Plant-Based Beats Processed

It seems like processed and ultra-processed foods have been in the news a lot lately.

While some people get mired in conversations about what foods should be considered processed (canned beans? whole grain bread?), you can’t go wrong by promoting a plant-based eating pattern that’s centered on vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and fruits.

We have some great ways to get your students, clients, or employees off the processed food track and on the road to a plant-based eating pattern.

1. One of our newest posters uses pictures to encourage nutrient-dense foods over ultra-processed ones:

2. One look at this poster (which also comes as a banner, stickers, and bookmarks) kind of says it all:

3. If there’s a health fair in your future, create an eye-catching display with our Real Food Grows theme materials. You’ll really get their attention when you wear our fruit and veggie mask!

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Free Handout: Nutrient-Dense vs Ultra-Processed

Take a Look at Fall Vegetables

Fall is officially here! Along with cooler temperatures, we’re excited to see a new crop of seasonal vegetables at farmer’s markets and in the supermarket.

For too many people, fall produce means pumpkins (or just pumpkin spice!) and sweet potatoes. We know that’s just the beginning, so why not offer a class on fall vegetables? We have a DVD that makes it easy for you, and it’s perfect for virtual class settings.

Our Building a Plant-Based Eating Pattern: Vegetables DVD has everything you need to teach practical skills that your audience will be able to use right away. Videos show them how to select, store, and prepare all types of vegetables. They’ll also see kitchen veggie hacks and take home healthy, delicious recipes.

The DVD breaks vegetables down into categories based on plant parts (roots, tubers, bulbs; stalks; leaves; flowers; fruits; and seeds), because these parts often have similar preparation and cooking methods.

For fall, you might want to use the lesson on Bulbs, Tubers, and Roots because so many are now in season:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas

Through engaging videos, your audience will learn how to choose the freshest bulb, tuber, and root veggies; where to store them; and their health benefits. They’ll feel like they are right in the kitchen as we show them how to make an easy vegetable root salad with greens, shaved ginger, grated carrots, and thinly-sliced golden beets, all tossed in vinegar and oil. They’ll also see how to use baked, roasted, microwaved, and pureed veggies to make a healthy MyPlate.

The Building a Plant-Based Eating Pattern: Vegetables DVD also includes recipes you can give the audience. How do Cider Baked Sweet Potatoes, Carrot Hummus, and Raspberry & Beet Cheesecake sound?

Of course, there are many other fall vegetables covered throughout the seven lessons included in our DVD. Maybe you’ll focus on winter squash, Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli … the possibilities are endless!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD


Picture Perfect Plant-Based Diet

Everyone knows they should eat more fruits and vegetables. Some people have even heard the term plant-based diet. But what do they think it means? To eat more kale? Walnuts? Beans? Tree bark?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, our Plant Parts bookmark says all they need to know. It features a gorgeous photo of edible tubers, roots, and bulbs; stems and leaves; fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds/legumes, and nuts. No tree bark here!

Ask students or clients to identify each item in the picture. Chances are, they’ll realize their knowledge of plant foods is limited.

That’s where the other side of the bookmark comes in – it’s a mini-lesson on plant parts and their nutrition benefits.

We pack a lot of information in these 3-inch by 6-inch bookmarks, making them perfect for health fairs, classes, waiting rooms, and bulletin boards.

An added bonus – our Plant Parts materials send the message that all parts of the plant are edible and nutritious. So you can reduce food waste and get the benefits of a plant-based diet (without eating tree bark!).

Have Some Fun with Plant Slant

There’s something about a rhyme that gets people’s attention. That’s why we love the catchy title of our newest materials for teaching the benefits of a plant-based diet—Plant Slant!

Plant Slant posters and banners use a colorful and simple illustration to proclaim the benefits of eating a plant-based dietary pattern with MORE vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and LESS animal-based and processed foods.

Engage your audience by inviting them to come up with rhymes that go with the Plant Slant concept. Or put some blank sticky notes on the wall next to the Plant Slant poster and let passers-by write down their own rhymes. Who knows? You might get enough to put together your own Plant Slant Chant!

Here are some rhymes to get you started:

  • What can you eat instead of meat?
  • Please proceed to nuts and seeds.
  • Enjoy some soy, it’s not a ploy!
  • Meat’s okay, but can you skip a day?
  • Make a new routine with lentils and beans.
  • Add some fish if you wish!
  • Don’t be wary, you can have some dairy.

Let’s make nutrition education fun!

Plant Slant Category Is New

“Plant Slant,” a new category in our store, provides tools to help you educate your clients about a plant-based eating style. Plant Slant is a hot topic these days, because eating more plant foods (and less animal products) is good for your health and good for the environment. It doesn’t take a vegetarian or vegan diet to reap the benefits, making a Plant Slant an easy goal for everyone! MyPlate is based on 3/4 plants or more and a plant based eating pattern is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and it is the base of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet. By teaching the idea of a “plant slant” you open a whole new world to your clients as well as a different way of seeing and appreciating healthful foods.

Our colorful Plant Slant poster shows these fun lessons that you can use with this poster or to plan any class on your own:

  1. Foods that make up a plant-based eating pattern include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds as well as foods made from these like vegetarian milk or vegetarian meat substitutes.
  2. How eating more plant foods benefits your whole body, from the brain to bones, and helps prevent diseases like cancer and diabetes. A plant based diet that is high in fiber and low in added solid fat, sugar, and sodium is healthier for your heart and helps you control your weight because you feel full on fewer calories.
  3. The environmental impact of eating more plant foods and less animal products is one of the most important changes anyone can make to have a smaller carbon footprint.
  4. How eating more plant foods is for everyone who wants to be healthier, not just vegetarians or vegans.
  5. How do you go about implementing a more plant based diet into your own routine right now?
  6. What are easy switches? Meal ideas?
  7. What are whole foods? (Whole foods are foods in their near natural state and do not include highly processed foods like white flour, sugar, or processed meats to mention just a few)
  8. What is plant based? (Plant based means foods that are made from plants versus items from animals like meat)
  9. MyPlate is 3/4 plants!
  10. While vegan excludes all animals, plant based is mostly plants and a little more flexible. It is healthy and easy!

Our eye-catching Freedom From Chronic Disease banners feature a veggie-filled Statue of Liberty raising her “torch” of fruits and vegetables. What better way to show the benefits of eating with a Plant Slant?

Use a plant slant theme for any class, wellness fair, classroom, cafeteria, or event!

Thoughts on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Let’s get serious about dietary guidelines.

HealthThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans are published jointly every 5 years by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), as mandated by Congress. The goal of the Dietary Guidelines is to provide science-based nutrition and food safety recommendations for people two years and older to help promote habits that maximize good health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.

Unfortunately, despite widespread efforts, eating habits overall remain largely unchanged. The majority of the population consumes too many refined grains, solid fats and added sugars, yet at the same time consumes too little fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. I find it disturbing that vegetable intake has actually declined since 2001-2004. Many young children consume the recommended amount of fruit and dairy, but these levels drop once they reach school age.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) most recent recommendations outline what we can expect to see in the updated guidelines later this year. Overall, the dietary pattern recommended by the 2015 DGAC reaffirms the dietary pattern characteristics recommended by the 2010 DGAC. Let’s take a look at the highlights…

Over- and Underconsumption of Nutrients: Health Effects

HalfPlateVeggiesThere is a continued emphasis on consuming a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, all of which are good sources of the nutrients that continue to be underconsumed by the majority of Americans: vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and fiber. These foods are also low in the saturated fat and sodium that are typically overconsumed by Americans. Of interest, cholesterol is no longer considered a nutrient of concern.

There is strong evidence that a high sodium intake increases risk of hypertension, leading the DGAC to continue to recommend decreasing sodium intake to 2,300mg per day. There is limited evidence of the value of reducing sodium intake further, or in terms of the role of potassium in hypertension. So make of that what you will.

The DGAC strongly states that people should discourage the consumption of low-fat or non-fat foods when the fat is replaced by refined carbohydrates or added sugars. The committee continues to recommend that less than 10% of a person’s overall daily calories should come from saturated fat, noting that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) reduces LDL-cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. There is strong evidence that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates does not lower CVD risk, and there is limited evidence that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) leads to reduced CVD risk. Encouraging the use of non-hydrogenated vegetable oils including soybean, corn, olive and canola oils instead of animal fats or tropical fat is recommended instead of reducing saturated fat in the diet and increasing carbohydrate intake.

Instead of replacing fat with refined carbohydrates and added sugar, the recommendation is to increase nutrient-dense foods including whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit. It also includes increasing healthful sources of protein including legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, and lean meats.

The DGAC recommends limiting added sugars to a maximum of 10 percent of total daily caloric intake. To meet this goal, sugar-sweetened beverages, which currently provide 39% of added sugars, should be replaced with unsweetened beverages.

Consumption Patterns and Plant-Based Foods

What's in your cart?What offers the most nutrient-dense diet? The guidelines explain that a diet that is based on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy, which includes more seafood and less red and processed meat, which is moderate in alcohol, and which contains low amounts of refined grains and sweetened foods and beverages provides the most nutrient-dense diet.

The DGAC notes that there are several different diet patterns that follow these guidelines, including the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern, and the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern. Each of these patterns provides more plant-based foods and lower amounts of meat than are currently consumed by the US population.

The committee notes that overconsumption of nutrients from foods and beverages, including fortified foods is rare. However, folate, calcium, iron, and vitamin D may be overconsumed when using high-dose supplements.

Energy Intake

The information on the breakdown of energy intake is not surprising given the increase in overweight and obesity. Here’s a closer look at the breakdown of energy intake by Americans…

  • 28% from mixed dishes, primarily pizza and burgers/sandwiches (also major contributor of sodium and saturated fat)
  • 16% from snacks and sweets (also major contributor of saturated fat and added sugars)
  • 12% from beverages not including milk or 100% fruit juice; provides 47% of added sugar intake
  • 11% from protein foods
  • 11% from grains
  • 8% from vegetables
  • 7% from dairy
  • 5% from fruit and 100% fruit juice

The committee found that the majority of the population consumes three meals plus at least one snack, with adolescent females, young adult males, non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanics, and individuals with lower incomes being the least likely to consume three meals a day. While breakfast tends to have a higher overall dietary quality compared to other meals and snacks, adolescents and young adults are the least likely to eat breakfast. Snacks contribute about 25% of daily energy intake, and unfortunately tend to be lower in important nutrients and higher in sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat.

It’s surprising that the USDA food patterns do not meet recommendations for potassium and vitamin D, and additional fortification strategies may be necessary to reach the RDA for vitamin D.

It’s well-known that rates of chronic disease are linked to overweight and obesity, playing a role in hypertension, CVD, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, and that these weight-related illnesses now are present in children and adolescents who are overweight or obese. It’s not surprising that 90% of children with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.

Promoting Behavior Change

Balance diet and exerciseI believe that more research and emphasis on promoting lasting behavior change is crucial, especially since the overall dietary choices haven’t changed significantly in the past 10 years. The DGAC suggests focusing on strategies that address:

  • Reducing screen time, especially for children and adolescents to promote a healthy body weight as they transition into adulthood.
  • Reducing the frequency of eating fast food for all age groups
  • Increasing the frequency of family or shared meals
  • Self-monitoring diet and physical activity behavior to promote lasting behavior change
  • Effective food labeling to target healthier food choices

Food Environment

What's the food environment like near you?The food environment is an area that requires more research to establish the most effective strategies to improve nutrition and health in schools and workplaces and to presents opportunities for RDs to collaborate with other groups to effect change.

The DGAC found strong to moderate evidence that multicomponent school and worksite policies are associated with improved dietary intake, including increased vegetable and fruit consumption and reduced body weight. Polices that include increased opportunities for physical activity, nutrition education, food service changes, and in schools (and parental involvement) are the most effective.

Food Safety and Sustainability

Fish: where do you get it?The conversations around food safety and sustainability are often heated, with drastically opposing views. The DGAC recommends a moderate approach:

  • Both farmed and wild-caught seafood are nutrient-dense foods that are rich sources of healthy fatty acids. The risk of contamination is similar between farmed and wild caught seafood and does not outweigh the health benefits of consuming seafood.
  • Wild-caught seafood cannot meet the growing demand, creating a need for sustainable seafood farming practices.

Caffeine Consumption

The research shows that in general, caffeine intake does not exceed recommend levels.

Moderate coffee consumption is considered to be 3-5 cups per day, or up to 400mg of caffeine per day. Moderate coffee consumption does not lead to increased health risk, and in fact is associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and endometrial cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. The DGAC agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association that until safety has been demonstrated, vulnerable populations including children, adolescents and young adults should avoid high-caffeine energy drinks or other products with high amounts of caffeine. Alcohol and energy drinks should never be mixed or consumed together.

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should be cautious and adhere to current recommendations of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and consume less than 200 mg caffeine per day (approximately two cups of coffee) to reduce risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, low birth weight, and small for gestational age.


What do YOU think about aspartame?Aspartame is the football of sugar substitutes, going back and forth from being banned to considered a safe option. The DGAC concurs with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Food Additives that aspartame in amounts commonly consumed is safe and poses minimal health risk for healthy individuals without phenylketonuria (PKU). The risk to pregnant woman is unknown. However, long-term human studies are needed to assess a possible relationship between aspartame and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The recommendation is to stay below the aspartame Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of <50mg/kg/day. A 12-ounce diet beverage contains approximately 180mg aspartame. A 150-pound (68 kg) woman could drink up to 18 12-ounce diet beverages sweetened with aspartame and meet this guideline.

Anyway, that’s a collection of my immediate thoughts about the highlights from the latest DGAC update. What stood out to you? What most affects your practice?

By Lynn Grieger RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC

ALL-NEW Health/Nutrition Education Materials

ALL-NEW Health/Nutrition Education Materials!

The Nutrition Education Store is overflowing with BRAND-NEW nutrition education materials. We have over 70 brand-new items that will make your life easier. Here are some of the latest and greatest…

Healthy Cooking Workbook

MyHealth Bulletin Board Kit

Quality Nutrition Poster Value Set

But wait, there’s more! Be sure to check out these amazing new products!

Displays by Design — NEW DISPLAYS

NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN Prizes and Rewards

BRAND-NEW Posters!

FRESH Handouts!