Published by Ashley Palmer.

The following post is by PETA celebrity marketing coordinator Lauren Gordon.

2011 is the year of the vegetable, according to The Wall Street Journal. Epicurious has named Meatless Mondays and Tofu Thursdays as one of the top food trends for 2011. Even famous chefs like Mario Batali and Marcus Samuelsson are embracing the meatless trend. Vegetables have never been so in vogue!

A vegan diet is the perfect way to incorporate this trend into one’s lifestyle. By definition, a vegan does not consume animal products or animal byproducts, including eggs and dairy products. A well-balanced vegan diet provides all the essential nutrients that your body needs while omitting the cholesterol and saturated fats found in animal products and lowering your risk of health complications, such as obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and strokes.

The popularity—and increased consumption—of vegetables is great news for our waistlines. Vegetables are low in calories but high in nutrients, whereas animal products are higher in fat and are calorically denser than plant-based foods. Did you know that meat-eaters have nine times the obesity rate as vegans and that adult vegans are, on average, 10 to 20 pounds lighter than their carnivorous counterparts?

The key to healthy vegan eating is variety. Consuming a wide array of plant-based whole foods will fuel one’s body with vitamins, nutrients, and protein. For example, beans, nuts, and soy products (like tofu and tempeh) are packed with protein, and dark green vegetables such as chard, kale, and spinach are higher in calcium and more readily absorbed by the body than milk. Be sure to incorporate plenty of different vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A good way to obtain a solid range of nutrients is by eating foods in an array of colors. Different colored foods all have unique properties and nutritional profiles, so pile that plate high full of plant-based foods like red peppers, broccoli, carrots, beets, and brown rice.

Ready to start embracing the vegetable trend for yourself? Click here to take PETA’s vegan pledge and have yummy recipes delivered straight to your in-box to help you get started!

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