations on an advisory basis, and speaks widely at conferences and in the media. And she still has time to blog every day for her popular online community (45,000+ members strong) at The Plant Powered Dietitian.
Sharon is a judge for the prestigious James Beard Journalism Awards, and is currently attending graduate school at Green Mountain College in Vermont in order to obtain a Master Degree in Sustainable Food Systems in late 2018. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys tending to her own organic garden, visiting the local farmers market every week, and cooking for friends and family.
[00:00:00] You’re listening to the Nutrition Experts Podcast featuring guests who take the scientific talk about food and break it down for practical use. You’ve heard the phrase you are what you eat. Come find out what that really means. Experience conversations with experts in the field of nutrition and understand the power of food for our health wellbeing and beyond. Now here’s your host Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Mathea Ford.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:27] Hey there! It’s Mathea. Welcome back to Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast featuring nutrition experts who are leading the way using food starts today right now with our next guest. It’s great to have Sharon Palmer on the show today. Sharon, welcome to Nutrition Experts. I’m excited to have you on the show and share your expertise with my tribe.
Sharon Palmer: [00:00:47] I’m happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:51] So, Sharon tell my listeners a little more about you and what you do.
Sharon Palmer: [00:00:56] Well I’m a registered dietitian/nutritionist and I’m a journalist. I am an editor for publications and I’m a blogger. I blog every day at my blog the Plant Power Dietician. I’m an author of two books about plant powered eating. I do a lot of recipe development do a lot of speaking about the health benefits of plant based diets.
Mathea Ford: [00:01:16] So, you’re that plant power dietitian right?
Sharon Palmer: [00:01:20] That’s right.
Mathea Ford: [00:01:20] Okay. So, what made you interested in this topic of plant based nutrition?
Sharon Palmer: [00:01:25] Well I like to say that I’ve always been some kind of a vegetarian. I grew up in a vegetarian home and I’ve been a Pescatarian at points of my life and Lacto-Ovu vegetarian, a semi-vegetarian and then more recently I’ve been a complete, completely plant based in the last seven years. So, this is something that I’ve always felt passionnate about in my own personal dietary choice. And then the research started coming together in the last few decades and especially in the last decade showing the health benefits of more plant based diets. So, I really started to become more enthusiastic about sharing those messages with people and trying to inspire them to become a little bit more plant based whatever that means to them.
Mathea Ford: [00:02:11] So, you mentioned a couple different types of vegetarianism so to speak. Can you explain the difference between all the different styles that people talk about if they say they’re vegetarian because there’s different kind of layers I guess?
Sharon Palmer: [00:02:26] Yeah I like to think of it as a spectrum of plant based eating where you know a plant based diet is a diet that focuses on plants. So then you have the spectrum of eating. A vegan is completely plant based. They eat no animal foods, no dairy products, no eggs and then the lacto ovu vegetarian or what we typically called vegetarian. They don’t eat animal flesh but they will eat eggs and dairy products. And then you have Pescatarian which is a vegetarian but they eat fish and seafood all the way to like a some vegetarian or flexitarian where people don’t want it exclusively give up meat but they want to make a real impact and reduce their meat significantly. And then all along those different types of diets you have people that have their own interpretations. I’ve met Pescatarians who are almost vegan but they eat fish maybe once a week and then you’ll meet vegans that occasionally will eat vegetarian when they’re traveling for example so there’s kind of a lot of interpretation along the way. But those are really the overall types of plant based diets.
Mathea Ford: [00:03:31] So if someone says they’re vegetarian, if you’re planning a meal or something you may want to ask them a few more questions like “Are you completely vegan or are you fine with dairy or what?” How would you kind of handle that?
Sharon Palmer: [00:03:44] That’s a good point because I think you know if you have friends who are vegetarian you might want to ask them what their food preferences are. If you’re entertaining or having a party that kind of thing because people can have very you know their own interpretation of their vegetarian diet you know they could say the vegetarian but every once in a while they might eat certain foods so I do think it’s really important to recognize that people have their own interpretation of their plant based diets.
Mathea Ford: [00:04:14] I eat a regular diet but I just don’t eat eggs. So, everybody has different preferences so that’s a good point.
Sharon Palmer: [00:04:21] Yeah.
Mathea Ford: [00:04:21] You did mention that there’s a lot of research and a lot of research recently that has shown the benefits of a plant based diet. Can you talk a little bit about that research and kind of what it’s shown and what the value of it is?
Sharon Palmer: [00:04:38] Yeah. Now we have quite a bit of research in particular the Adventist Health Studies 1 and 2 which came from Loma Linda University where I went to school and they had these large cohorts almost 100,000 people in the last cohort where they studied five different diet patterns.
Sharon Palmer: [00:04:56] And within this large group of people they offered them for a long period of time and they looked at five diets – a vegan diet, vegetarian diet, pescaterian diet, a semi-vegetarian diet and an omnivore non-vegetarian diet. In this group and then they looked at health outcomes and they found overall that the more plant based diet generally the better benefits. So vegans did really well in the things that they looked at such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes risks, cancer risks and then things like cholesterol levels, insulin levels, inflammation levels those kinds of things they also looked at they even looked at carbon footprint. So, overall they found that the more plant based your diet the better. However what I really love from this is that they found even as some vegetarian had benefits. So it really showed this idea. If you don’t want to be an exclusive vegetarian even if you start eating more plant based meals you’re going to see some health benefits.
Mathea Ford: [00:06:00] So, why did they say that that was?
Sharon Palmer: [00:06:02] They looked at what people were eating specifically what they were eating in these different diet patterns and if you could see the chart it’s just really intriguing because the more plant based the people were you could just see how many more servings of vegetables they eat everyday or how much more avocados. How many more whole grains, legumes, nuts. So, the more plant based people were eating. You can see the rise in intake of all of these healthy plant based foods. I really think that is the message here is when you’re eating a plant based diet it’s not so much what you’re leaving out.
Sharon Palmer: [00:06:38] It’s what you are eating because you are eating more of all these things which you know are it as well as I do as a dietitian. We know that whole grains and legumes and nuts and seeds and fruits and vegetables are really helpful foods. And when that really creates the core of your diet. It’s just a no brainer that you’re going to have health benefits. So, you’re eating more nutritionally dense diet, you’re getting more volume instead of calories and you’re about fiber is so valuable for so many things?
Sharon Palmer: [00:07:09] Exactly! And then the phytochemicals you know the phytochemicals are these compounds and plant foods and they’re only found in the plant kingdom when we’re consuming a lot of whole plant foods, were getting a lot of these phytochemicals which we know have antioxidant and antiinflammatory compounds. That’s another one of these key benefits for eating more whole plant foods.
Mathea Ford: [00:07:31] I don’t know if maybe we should explain at this point a little bit what you would consider a plant based diet. So, what foods that might include and in what proportions could you kind of do a little review for that?
Sharon Palmer: [00:07:44] You know plant based diet is one that really focuses on plant foods and some animal foods. So when you look at your dinner plate you know the typical American plate generally looks like a big piece of animal protein whether it’s a chicken breast or a steak and then you’ve got maybe a little scoop of mashed potatoes and a little tiny pile of peas.
Sharon Palmer: [00:08:04] You kind of think of that as that you know a typical American eating style. A plant based diet just switches the tables on that it could you could have animal protein on it on there but it could be just a small serving perhaps it could be slices of chicken in a big stir fry where it’s mostly vegetables and then served with a brown rice for example or it could be a more of a plant based diet where you have some simmering lentils on the plate and that would be providing your protein. And then you’ve got some cooked sorghum which is a whole grain and then another serving of vegetables or perhaps a salad or soup. So that is really the difference where you’re looking at your plate being just packed with plant foods. The whole plant foods that we’re interested in consuming are things like legumes which would be beans and lentils. These are very rich in protein. Dried peas, soy foods like tofu or Tempeh, whole grains. I recommend more whole grains in there intact forms such as brown rice or Quinoa or wheat berries, lots of vegetables. I recommend to try to fit six a half cup servings of vegetables a day. Fruits, I recommend a fruit every meal about three servings a day and then nuts and seeds like a handful of nuts and seeds a day. And then of course flavorful spices and herbs these are all part of a beautiful plant based diet.
Mathea Ford: [00:09:30] So what are some ways that people you describe kind of what it was perfectly cause I think some people envision it as being difficult. And it’s really just a little more of some things and a little less of others and a lot of people haven’t even tried their vegetables or other types of like you mentioned Quinoa. So what are some ways that people can eat more plant based diet? What kind of things can they do to change?
Sharon Palmer: [00:09:57] Yeah that’s a good question. I think you’re right a lot of people may be intimidated by a plant based diet because they think it’s going to be really hard. They don’t have the right cooking equipment, it’s going to take them hours and they don’t know how to cook this way. But really a plant based diet can be very simple. A lot of times people are eating a plant beside and they don’t even realize it. For example my mother grew up on a farm in Arkansas during World War II and they were very poor and they ate a plant based diet and they didn’t realize it because everything they ate came from the farm and they rarely ate meat because they were very poor. So, they really just eight beans a Black Eyed Peas they grew on the farm, they grew their own peanuts, they grew their own grains and they ate pounds of vegetables because they had a kitchen garden. So that is a plant based diet so it can be very simple and you know ordinary it can be just cooking beans and serving it with a grain or cornbread as my mother would do. And then lots of vegetables whether they’re sauteed or roasted, salads, soups. But then it can also be something more modern. For example, my family loves Taco Tuesdays.
Sharon Palmer: [00:11:10] You know everybody loves Taco Tuesdays but you could turn a taco into a plant based taco very easily to skip the Taco meat and do black beans or you could if you wanted to try some of the products there are meat alternatives that are taco flavored as well but just black beans and then letting your family put whatever toppings they want is a perfect example of how you can do a plant based meal that’s not very difficult.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:35] Those are great examples. I know you do a lot with recipes so maybe you can talk to the listeners for a minute about some you mentioned tacos and a great example, some ways they could change some of a common regular meals that could be more plant based?
Mathea Ford: [00:11:55] Yeah. Another example that I love to bring up is lasagna because I think that’s a family favorite. You know who doesnt love lasagna? And that’s a really easy one that you could just take your favorite recipe and just make it more plant based. I have several lasagna recipes on my website at sharonpalmer.com. You know one of them has kale, one of them has Swiss chard. I have a garden and Swiss Chard is easy to grow so you know just putting layers of Swiss Chard in there. You can cut down on the pasta noodles by adding more vegetables. But you know you can really just add just about any vegetable whether it’s cauliflower, broccoli eggplant, zucchini and just adding those layers in skipping the meat. If you’re using cheese, cheese provides protein. I have a cashew ricotta that I make is just ground cashew nuts so that’s adding protein. So, that’s one example. Another example is chili. You know we all, we love chili. I like to serve it with cornbread.
Sharon Palmer: [00:12:56] But you can make an entirely vegetarian chili quite easily. You can start with dried beans or even canned beans. And one of my recipes I add steel-cut oats to the chili with a lot of vegetables and the steel-cut oats actually take on kind of a meaty texture when it’s cooked. It really, it tastes almost have it has a texture of ground beef and there but it’s a completely plant based recipe. So, these are just a few ideas how you can just take some of your favorite dishes and make them plant based.
Mathea Ford: [00:13:26] Chili was the one thing that I was thinking about like chili would probably be pretty easy so that was a great example and adding the steel-cut oats because you’re adding more fiber to. There’s plant based and you’re eating these fresh vegetables and fruits. Do you need to go organic? Or what would that mean? What is your take on that as far as how people should view the food that they’re eating with the organic and the more vegetarian?
Sharon Palmer: [00:13:53] I’m a fan of organic agriculture. I’m actually in grad school right now getting my masters in sustainable food systems. And I really value that organic system of agriculture in terms of its impact on the planet. I feel like the benefits of organic are actually more beneficial for the environment rather than the individual nutrients that people get in food. We do know that organic food has lower pesticide residues. That’s a benefit for humans. But I think the larger benefit of organic agriculture is in the environment and to our soil and to our ecosystem. I prefer to buy organic produce myself.
Sharon Palmer: [00:14:32] At the same time I encourage people to prioritize eating fruits and vegetables first you know if choosing organic is a barrier for you know their number one priority is eating more whole plant foods first and then second if it fits in your budget and you can do that, I do think that it has sustainability benefits. I like to shop at my farmer’s market and a lot of the produce that I’m buying is not organic certified at the farmer’s market but I know my farmers there and a lot of them are not certified but they’re not using as many pesticide and they’re following a sustainable agricultural practices. So that’s one thing that people can do to kind of connect with their food system a little bit more and understand how your produce are being grown and also growing your own food. I grow a lot of my own food. I have a vegetable garden and I don’t use any pesticides in there. So that’s you know another way to support a more sustainable food system.
Mathea Ford: [00:15:32] Is there a good way for listeners to find it like farmers markets around them that they may be able to visit? Do you know?
Sharon Palmer: [00:15:39] I google it. In fact one of my hobbies because I travel quite a bit is I visit farmers markets all over. Wherever I am all over the world. I immediately Google that location and find out where their farmer’s market is. I know that there are farmers market directories. The USDA has one but sometimes I just find it’s easier to just google it and find out in communities. California is really progressive with farmers’ markets and with beautiful ones.
Sharon Palmer: [00:16:08] We have a very long growing season but all over the country there are beautiful farmers markets. A lot of times are seasonal depending on the climate of that region. It’s really an interesting way when you’re in a location to really understand the local food system. You can talk to farmers, you can understand what seasonal and local in that area and you can buy produce that’s more you know it’s picked ripe, it’s coming to you more quickly and studies show that produce that’s harvested at its peak and you’re eating it you know right at that point you’re gaining more nutrient levels rather than harvesting food and you know two weeks later you’re buying it at the supermarket taking it home. Some of the nutrient levels have decreased a little bit by then so it’s just another benefit for eating more local produce.
Mathea Ford: [00:16:59] Are there any sort of risk or nutritional deficiencies if you don’t consume animal protein? I know I talked to you about this before we started but I used to believe there were incomplete proteins you had to mix some at the same meal you know. Are there any risks to not eating animal protein?
Sharon Palmer: [00:17:20] Well, the current position from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which is you know the leading nutrition organization in the United States. The current position statement says that vegetarian, vegan diets can be nutritionally adequate for all ages, all life cycles if they are planned well. That is the real key here. We know now from research that you can live a very helpful diet. You can meet your nutrient needs but you have to really consume that well planned diet. And that’s really the important area here.
Sharon Palmer: [00:17:53] And so you know one of the things that’s important is for example Vitamin B12. Well that’s really the nutrient that you have to supplement where you’re eating a completely plant based diet because it’s only available in animal foods and so it’s just you have to supplement B12. And then other things like protein you know if you’re eating a balanced diet where you’re getting different protein sources in from things like legumes, soy foods are very high quality proteins similar to animal protein but legumes, nuts, grains even vegetables have protein. And when you’re eating these throughout the day you all the amino acids in these these foods the building blocks of protein, they create sort of a pool and your body can access those but it’s really important to get a balance of all those things. A balance of plant proteins. The things that I just mentioned like soy and soy foods and legumes and grains and vegetables and getting plenty of whole grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables have a lot of important nutrients. So, really making a very high quality diet and that’s really the key to getting that nutrient balance.
Mathea Ford: [00:19:04] So, even I mean it’s a good point to make that even people who eat animal protein can have nutrition deficiencies if they don’t eat a good variety of foods.
Sharon Palmer: [00:19:13] That’s absolutely true. I mean we know as dietitians that Americans have several nutrients that were falling short on. Vitamin E, Vitamin D, fiber you know. So, even omnivores people who eat meat are falling short on important nutrients and we know that people are eating this kind of a Western style diet that’s really high and highly processed foods.
Sharon Palmer: [00:19:38] And low in things like fruits and vegetables and whole grains and legumes. So, if you’re eating up a whole foods plant based diet where you’re really eating a lot of these healthy foods you can have a very nutrient diverse diet.
Mathea Ford: [00:19:52] So you mentioned B12 need to be supplemented. Is there anything else that if people are eating a completely vegetarian diet I guess completely vegetarian as we talked about before is subject to interpretation. So, if you’re doing more like a vegan where you’re really not eating any meat, not dairy, no cheese. Is there any other supplementation that people should be concerned about?
Sharon Palmer: [00:20:15] I want to make sure people are getting enough calcium if they’re completely vegan. You know some things you can do. I recommend soy milk that’s fortified with vitamin D and Calcium if you’re not doing dairy and that is what the USDA recommends in their guidelines as well. If you’re drinking fortified soy milk it’s almost nutritionally it’s so similar to dairy milk. So, that can really provide you with the calcium and the protein you need as well as vitamin D because it’s fortified. I recommend green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, green vegetables as sources of some of the minerals that you need. And then, there are other things like Omega 3 fatty acids which is kind of an area of discussion now because if you’re on a completely plant based diet you can get a lot of the plant Omega 3s.
Sharon Palmer: [00:21:03] The ALA, the short chain but you’re not getting the long chain which is the EPA, DHA only found in fish and we know that there are benefits for the EPA DHA these long chain Omega 3s. Now, the body can convert those short chain from plant foods like walnuts and flax and hemp. Your body can convert that to the long chain but it kind of low levels. So there is some you know there are some experts recommending Omega 3 supplements of EPA and DHA for plant based diets and you can get those from algae. Now, algae oil is a source of these long chain omega 3s and in fact that is where fish get their Omega 3s to begin with. Because you know down on the food chain they’re eating algae. So, that’s a way that plant basedpeople can get more EPA DHEA. I actually take that as well. I feel like there is a benefit to it even though the science isn’t a hundred percent sure on the recommendation. I think as a precaution that’s something that that people who are completely plant based might want to do.
Mathea Ford: [00:22:14] Those are excellent recommendations I think easy to implement and just to make sure you’re well-rounded. Are there any conditions that are you know this is a huge improvement in your health if you can go further plant based you go?
Sharon Palmer: [00:22:31] Yeah that’s a good question actually there’s a few areas. Weight is one. The research has significantly shown plant based diets, the more plant based the better to have a weight benefit. I mean some studies are showing that vegans for example have one entire category lower BMI than non vegans. So, that’s one area. And even vegetarians have a lower BMI. And this is just it’s just kind of the side benefit.
Sharon Palmer: [00:23:00] People just tend to weigh less when they’re eating this way. And the thought is is that the diet is so high in fiber. We know fiber has to satiety value. It makes you feel full. So, that’s you know a very clear benefit. It can be a really healthy way to keep your weight in a healthy range. And then there is a lot of research on heart health. And this again would make sense because when you’re on a plant based diet you have a very low saturated fat level intake, you have a low dietary cholesterol intake and you also have high fiber which are all heart healthy things as well as we know that this diet is anti-inflammatory. This would be you know very easy prediction that you would see heart health benefits and indeed the research shows very substantial heart health benefits for people who are eating this way and then diabetes. You also mentioned that and there are there’s more research on prevention of diabetes with a plant based diet as well as management. There is some newer study showing that a plant based diet could be a really good way to manage diabetes because you’re reducing that other risk factors that you have when you have diabetes, type 2 diabetes you have a higher risk of getting heart disease later in your life. So, that’s a big impact as well as managing your glucose levels. So, I think these are three really key areas. I mean we are learning more about cancer as well.
Sharon Palmer: [00:24:24] You know even the AICR, their latest report that just came out the World Cancer Research Fund in AICR is really recommending more of a plant based diet and reducing red meat as one of the main strategies for reducing your risks of cancer and then increasing plant foods again. So, you know we’re seeing it in that area as well.
Mathea Ford: [00:24:48] Oh I love that. That’s excellent. What are some ways that people could get started with going in this direction? For my family, I heard a presentation on the plant based diet. I came home and I was like we should eat so much more plant based food. They’re all like “No, we’re not getting rid of our meat. So, I’m going to have to figure out a way to improve to get a little more plant based. What is a process? What is a way that a person can make this change if they’re interested in going in that direction?
Sharon Palmer: [00:25:19] Yeah is a really good question and I think a lot of people you know really don’t want to make these drastic changes so small changes can be very effective. So, one of my first suggestions is to try Meatless Monday. If you’re not familiar with Meatless Monday it’s a Grassroots non-profit program from Johns Hopkins where it just promotes this idea. One day a week being vegetarian and Monday research shows that people start Monday with really good healthy behaviors. They’re motivated to start the week right. So, on Monday this whole concept of just being vegetarian on Monday. I think it’s a great idea that anybody could be able to do because the other thing is as you know a lot of people tend to do their shopping over the weekend to get prepared for the week.
Sharon Palmer: [00:26:03] So if you just every Monday thought “I’m going to do a vegetarian day.” You could you know think of a recipe that you’d like to do if you wanted to try those. The vegetarian lasagna or the vegetarian chili or perhaps you want to do a curry lentil dish with basmati rice. You know just finding one recipe that you want to try. And I like this idea when you’re eating together you know really evaluating. Did everybody like that recipe? We’re going to try it again and we didn’t really like it let’s try another one next Monday and just this idea of one day a week you know trying to eat a vegetarian way of eating just that one day because I think the interesting thing going on here is that the culinary movement is all about plant based right now. You go to an award winning restaurant, it’s all about vegetables and ancient grains and you know it’s meat is just a side thought these days and this whole culinary trend of the global flavors you know and whether it’s Indian, a Moroccan or Southeast Asian these are really exciting trends. And people are eating these plant based dishes whether it’s a stir fry or a grain bowl with chickpeas, people are eating this way and not even realizing that it’s vegetarian or plant based because it’s just so delicious and so intriguing. So, this idea of having some really delicious dishes and then if you like it just maybe do another meal during the week let’s do it on Wednesday night too and just adding more of those opportunities to have plant based meals.
Mathea Ford: [00:27:40] Yeah. There’s so much color in a plant based diet and so it’s so visually appealing and then like you said you add those flavors of the different global inspirations and it’s delicious food. But that leads me to my next question because yeah that’s all fine and good to make these nice complicated meals although you didn’t describe very many complicated meals but is this a way of eating that is sustainable if you have a busy lifestyle? If you’re a mom and you got a couple kids and you have activities a couple nights a week, how do you sustain a more plant based diet when you’re very tempted to eat that processed and fast foods?
Sharon Palmer: [00:28:28] You know I lifted my Taco Tuesday and I think that’s a really easy meal. And I think people really have to have some easy meals that they have. I call it a Nerd Toolkit. These meals that you know you can get on the dining table and half an hour that you try to have these ingredients on hand at all times so that we can get our families fed healthfully. You know another my favorite plant based meals is just pasta and you know kids love pasta, we all have pasta but instead of doing a meat sauce I like to just sautee whatever vegetables I have on hand and throw in some white beans and some basil and serve it with pasta with or without red sauce. That’s an easy way to get a plant based meal on the table. The idea of stir fries.
Sharon Palmer: [00:29:15] Another idea is to use meat as a seasoning so instead of saying I’m not going to eat meat at all taking one serving of meat whether it’s chicken or fish then using it in a recipe that would feed a whole family. So that’s another way you eat more plant base is for example a casserole or a stew where you’re just adding a little bit of the animal protein and extending it. But the main meal is all about plants. So, another thing I’ve really fall in love with is an instapot. And have you tried that yet?
Mathea Ford: [00:29:44] Yeah, yeah. I love instapot.
Sharon Palmer: [00:29:47] So that’s I’ve been doing a lot with that. And you can you can get dinner on the table in no time and I’m even learning how to you like for example I have a chickpea masala recipe on my site. So easy is just a couple of cans of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas, some herbs and spices and you can put it in the instant pot and then you can add a little rack and have your whole grains cooking on top and all you have is one pot to clean up when you’re done and you have a family meal and just serve it maybe with a salad and you’re done you know. So, I know that my kids really love these global flavors. They’re growing up with this now and so you know they’re in love with these things that are trending all over and in restaurants and so this is another great way to introduce your family to more of these plant based foods.
Mathea Ford: [00:30:40] Well, even if your family isn’t super receptive to it you can kind of switch the amounts on the plate. So still giving your family if they’re dead set that they want to have meat at certain meals. You know like you said the portion size of that can get a little smaller and increase the amount of the colorful flavorful plant based foods. What about traveling though? What are some good choices where you can get a good plant based meal at a faster quick service or that type of restaurant?
Sharon Palmer: [00:31:17] You know it’s challenging to find healthy food in general when you’re traveling especially a fast food restaurants. But I do think they’re getting better. There are a lot of fast food restaurants that are offering things like salad bowls, grainn bowls. In fact one of my favorite things to do because I travel a lot for my work is I go to Starbucks because Starbucks their food section they always have beautiful salads and I don’t want just a green salad I wanted a meal. You know I’m not going to be satisfied with just lettuce and tomatoes but they have grains salads and pulse salads things with chickpeas or lentils. So, that’s one of my stops when I’m traveling because I know they always have some in their food section and they also have a beautiful oatmeal bowl for breakfast you know. But also like Panera Bread has a lot more options now. Taco Bell has a power bowl that’s like just a salad with rice and beans and all the vegetables that they have to offer can be added to it. And then you know one of my other suggestions when you’re traveling is to not always think of fast food as a traditional fast food but Indian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Asian restaurants a lot of times you can get in out there just as fast as as you would in a fast food restaurant.
Sharon Palmer: [00:32:31] And they have lots of plant based options not only thinking of the typical drive through for fast you know for a fast meal with thinking of those other options as well.
Mathea Ford: [00:32:41] Those are great examples. What are the ways that a plant based diet we talked about there doing research, there’s medical conditions that we know what affects. What is next in this field of plant based diets and how do you hope or how do you see it affecting healthcare in the future?
Sharon Palmer: [00:33:02] Well I think the thing that’s really growing now is not only human health but sustainability because the research has consistently shown that plant based diet have lower carbon footprint because in today’s modern system in our food system where animals live on you know confined operations that we’re growing food to feed animals which we could be eating that food directly. So, that is why the carbon footprint is so much higher for high animal food diet because we have to growll all these food, we have to put all the resources into growing food and then we feed it to animals and then over their lifetime they turn into food when it’s much more environmentally friendly to eat the plants to begin with. So, there is a lot of work now on meat production and animal food reduction as just a general healthy idea for the planet to produce you know reduce the resources that are used reduce the carbon footprint. So I think that is one area that we’re going to see more and more. I mean we have countries now that are asking their their population to cut their animal food intake by half because of their concerns on the environment.
Sharon Palmer: [00:34:12] So I think that is one thing we’re going to see more and we know that people are more interested in sustainability and then we will continue to see more about the health benefits of plant based diet as more research comes in. And there’s so much innovation going on. I’m sure you’re seeing it in the supermarket. I mean there’s so many different plant milks now. All of these meat alternatives and that’s because people are interested in eating more a plant based diet. So you’re seeing a lot of innovation out there. More people eating things like beans. People are eating more of these pulse products now. So that shows that people are interested. So, I think these are some exciting things you’ll be seeing in your supermarkets.
Mathea Ford: [00:34:53] So, as a dietitian and dietician listener’s and other medical professionals, how can they use this information?
Sharon Palmer: [00:35:01] Well I think dietitians for a you know a long time I’ve been a dietitian for more than 30 years. And I can remember learning about whole grains and pulses and vegetables you know way back then. I Think these are not controversial things. I mean we were telling people to eat more of these things for years. So I really think it’s it’s something that most of us really just agree with and jump on board with. It’s just helping people eat more meals that are focused on plants where the plant is the star of the plate. And even when you look at my plate which is USDA’s government nutrition guidelines, the plate is one fourth of protein. You know an animal protein and three fourths plant foods, whole grains fruits and vegetables. So, this idea that we can help people try to find ways to fill the plate with plant foods is something that we can all really get behind. And I am really passionate about one thing that dietitians can do and that’s to help people cook because we know that Americans are losing their cooking skills or they’re not learning how to cook at school where in a second and third generation of families who don’t know how to cook and dietitians can be there to help people learn how to cook. Starting with very simple recipes. You know everything we do should be helping people learn how to cook and not relying only on prepared foods and drivethrough foods, really helping people find things that work for their life.
Mathea Ford: [00:36:28] I think that’s a great example because I’ve noticed that just even with my children you know I’ve taught them how to cook simple things or you know get food together and let them get a little more reliant but then their friends come over and they’re kind of surprised that they cook that for themselves a little meal so that is a great example. And another thing is you don’t necessarily have to have hot food so you can make your own salad and put all these things together and you don’t ever have to cook so to speak.
Sharon Palmer: [00:37:05] Yeah these bowls are really trendy and I think that’s a great way to get a meal on the table. You know where you basically have a bowl with a wholegrain. It could be a cooked whole grain like brown rice or Quinoa or sorghum or farro and now you can find those grains already cooked if frozen if you don’t want to cook them in ahead of time. But really the the bowl concept where you have a whole grain you have a lot of vegetables whether it’s fresh vegetables or cooked vegetables and then you put a healthy plant protein on there like just canned chickpeas and then a flavorful sauce whether it’s you know a vinaigrette or a satay sauce or something. And there’s your meal. You know the young generation millennials just love eating like this but that’s a really easy way to get a healthy meal on the table. This idea of putting it all together in a bowl like that.
Mathea Ford: [00:37:57] That’s an awesome example. My last question I tried to ask everyone tell us about your favorite food?
Sharon Palmer: [00:38:04] Wow that’s a hard one because I love so many things. And I’m you know I’m just in love with seasonal local vegetables but I have to say tomatoes are way high up there for me especially because my garden I just started picking my own first heirloom tomatoes. I just can’t live without tomatoes. You know I switched when they’re not in season I switched to canned tomatoes but they just adds so much rich flavor and they’re so versatile whether it’s you know in salads, sandwiches, sauces, I just can’t, I can’t make it without tomatoes I think.
Mathea Ford: [00:38:39] I love tomatoes too. So, my sister is getting married and she’s like the she wants me to make Pekoe. That was her only request like make Pico because she loves it and we love tomatoes and onion and that flavor and…
Sharon Palmer: [00:38:54] It’s so good and so many traditional foods too. And tomatoes have such an interesting story because they came from South America, the Mayans are credited for first cultivating them and then when the Spanish explorers came they found them in and brought them to Europe and that’s how they ended up in Italy. Can you imagine Italy without tomatoes? And then they went through Asia through the Philippines and then it went through all the Middle East, they got to Africa and then the Europeans brought them back to North America with the colonists. So it is such an interesting food that just kind of made its way all around the world. Now it’s you can’t imagine so many cultures that without tomatoes in their diet, in their traditional food. Right? But it’s just an amazing plant.
Mathea Ford: [00:39:43] Well the great thing about tomatoes is they’re fairly easy to grow. So…
Sharon Palmer: [00:39:47] Yes. Yeah. Most places can grow tomatoes they like. If you have any kind of summer you know you can grow tomatoes. Yeah. Yeah.
Mathea Ford: [00:39:55] Perfect example. Well, Sharon thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was a pleasure to have you on the show. I know my listeners have learned a lot about a plant based diet and the reasons to choose it including sustainability. If listeners want to connect with you what’s the best way to do that?
Sharon Palmer: [00:40:13] Well you can find a lot more information on my web site at sharonpalmer.com or the Plant Power Dietician. They both get you there. And I have a free newsletter you can sign up for on my site and I have lots of recipes and articles and free resources for dietitians as well. I have my books The Plant Power Diet and The Plant Powered for Life. You can find those on my site and you can follow me on social media. I’m very active there under Sharon Palmer RD. My Facebook is Sharon Palmer the Plant Power Dietitian. So, please follow me and if you need any resources I’m there for you.
Mathea Ford: [00:40:48] Thank you so much. Well, guys this has been another great episode of the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast that is all about learning more so you can do more with nutrition in your life.
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