In recent times, a plant-based approach to eating have really taken off as an extremely popular way of eating on a day to day basis. Below, we are going to break down the various types of plant-based eating (vegan isn’t the only one), what the common mistakes are when adopting these various approaches, and how to very easily get more plants into our diets without too much stress!
What is a plant-based approach to eating and why should we give it a go?
Generally speaking, most people adopt a plant-based diet because of the many associated health benefits from increasing plant-focused foods into their diet, as well as the great benefits that reducing your meat consumption has on the environment, too!
Plant-based patterns focus on foods primarily derived from plants. No, plant-based diets are not restrictive or boring! They include not only fruits and veggies, 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, either. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources, over animal sources.
Plant-based eating should still consider the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for one’s overall optimal health. There is a reason all of these crucial components to good health are banged on about so much. 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. It should be recognised that often supplements are needed when focusing on a plant-based diet if certain macro and micronutrients aren’t consumed regularly. Often vegans, for example, require some that are lacking in their diets due to a lack of meat and dairy produce, such as iron and B-12.
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. Reducing the amount of meat you have in each of your meals is a great start. Try to think of the meat as a garnish instead of a centrepiece can be a place to begin. Why not try building your meal around your vegetables and salad?
Go for the good fats. Filling yourself up with good fats keeps you satisfied for much longer. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts & nut butter, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices and are a super easy and delicious addition to a variety of great meals.
Try a meat free meal or day! Set aside a meal throughout 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! Something like a Meat-free Monday could be great for the whole family?
What are some super simple (and delicious) plant-based swaps?
There are plenty of plant-based alternatives that can easily be found on your local supermarket shelf these days. It feels like every week there is something new to try, making plant-based approaches to eating that much more accessible! #winning
Here are a few of our family-friendly faves:
- 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
What are the most common mistakes made when people first adopt a plant-based approach?
- Don’t skip a transition period. When you change your diet drastically, there can be an initial period where you feel a bit off. Maybe overly hungry, irritable, or fatigued. Most people feel significantly better once processed foods including packaged snacks & meat alternatives, sugary drinks and fast foods are removed from their day-to-day consumption. 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.
- Plant-based doesn’t just mean vegan. 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 being more plant-based. Having chicken or fish every now and again is OK! The reduction is what is key. Going cold turkey is almost always never the answer.
- Purchasing only processed. Even though some brands are plant-based, it doesn’t mean they are healthy and filled with only natural goodies. Many foods that are packaged and plant-based are highly processed and can contain potentially problematic ingredients, including genetically modified soy. The focus of a plant-based diet should generally be a whole range of delicious, whole food sources of plant foods. Think a plethora of fresh fruit and veg, legumes, nuts and seeds and using all of these to make your own delicious meals. Creating your own veggie burgers or falafels at home is so easy, and means none of the nasties are added in! When purchasing these processed products such as veggie burgers, always opt for the simplest ingredient list possible.
- Going too low on protein. Cutting out meat can mean simple sources of protein are very much reduced. This makes it so important to adopt proper planning of what you are eating each day, 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. Adopting more protein-rich plant-based goods such as seeds and legumes is great. There are also plenty of delicious and healthy vegan protein powders on the market now too.
- Supplementation. Depending on how much you’re limiting animal products, you may or may not need to add supplements to your daily routine. 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 if going plant-based. It is very personal!
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