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Plant-based Meals Come to NYC Hospitals






LUCY GRINDON, HOST

Mayor Adam says a plant-based diet saved his life. So back in 2019 when he was Brooklyn borough president he began a comprehensive health program—the Bellevue Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program. The main focus: eating plants. That initiative is now being expanded city-wide. But as Kelly Canaday reports, getting New Yorkers to adopt plant-based diets could be challenging and not necessarily healthy.


CANADAY

Dr. ChiaChing Chen is a Professor of Health Behavior & Community Health at New York Medical College. She says getting New Yorkers, especially kids, to eat more plants could be tough.


CHEN

I think the only vegetable that many children eat are a single piece of lettuce on a hamburger or french fries.


CANADAY So Chen says in order to get people to eat more plants they need to transition.


CHEN

If you are trying to convince someone to go from McDonald’s, barbeque ribs, or fried chicken to eat a kale salad, steamed broccoli, and baked sweet potato, you’d probably get punched in the face.


CANADAY

She says one common strategy for persuading meat eaters to eat more plants is getting them to try popular meat alternatives like Beyond Meat. She says even her father who’s eaten meat his entire life tried a Beyond Burger and was open to trying more plant-based foods.

CHEN

Of course no one’s going to squeeze you front meat-based to plant-based in one day, unless they are faced with some major market motivator like Mayor Adams was.


CANADAY

Another strategy is a so-called trickle-down theory. That’s when in the hospital, patients experience delicious plant-based food they’re more likely to bring that diet home and serve it to their family. But Fiippa Juul, PhD, researches nutrition at NYU School of Public Health. And she says just because a diet is plant based doesn’t mean it’s healthy.


JUUL

When we talk about a plant-based diet, I think it’s really important to be clear that it has to be a high-quality plant-based diet, because obviously you could live on french fries and soda and that would be plant-based.


CANADAY Juul also says that plant-based doesn’t always mean vegan or vegetarian: it just means eating plants at the base and adding in high-quality meat on occasion. And she’s wary of some meat substitutes.


JUUL

It’s important to keep that in mind, and I think it’s very important that people are not just reducing their meat intake and instead swapping in very highly processed meat alternatives. When we talk about a healthy plant-based diet, it really is a diet that is high in legumes such as beans and lentils and chickpeas, etc., whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, etc.


CANADAY

In other words, if you’re eating a plant-based diet you still need to eat mostly veggies—the healthy ones. The city says the program will reach multiple hospitals including: Jacobi, Woodhull, Elmhurst, and Kings County this year.


Kelly Canaday, Columbia Radio News.



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