Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

Spice rubbed and roasted carrots. — Heather Wolfe

Healthy eating can be summed up simply in seven words: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” This quote from food journalist Michael Pollan is one I repeat often as a dietitian when asked about how to eat a healthy diet, which is often this time of year, the start of a new year, when people tend to refocus attention on health. My definition of health goes beyond that of physical wellness. I view “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much” as a recipe for how to fuel ourselves in a way that positively impacts our mind, body, heart and spirit. Our personal food choices also impact the health of our community and world. In this interconnected web of life, what we do unto ourselves we do unto others. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” As an Anabaptist, “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much” calls me back to my roots of faithful living through simple living and nonviolence. Let’s take a deeper look.

Eat food. While this might seem obvious, it is worth noting how many packaged, processed foods that are far removed from their original form fill the grocery store. Our great grandparents would have relied mostly on garden produce, farmed animals and hunted/gathered foods. They would not recognize most of the products on store shelves available for consumption today. The invitation here to ‘eat food’ is to go back to our roots, literally. Eat the carrot instead of ultra processed, industrialized veggie straws (Michael Pollan would refer to these as an ‘edible food-like substance’). Eating a diet of more whole foods means fewer added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats that are linked to health problems. Processing and packaging is resource intensive, coming at a cost to the environment (and your wallet). Take a look at your household trash and see how much is food packaging. We choose health and harmony for ourselves and the world when we choose to eat the apple rather than applesauce in a single-use, throw-away pouch.

Mostly plants. Look around the world at different healthy patterns of eating (often Indigenous diets), and you will notice their foundations are built on plant foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. A wide variety of colorful, flavorful plants can supply all the nutrients needed to sustain life. In early Genesis, we read that seed-bearing plants, fruit-bearing trees and whatever grows out of the ground was given for food. In the beginning, God gave us a vegan diet. Once again, we are invited to get back to our roots, and it seems we are accepting that invitation. Plant-based eating has been trending in recent years and for good reason. Health outcomes are better, and carbon footprints are reduced significantly as we take steps towards a plant-based plate. More people can be fed when we eat the grain directly than when we first feed it to livestock and then harvest the animal protein. 

Not too much. Portions matter. Overeating on anything, even healthy, plant-based whole foods, will result in excess that harms our health and the world we live in. When we look at calorie distribution across the globe, like wealth inequality, we see injustice where some have more than enough and others go hungry. Overconsumption in many aspects of living contributes to the problems of our current time. 

When we put it all back together with, “Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much,” I hear, as an Anabaptist committed to living out my faith, a renewed call to live simply so that others can simply live. A delicious way to live into that and to remember our roots is by roasting up a pan of root veggies.

Roasted root and cruciferous vegetables. — Heather Wolfe

Roasted Root Veggies                                                                            


Chop a medley of root veggies (such as sweet potato, carrot, beet, parsnip, radish, potato, onion, turnip) into similar sizes (for even cooking). Toss with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread veggies out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through for even browning.

Notes: The possibilities are endless for which veggies to roast and what additional seasonings could be added. In Sustainable Kitchen, I give variations suited for all seasons, such as roasted spring asparagus with pesto, curried fall cauliflower, honey roasted winter roots, spice rubbed roasted carrots, maple-paprika roasted brussel sprouts, and delicata squash smiles. 

Heather Wolfe

Heather Wolfe is deeply rooted in Vermont, USA, is in the Mennonite faith tradition and is part of a family Read More

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