Food for Thought: ‘Food for Life’ teaches benefits of plant-based diet

By Sean Collins
March 21, 2012

The ‘Food for Life’ event on March 19 in the Mansion continued the Healthy Monday program with a focus on a a plant-based diet.  The event was hosted by Sheryl Wolff, a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. At the start of the presentation, Wolff explained the several benefits to a plant-based diet.

“A plant-based diet is an excellent way of maintaining or even losing weight without counting calories,” Wolff said.

Wolff prepared meals during the event.  First on the menu was black bean soup.

“It is essential to rinse and drain the rice before you start cooking,” Wolff said. “This is to get rid of excess salt.”

The soup was all-organic and contained three simple ingredients: black beans, salsa and vegetable broth.  They were then boiled and mixed in a vegetable mixer.

“This is a great, healthy dish,” Wolff said. “It can be prepared in less than twenty minutes time.”

Wolff went on to explain other benefits of a plant-based diet, including reducing the risk for obesity, diabetes, providing increased energy and even cancer prevention.

Two key elements of the diet presented at the event were low fat and high fiber.

The topic of the importance of buying and eating organics was also featured.

“Whatever I can use that is organic, I do,” Wolff said. “A lot of fruits and vegetables are worth paying extra for organic.”

Wolff also went on to explain that while eating organic is good for your body, purchasing organics is also beneficial. By doing so, one can help promote the sales of the smaller farmers in third-world countries.

Wolff explained healthier substitutes to cooking ingredients too.

“Veggie broth is a healthier substitute for cooking oil,” Wolff said.  “A lot of people use vegetable or olive oil to sauté their foods. However, just one tablespoon of olive oil is fourteen grams of fat.”

However, Wolff explained that not all fats are as horrible as we may think.

“About 25 to 35 grams of fat per day is the right amount for maintaining or losing weight,” Wolff said.

Besides substitutes for cooking oil, Wolff went on to show the audience a few cooking substitutes that are also healthier choices.

“These are easy ways to keep the diet low fat and at the same time not starve yourself,” Wolff said.

At the end of the event, Wolff made a shake. The ingredients included a banana, grapes, pears and kale. Wolff said kale is actually a type of seaweed; it is rare but available at supermarkets such Whole Foods and Wegman’s. As with the black bean soup dish, samples were given to the audience.

Both of the recipes are available on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website at

Sheryl Wolff, a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, pours a health drink during her ‘Food for Life’ event. (credit: Laura Gallagher / Asst. A&E Editor)

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Sean Collins

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