- Supermodel Christie Brinkley has been sticking to a plant-based diet for decades.
- Her daily meal plan reflects wisdom from the Mediterranean diet, an eating regimen that US News and World Report recently named the #1 healthiest diet.
- A growing body of research suggests that meal plans like the Mediterranean diet are beneficial for the body and brain because they are rich in key nutrients that fill you up, support healthy digestion, and protect against disease.
Supermodel Christie Brinkley tastes the rainbow.
For lunch, the 64-year-old fills her plate with emerald leafy greens, scarlet tomatoes, and golden bell peppers flecked with crunchy nuts and stripes of creamy avocado, she recently told Shape.com. Breakfast is comprised of earthy whole grains topped with fruit and walnuts. For dinner, Brinkley makes pasta and veggies topped with grilled fish.
“For many, many, many years I’ve always said I go for as many colors as possible in a day,” Brinkley said.
The meal plan, a common-sense approach to eating that researchers increasingly portray as the healthiest diet for overall wellness, tracks closely with two recently-recognized healthy diets: the Mediterranean diet and the plant-based diet.
Here’s why Brinkley’s eating plan is so healthy and how to start easily incorporating it into your life without breaking the bank.
Plant-based diets are good for the body and brain
- Flickr/Sonny Abesamis
Eating plans that center around vegetables and whole grains reign supreme for health, according to a growing body of evidence. Research suggests these diets may be helpful for losing weight, staying lean, and keeping the mind sharp. These eating plans have also been tied to a reduced risk of several diseases including heart disease and breast cancer.
Plant-based diets are “good for the environment, your heart, your weight, and your overall health,” according to a US News and World Report on the best eating plans.
Brinkley’s plan contains many elements of the Mediterranean diet, a plan that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and olive oil, and also incorporates fish and seafood. The Mediterranean diet also slashes intake of red meat, processed foods, poultry, and dairy.
Dietitians and clinicians say the approach is a great way to fuel the body. The plan’s leafy greens provide key vitamins and minerals that are needed for healthy skin, hair, and nails; whole grains support good digestion; fish and nuts provide protein to maintain muscle and keep energy levels steady.
The Mediterranean diet is also rich in several ingredients that may be critical to a healthy mind.
Two types of healthy fat – monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids – are staples of the plan, as well as several antioxidants found in berries and dark chocolate. Previous studies have found a link between both of these ingredients and a reduced risk of dementia as well as higher cognitive performance. Research has also suggested that two other Mediterranean ingredients – leafy greens and berries – could help protect against a phenomenon called neurodegeneration which often characterizes diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
There are plenty of ways to start eating like Brinkley
- Pip & Nut
While sticking to an eating plan like the Mediterranean diet might sound costly or inconvenient, there are plenty of ways to start implementing it in your life relatively cheaply and easily. And it doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally indulge. Brinkley’s favorite desserts are chocolate chip ice cream and dark chocolate.
“I believe in treating yourself occasionally,” she said.
To start, dietitians advise adding variety to your diet in the form of different kinds of fresh vegetables and whole grains. Where you can, add spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or any other leafy green to your plate. The specific type of vegetable matters much less than whether or not you like it, so feel free to experiment until you find something you can start eating on the regular.
Cara Anselmo, a nutritionist and dietitian at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, told Business Insider that she frequently advises her clients to ramp up their intake of plant-based foods and cut back on red meat and refined carbohydrates like white bread.
“When you look at overall dietary patterns it’s a more whole-foods, plant-based diet that tends to be healthier in terms of less disease risk,” Anselmo said.
Incorporating healthy fats like nuts and seeds into your meal plan is important, too.
“Walnuts provide healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and that trifecta really gets you nourished and sustained for hours and prevents energy crashes,” registered dietitian and nutritionist Andy Bellatti told Business Insider.
“One quick way to add extra fiber to your day: sprinkle chia, hemp, or ground flax over whatever you’re eating for a boost,” Bellatti said.