Eating a plant-based diet can be confusing.

I know firsthand, because there once was a point when I considered adopting a more plant-based approach to eating, and had absolutely no clue where to start. 

For weeks on end, plant based meant eating a veggie stir fry, tossed with some pasta, and calling it a night. I hadn’t yet discovered the endless possibilities of a plant powered plate. Because I was still hyper focused on what my plate “should look like” instead of what my plate could taste like. And for the time being, that was okay.

Plant Based eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Small changes on your plate can make a big difference in your health. If you are considering or trying to make healthier choices about what is on your plate, don’t give up. Let’s navigate the new waters of living primarily plant based together.

What is a Plant Based Diet?

A plant-based diet is not a diet at all. It’s a way of life; an approach to food that is grounded in nourishment and celebration. It is a colorful, delicious, and highly nutritious way to feed your body and your mind. 

A plant-based approach to eating is rooted in abundance. The focus is on what you can add rather than what you should eliminate and take away. 

What a plant-based diet does not include:

  • portion control
  • macro counting
  • calorie counting
  • points system
  • radical restrictions

What does it mean to eat a Plant Based Diet?

It simply means that you are eating real whole foods – that the majority of food you eat comes from plants – whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds.  Eating “mostly plants” doesn’t mean that you are dieting or depriving yourself. Rather, it means that you are giving your body what it needs to thrive – nourishment from real whole foods – while gently nudging less nutritious foods to the side. 

Choosing a whole foods plant based approach to eating means consuming foods with high vitamin, mineral and nutrient content – the foods I just mentioned. Whole foods do not come in a package, are rarely found in a box or bag and they don’t have a nutritional label. They are found in the ground, on a plant or picked from a tree. And they’re typically placed on the outer edges of the grocery store and can be found in abundance at the farmer’s market. 

Why would I want to try a Plant Based Lifestyle?

Those who consume primarily plant foods feel energized and benefit from optimal health. Research has shown that a more plant-based diet may help to prevent, treat or reverse some of our leading causes of death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that plant-based eating can improve not only body weight, blood sugar levels, and ability to control cholesterol, but also mental and emotional health, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, sense of well-being and daily functioning. 

Did you know that more than 70% of deaths and morbidity are largely lifestyle related and preventable? 

  • A comprehensive study published in 2015 revealed that 71.3% of deaths were caused by dietary and lifestyle choices. Recent studies have repeatedly linked meat-centric diets to risks for developing certain cancers, heart disease, and obesity. Conversely, studies show that plant-based diets alleviate the pain of diabetes, improve heart health, and promote healthy weight loss.

What are some of the health benefits of a Plant Based approach to eating? 

• Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
• Reversal or prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
• Longer life.
• Healthier gut and immune system.
• Lower risk of developing cancer and diabetes.
• May slow the progression of certain types of cancer.
• Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
• Fewer medications.
• Lower food costs.
• Environmentally friendly. 

What about weight loss?

Unlike other diets, a plant-based diet is not necessarily geared toward weight loss. It’s about longevity, sustainability and true health.  Can you lose weight on a plant-based diet? Sure! But that is not the main goal. The goal is to feel better, sleep better, poop better, live better. 

It’s about feeling empowered, inspired, and educated. It’s about feeling confident in your decision to feed your body the food that it truly craves, not the food you’ve been convinced to consume. 

What about meat and dairy?

So yes, a plant-based diet requires a reduction and/or elimination of animal products – meat, dairy, eggs. This is based on scientific evidence and research that suggests that both heavy meat and dairy consumption are wreaking havoc on our health as individuals and as a nation. The truth is, the standard American diet – a diet full of meat, dairy, and processed foods is killing us. A plant-based diet will challenge your cultural conditioning that meat and dairy are the stars of the show. It will encourage you to include more colors and eat, cook, dine outside the box.  

Rather than focus on the notion of entirely eliminating a food group that you are likely most comfortable with cooking, start by having less of it at each meal or replacing one meal a day with a more plant focused plate. 

So now what?

Transitioning to a plant- based style of eating doesn’t require an all or nothing mindset. If you do best going “cold turkey” then by all means, go for it! But for many of us, making a big change can be hard. Take it one step at a time, and day by day you will see results that lead to long term sustainable change. 

My biggest piece of advice: START FROM WHERE YOU ARE.

I know how hard it can be to eat entirely plant based when you don’t know where to begin. If you are accustomed to eating a certain way for most of your life, making a drastic switch will be of no benefit in the long run. Instead, when we slowly change our habits, we build new healthy ones that stick and replace the old.

For instance, if you are currently consuming animal products at every single meal, start by tackling one meal at a time. Swap out one dinner each week for a plant-based meal and begin to figure out what works for you and your taste preferences. Set small goals that are simple and achievable in a week’s time and then add on once you’ve accomplished that step.

Remember: progress not perfection. There is no finish line in food and health. 

 

Interested in learning more? Come learn the ins and outs of Plant Based Meal Planning Saturday, March 9th at 12PM! Tickets available via EventBrite here.

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Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51562202_Red_meat_consumption_and_risk_of_type_2_diabetes_3_Cohorts_of_US_adults_and_an_ppdated_meta-analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3483430/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716237/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11795/

http://www.aulamedica.es/nh/pdf/9247.pdf

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1941406409335481

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/105/9/616/986948

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677007/pdf/ajcn8951588S.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782970/