A plate full of health

A reader recently asked: what does your plate look like? Great question, and one I can answer in a word — veg-centric. 

We could all be eating more vegetables. Tons!

The science is crystal clear that eating MORE vegetables can do each of us a WORLD of good. Increasing the vegetables on our plate points us in the direction of more vibrant health, no matter what our age, gender, ethnicity, or current health conditions. 

But isn’t it hard to incorporate more vegetables into your diet? 

No! It’s surprisingly easy to fall in love with vegetables and find great ways to use them, because there are a VAST variety of types, colors, textures and flavors to choose from. It becomes more and more exciting the further you explore! 

Will I actually feel better if I eat more vegetables? 

Yes! And you may be surprised by how fast you actually FEEL better. 

At Food As Medicine, where I was Executive Chef for a decade, we offered luncheon buffets full of colorful, organic, largely plant-based dishes. Attendees were often amazed to experience health improvements, some within 24 hours. Elimination might improve dramatically! Focus, mental clarity and overall energy might be discernibly better. Quite impressive results for veg-centric eating in only a few days.

Right now we’re coming into salad season, the easiest time of year to start thinking about a vegetable-centric plate. 

A great rule of thumb: most of your plate should consist of vegetables. 

I think of it as painting your plate with color!

When I paint, I never paint on a white canvas. I put a background color on, that will seep through as I apply other colors. On my food plate, I start with green. That’s the color that offers the biggest bang for your nutritional buck. Arugula, mixed greens, romaine, chard, kale or mustard greens... Then I apply more color on top of that. Depending on what’s in season, it might be asparagus, purple potatoes, green beans, radishes, or strips of jicama. Then I add MORE color: cherry tomatoes, red peppers, golden beets, fennel. You’re painting your plate! 

Did you roast vegetables the night before? Boom! On the bed of green. Do you have fresh mint on hand?  Or blanched broccoli? Terrific! Throw them in. Have some leftover quinoa? Sprinkle some on top, for texture. 

Protein goes on last, as your garnish. That can be  a dollop of hummus, poached or hard boiled eggs or legumes such as lentils (¼ cup of beans or legumes is more than enough, and about as much as your body can absorb without feeling bloated) or, perhaps some salmon, or grass fed beef or pastured chicken. 

It’s just flipping it.

We’re turning things upside down.  Instead of the big hunk of protein, and grains or something starchy and just a small amount of vegetables — the classic triangle — we’re making greens the foundation, vegetables the full fledged center, and protein the garnish.

All of your phytonutrients are coming from the plants. Plants contain all of your micronutrients, those minute unsung heroes, those minerals that pump up your cells and your immune system and repair your DNA. These are the fighters! They are responsible for your vitality. 

Thinking along the lines of a salad, a mixture of raw and cooked, makes it easy! It’s not like you’re cooking for days here. And it doesn’t have to be a plate, it can be a magically colorful mixed veg-centric bowl!

Like Salad Nicoise with Olive Mint and Caper Vinaigrette from Andy Weil’s most recent book, Fast Food, Good Food — a delicious little rhapsody of flavors, colors and textures, that is so richly satisfying!


Or Thai It Up Steak Salad, featured on the cover of my most recent, The Healthy Mind Cookbook. The lesson here is that a little beef goes a long way. What people crave is the taste and texture of beef, not to be overwhelmed by it, and this dish satisfies that need by turning beef into a  supporting player. The headliners here are the veggies and the dressing: think a big band combo filled with horns (that’s the lime and chili paste dressing), a rollicking rhythm section (shredded cabbage, peppery watercress, crunchy cucumber), and silkily dressed pitch-perfect backup singers (the cellophane noodles). Add meat and bring down the house!

YOUR MISSION THIS SPRING AND SUMMER: FIND FUN WAYS TO BUILD YOUR PLATE WITH THE COLOR AND TEXTURE OF VEGETABLES! ENHANCED BY DELICIOUS DRIZZLES AND DRESSINGS AND GARNISHED WITH THE PROTEIN OF YOUR CHOICE. ENJOY THE ALIVE FEELING!