It’s Friday 5 time, your weekly open line where we give you five things of interest to us, then open it up so that you can share things that are of interest to you. Today we’re all about healthy eating, and while you all might not be willing to covert completely to a plant-based diet, there is still a lot of information here that can help improve your diet in many ways. Eat Arkansas gets a reputation for only writing about decadent, fatty and fried foods, but Central Arkansas has some great options for healthy eating that don’t sacrifice flavor or fun.

On January 8th, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) screened a copy of Forks Over Knives to two packed theaters at Riverdale 10 Cinema. The documentary outlined the benefits of a plant based diet in fighting chronic heart disease and cancer. Dr. Neal Barnard, interviewed in the film, was in Little Rock to lead the panel discussion afterward. Three local doctors, Dr. Christie Beck, Dr. Jason Beck, and Dr. C.D. Williams, were on hand to answer questions and outline how plant based diets have been beneficial for their patients and themselves. This event was part of Kickstart Little Rock, a movement by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to combat our alarming health statistics in Central Arkansas through diet and lifestyle.


One of the key components to the Kickstart Little Rock plan is a vegan diet. More specifically, the committee recommends a plant based diet full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, with very limited or no processed vegan food and oils. We could all stand to get more fruits and veggies on our plates, even if going fully vegan isn’t possible. Including a few meals a week could show improvement in your overall health. Here are 5 ways you can experiment with plant based eating:

*Take the 21-day Kickstart Little Rock Vegan Challenge:  The PCRM website has everything you need to try out a vegan diet for a few weeks. The program includes meal planning and support, and it’s available in multiple languages. The challenge is free, and by signing up, you will get access to webcasts, dining guides, and an online forum.


*Do the Whole Foods Engine 2 Challenge:  Every month this year, Whole Foods in Little Rock will lead a group through the Engine 2 Diet, a plant based meal system adopted by fire fighters in Austin, Texas. The meals are hearty and satisfying, and Whole Foods will be sponsoring lectures on healthy eating at their store. Check their online calendar for more information.

*Eat at local vegan restaurants (yes, we have them!):  Not sure what to order on a plant based diet? There are several all vegan places in Central Arkansas that will make it easier for inexperienced diners to choose their dishes. Head down to the River Market and try out the plant based dishes at The Veg, LLC. Their dishes focus on making familiar foods, like quesadillas and burgers, vegan. Want something light and fresh? Head to Jacksonville and check out the new That’s So Raw cafe at 423 Dupree, where you will find delicious and healthy plant based dishes.


*Eat local, eat ethnic:  Many ethnic cultures have heavily plant based diets, with meat being only a small portion of the meal. It makes these cuisines easily adaptable to a vegan diet, and Little Rock has several great restaurants serving delicious meals. Lilly’s Dim Sum on Rodney Parham has several clearly labeled vegan dishes on their menu. The new Three Noodle and Dumpling Co., in downtown Little Rock, has plant based dumplings, a steamed bun sandwich with tofu, and noodle bowl that all pack huge flavor. We have many good Indian restaurants in the area like Desi Den,  where vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes are a mainstay.You could also head out to Local Lime and order up the Beans and Greens taco plate or the bright Coastal Citrus salad.

*Buy local, cook at home:  It’s so easy to swap out your typical products at home for vegan items, and Central Arkansas is bursting with natural food products at almost every grocery store. Whole Foods has plentiful plant based products, but Kroger and Walmart, as well as several ethnic grocery stores in town, have vegan items as well. An easy switch would be ditching cow’s milk for a plant based one, such as soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk in your favorite smoothie or cereal. We’re also getting to the time of year when local farmers markets are opening up (or you can go to the year-round Hillcrest market), and there’s no better source for fresh vegetables and other products around. Trading meat for vegetables also stretches your food dollar further, making it possible to buy those excellent fresh vegetables at the market.

It’s easier than ever to choose plant based dishes and products, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine will continue to roll out programs and lectures to bring more awareness to the benefits of a vegan diet. If you’re thinking about making some changes, there are a wealth of options around town to help you meet your goals.

So there you have it, everyone — our guide to healthy eating. Now let us know what you’ve been up to, healthy or otherwise!