In recent times plant-based eating has really taken off as an extremely popular diet. Today we are going to break down the different types of plant-based eating, what the common mistakes are and how to get more plants into our diets without too much stress!
Plant-based patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources, over animal sources.
What are the reasons people have for adopting a plant-based diet?
Generally speaking, most people adopt a plant-based diet because of the associated health benefits from increasing plant foods into the diet, as well as the great benefits that reducing your meat consumption can have on the environment.
Plant-based eating should still consider the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for one’s overall optimal health. Adopting a vegan diet is often, however, the one way of going plant-based that may require supplements, such as iron and B-12. A large benefit of plant-based eating is that the diet is generally higher in fibre and phytonutrients than a standard western diet because of the increase of plant foods.
A plant based way of eating can look different to different people and there are many versions including a Mediterranean approach, Flexitarian (includes eggs, dairy & some meat, poultry, fish & seafood), Vegetarian (includes eggs & dairy), Pescatarian (eggs, dairy foods, ﬁsh, and seafood, but no meat or poultry) and Vegan (cutting out all animal products).
How do we get started with a plant-based diet?
Simply, eat lots of vegetables. In every meal, aim for half your plate to be filled with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colours in choosing your vegetables. The more colour the better! You can even enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
Change the way you think about meat. Reduce the amount of meat you have in each of your meals. Starting to think of the meat as a garnish instead of a centrepiece can help with this change. Why not try building your meal around your vegetables or salad?
Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts & nut butters, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices.
Try a meat free meal or day! Set aside a meal during the week, a meal each day, or a whole day of the week to try going meat free. Start out small and work your way up! Include whole grains for breakfast, lots of greens in each meal and fruit for a sweet treat to easily increase your plants for the day!
What are some simple plant-based swaps we can make?
- Swap dairy yoghurt for coconut yoghurt, almond yoghurt or a chia pudding
- Swap hamburgers for lentil, chickpeas or black bean patties
- Swap beef bolognese for lentil bolognese
- Swap chicken as the protein in salads for chickpeas or beans
Common mistakes people make when adopting a plant-based diet
- Don’t skip a transition period. When you change your diet drastically, there can be an initial period where you feel hungry, irritable, or fatigued. Most people feel much better once processed foods including packaged snacks & meat alternatives, sugary drinks and fast food are eliminated. Ease into the new diet, perhaps by starting by incorporating a wider selection of vegetables, then starting to scale back on processed snacks and foods.
- You don’t need to go completely vegan to start. To be plant-based you don’t have to go completely vegan. Starting by cutting a meal or a few days back can be a great start. Also, aim to source sustainable and ethically farmed produce, which is integral to plant-based.
- Purchasing all processed. Even though some brands are plant-based, doesn’t mean they are healthy. Many are highly processed and can contain potentially problematic ingredients, including genetically modified soy. The focus of a plant-based diet generally should be whole food sources of plant foods. When purchasing more processed products or vegetable burgers, always opt for the simplest ingredient list possible.
- Skimping on protein. Cutting out meat can mean simple sources of protein are reduced. So proper planning is crucial not only because protein is very satiating, but also because it’s important for a range of bodily processes including brain health and maintaining muscle mass.
- Supplementation. Depending on how much you’re limiting animal products, you may or may not need to supplement. If you’ve decided to adopt veganism into your plant-based eating, it’s something you should consider as you might not be getting enough of certain crucial nutrients. Always talk to your doctor and run a blood test prior to supplementing, but important supplements to consider would be B12, vitamin D and iron.