A plant-based diet does the heavy lifting, health-wise

 
By Angela Dennison
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 6/13/2018 10:39 AM
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  • Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, oncology dietitian, for the Wellness House in Hinsdale sears carrots in Avocado oil to create a special Chicago style carrot dog.

      Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, oncology dietitian, for the Wellness House in Hinsdale sears carrots in Avocado oil to create a special Chicago style carrot dog. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, oncology dietitian, for the Wellness House in Hinsdale creates delicious, plant-based recipes like Chicago style carrot dogs and portobello mushroom pizzas.

      Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, oncology dietitian, for the Wellness House in Hinsdale creates delicious, plant-based recipes like Chicago style carrot dogs and portobello mushroom pizzas. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, oncology dietitian, for the Wellness House in Hinsdale creates plant-based recipes like Chicago style carrot dogs.

      Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, oncology dietitian, for the Wellness House in Hinsdale creates plant-based recipes like Chicago style carrot dogs. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

A Chicago-style hot dog made with a carrot? Purists might shudder, but is it the hot dog itself that makes this iconic dish a Chicago dog? Or is it the veggie-rich toppings? Chicago, take note: you can have your veggie Chicago-style hot dog and enjoy eating it, too, thanks to great taste and knowing it's great for you. Plant-based eating is gaining the attention it deserves, and with farmers markets in full swing, now is the perfect time to rethink your pantry. It's far easier than ever to craft your favorite dishes while using delicious ingredients that also do your body good. A big reason to rethink your pantry comes from Harvard Medical School, where scientists recently revealed new research that shows up to a third of early deaths could be prevented by switching to a plant-based diet. Plant-based foods are the only foods that contain phytonutrients. These phytonutrients stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, slow the growth rate of cancer cells, help regulate hormones and more. Wellness House has long prescribed plant-based eating for those living with cancer to help fight the disease, and there's plenty of evidence to prove that all who embrace plants in their diets can live healthier lives. The biggest obstacle is not knowing where to start -- so let's first take a peek into your pantry. Maintaining a well-stocked kitchen is instrumental in following a proper diet and prevents you from running to the store every time you want to cook. Keep some essential items on hand, and you can whip up a tasty, healthy meal in no time. A few things to grab at the grocery store before hitting the farmers market include Beans/lentils -- if buying canned, go for no salt added and BPA-free lining. When it comes to beans and any plant food, variety is vital. Examples of whole grains include quinoa, wild rice, millet, buckwheat, farro and more. Nondairy milk -- no matter which of the many options you select, look for unsweetened. Tempeh -- don't be afraid! This fermented soy is packed with protein and calcium, and of course phytonutrients, and has a wonderful firm texture and nutty flavor. Tempeh is very different from tofu (which is also a great pantry item), but more of a crowd pleaser and excellent for sandwiches, crumbles for tacos and tempeh bacon. Don't forget about herbs and spices. Not only do they add flavor, but they also provide excellent health benefits. These can include cumin, oregano, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and the list goes on. Feel free to make substitutions from a standard recipe to fit your preferences. It's amazing how you can transform a dish by choosing different herbs and spices. So what about that hot dog? Here's my recipe to a Chicago-style hot dog that rivals the "real thing." So what do you say, Chicago? What makes that Chicago-style dog? Find us on Facebook and Twitter, share photos and let us know how your Chicago-style dog and portobello mushroom pizza tastes.

Get your wellness on: Cancer patients and their loved ones are invited to participate in the Cooking Up Wellness webinar from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 18; the Hot Topics in Breast Cancer event in person or via webinar from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 23; and Grace, A Child's Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 30, Wellness House events are free and registration is required by calling (630) 323-5150 or visiting wellnesshouse.org.

• Angela Angela Dennison, RD, LDN, ServSafe Certified Oncology Dietitian, Wellness House. She lives in the Chicago area. Her passion for connecting with others through food and nutrition is the catalyst behind her drive to be the best possible resource to assist others in their nutritional growth.

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