How To Start Plant-Based Eating And Do It Right (For Your Health And The Planet): An Expert Explains

Image by Evil Pixels Photography / Stocksy

If you don't know plant-based advocate and environmentalist Marco Borges as the NYT best-selling author and 22 Days Nutrition CEO, you may know him as the celebrity trainer who's responsible for some of the world's biggest A-listers going vegan. He's introducing his most practical and effective guidelines for plant-based eating in a new book—The Greenprint: Plant-Based Diet, Best Body, Better World—a must-read for anyone interested in eating greener, to be kinder to not just your health but to our planet. It's a lifestyle movement we can get behind, and this excerpt from the book explains it all. (And don't miss the recipe for plant-based gnocchi at the end!)

As an exercise physiologist and the CEO and founder of 22 Days Nutrition, I've dedicated my life to helping people live their best lives. This means encouraging people to transition to plant-based eating so they can lose weight, prevent (and in some cases reverse) chronic disease, boost their energy, and transform their health. 

Why do I do this? Because I care about you, I care about my children, and I care about other people's children. I want to see you live your best and healthiest life. You see, in the last hundred years, our diets have radically changed—for the worse. We've gone from eating whole foods that nourish and heal the body to eating processed junk that is high in fat, sugar, additives, toxins, and fillers yet lacks vital nutrients. We've gone from eating around 100 pounds of meat (which was raised on farms, grass-fed, and free from chemicals) each year to, on average, more than 200 pounds, nearly all of it grown on factory farms and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones to satisfy the need for cheap, readily available meat. It's no wonder that, as a whole, we are the fattest and unhealthiest generation thus far. 

The way we're living just isn't sustainable. Not for us. Not for the planet. And that's where the Greenprint movement comes in. It offers an extraordinary plan for how to eat to get fit and healthy with foods that are greener for the earth and better for you. What is unique about the Greenprint is that it gives you the essential steps you need to start thriving on plant-based eating and take it as far as you want to go to achieve all your health and weight-loss goals. 

Studies show that plant-based people […] live four to seven years longer than people whose diets include animal products.

Before I elaborate, I bet you're wondering, What's a "greenprint"? A greenprint is a measure of the impact of our food choices on our weight and overall health and on our planet. For example, let's say you switch to a 100 percent plant-based diet (I hope you do). The impact—the greenprint—of this change on your health can be measured in years: Studies show that plant-based people, particularly if they don't smoke and drink only a little, if any, alcohol, live four to seven years longer than people whose diets include animal products. It can also be measured in positive changes in health parameters: lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, lower blood sugar, and lower weight. 

With regard to weight, on average, those who consume a plant-based diet are naturally 20 pounds lighter than their meat-eating counterparts. As for your personal greenprint on the planet, it can be colossal. You can save animals, for example. Those that are raised for human consumption do not have great lives. Even if they are raised organically and free-range, they have short lives with not much freedom. If you and your family ditch meat, dairy, and eggs, you can save 200 animals a year, according to PETA. 

Even if you ate one less hamburger a week for one year, this would be the equivalent of driving 320 fewer miles.

From an environmental standpoint, expanding your greenprint through plant-based living saves an amazing amount of energy. We're all guilty of taking our sources of energy for granted. Just 1 calorie of animal protein requires 8.5 times more energy to raise than 1 calorie of protein from grains—incredible! That's not even counting how much rain forest is cut down to create grazing land for animals each year. 

By following a plant-based diet, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 1,560 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. This is a bigger reduction than if you switched from driving a gas-guzzling SUV to a hybrid-electric Prius. 

You can even make a huge impact with the most incremental changes in your diet. Even if you ate one less hamburger a week for one year, this would be the equivalent of driving 320 fewer miles. 

So just think of the impact on the environment if everyone in the country cut their meat intake by half and made up the difference with wholesome plant foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. That's why embracing meatless menus can mean a lot to our earth—even if it's not every meal or every day. 

Healthwise, your greenprint has an extraordinary impact on your health. Let me give a rundown of just some of the health-building benefits of plant foods. Research has shown that plant-based eating, and this plan in particular:

  • Takes off pounds rapidly and consistently, plus prevents being overweight and obesity because plant foods make you feel fuller with fewer calories.
  • Fights diabetes. One in three Americans now has diabetes or pre-diabetes, and it's one of the leading causes of death.
  • Keeps your heart healthy by lowering cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, clogged arteries, and abnormal clot formation.
  • Naturally detoxifies your body against cancer-causing agents.
  • Eases arthritis and joint pain.
  • Strengthens your immune system so that you rarely become ill.
  • Boosts your memory and wards off dementia.
  • Preserves your vision and protects your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Makes your skin, hair, and nails glow.

That's the power of plants!

Article continues below

Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi With Walnut Meat 

Image by Noemi Hauser / Stocksy

Serves 2

Ingredients 

Walnut meat:
  • ¼ cup raw walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch of smoked paprika garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups prepared gnocchi (choose a brand made without eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced fresh button mushrooms
  • 1 cup spinach

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make the walnut meat: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, vinegar, coconut aminos, cumin, coriander, and paprika, and season with garlic powder and pepper. Pulse several times until the walnuts are broken down and crumbly, making sure not to overprocess the mixture into a paste. Set aside.
  2. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float to the top. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until browned. Reduce the heat to medium, add the gnocchi and most of the walnut meat (reserving some for garnish), and cook, stirring gently, for a few more minutes.
  4. Toss in the spinach and stir until wilted. Serve the gnocchi garnished with the reserved walnut meat.

The Greenprint: Plant-Based Diet, Best Body, Better World is available now.

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