The term “plant-based” is hot.

I recently attended a sponsored conference in which the term “reducetarian” was introduced. This term describes meat-eaters who are trying to reduce the portions and frequency of meat consumption, and add more plants to their diet.

Less Meat, More Plants

Full disclosure: I am an omnivore. While I understand the concerns over the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, solutions that sound simple, generally aren’t. If livestock were removed from our food supply, how much water and energy would be required to replace the lost nutrition? Not so simple right?

Nonetheless, whether you are an omnivore or a vegetarian,  adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a good thing. They provide us with antioxidants and other healthy components called phytochemicals. A phytochemical is a substance that has a positive health benefit.

However, seeing the term “plant-based” on a product does not necessarily translate as “good for you”. One could argue that there are a lot packaged food items that use only plant based ingredients, and been on the market a long time. Potato chips fried in vegetable oil are “plant-based”. Many packaged cookies or sandwich crackers are “plant-based”. These products are fine to eat once in a while, but shouldn’t be on your plate at every meal, every day.

Rather than only looking to add plants with packaged products, add more fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes, to your diet as well.

Simple ways to add more plants into your diet:

  • Add more fresh, canned or frozen vegetables to your meals. You’ll be surprised the nutrition a can of tomatoes and a can of beans can provide (not to mention the quick meals).
  • Incorporate soy, nuts, peanut butter and other nut butters into recipes.
  • Try a meatless meal, like my Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable Stew with Chickpeas, every week, incorporating beans or legumes.
  • Try a savory breakfast more often (think – veggie omelets, toast with sliced tomato, cheese, or avocado, beans and toast, or try some plant-based meat alternatives).

New Plant-Based Products

In many cases, these new plant-based products are about making new sales. The public equates “plant-based” with “better for me”. Therefore, many brands are adding plant-based products to their portfolios.

  • Danone launched new plant-based creamers (a Silk Mocha Almond Creamer and a Sweet & Creamy Coconut-milk Creamer)
  • Ben & Jerry’s (which was acquired by Unilever in 2000) have expanded their vegan non-dairy line. The reformulated oat-based ice-cream-alternative will be available this year.
  • Beyond Meat® has reformulated their Beyond Burger®, reducing both saturated fat and sodium.  (Disclosure: I attended a conference session in which Beyond Meat was a sponsor. I was able to sample the product, but I was not paid to discuss it. Learn more about it here).

“Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made!” ~ quote from the character “Yogurt” in the movie Space Balls

Are Plant-Based Products Good for the Environment?

I’m personally not convinced that these types of products will support a healthier climate. While beef production does use a lot of resources, I don’t think eliminating it from the food supply is a great strategy. A single cow produces between 154 to 264 pounds of methane gas per year, (although the calculations vary). Globally, food loss and waste contribute to 8 percent of greenhouse gases emitted. That’s more than all U.S. animal agriculture and nearly as much as total U.S. agriculture.

From an environmental impact standpoint, throwing away less food is likely more beneficial that choosing “plant-based” food.

To learn more about food waste and how to throw away less food, see my podcast interview with Ellie Krieger here.

What is Regenerative?

You may also start seeing the term “regenerative” used on food packaging. This term refers to an agricultural process and a marketing term. While there is not an agreed upon definition of the term, there are agreed upon outcomes. The practice of agriculture continues to progress just like any other scientific process.

Regenerative farming isn’t new, but it is getting a spotlight in terms of reducing climate change. Food product marketers are taking the opportunity to use it to sell products. Hopefully the outcome will include more farms working to conserve more resources while replenishing the land.

  • The Do Good Dog was created by Applegate, promising to “heal the planet” by making a hot dog that is made with beef raised on verified regenerative U.S. grassland. That’s a big ask from a humble hot dog.
  • King Author flour is using the term to market their new whole wheat flour blend – Regeneratively-Grown Climate Blend Flour. Hmmn? They do claim that the grains in the blend were grown using regenerative practices that allow farmers to reduce tilling, replant less often, and improve soil health.

Protein Predictions

Protein has been a buzz word of late as well. My prediction for 2024: Excess protein is out!

Influencers recommend adding more protein to the diet for everyone from teens to athletes to menopausal women.  I for one am frankly tired of hearing all of this “add more protein” and supplement advice. Where do you draw the line drawn for too much protein?

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that eating too much protein could be bad for your arteries.

  • They estimate that about 25% of the US population is getting over 22 percent of daily calories from protein (the recommendation is 15% – about 60-75 grams per day for the average person).
  • Protein plays an important role in the body, especially for muscle repair (and protein requirements are increased with injury or after surgery) but “more” may not always be better.


It’s boring, but as always – it comes down to balance! Yes, include protein at each meals (enjoy that cottage cheese!), but don’t go overboard. Eating a variety of foods from each food group ensures you’ll get the nutrients you need, in the right portions.

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