What is Plant-Based Eating?
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Diet trends and regimes are in no short supply. One of the biggest trends to come up in the last few years is that of plant-based eating. With big food chains releasing their versions of plant-based burgers and big businesses flooding the market with all manner of new plant-based products like nuggets, deli meats, and more.
As a dietitian, I advocate for a diet that includes plenty of plants and other whole foods like grains and dairy. So I can get on board with people turning to plants and discovering the tastes and textures of legumes, pulses, and more. What I like most about the plant-based diet, is that it’s a spectrum. You can start the process by including one meatless meal per week, or you could be a vegan and both would be called plant-based eaters. I love the flexibility of that. To me, it’s less overwhelming and more inviting to try out.
So what’s the fuss about anyway? A plant-based diet touts a few advantages. Research suggests that a plant-based diet is a low-cost and effective method of reducing blood pressure, HbA1c, cholesterol, and the risk for cancer. It can even help to reduce the number of medications taken by someone managing a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease.
In addition to the health benefits, it’s also considered to be more environmentally friendly, requiring less energy, land and water resources than a typical North American meat-based diet.
What’s really important to remember here is that it’s a way of life. It’s not a diet or a quick fix. But that also makes it more sustainable! So if you’re thinking about starting to include more plant-based foods in your diet, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Make Good Choices
Eating plant-based can mean a lot of things. Choose minimally processed and whole foods more often. Think whole grains, lean protein like beans and lentils, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Compare the following two days:
Breakfast 2 Poptarts 2 slices whole wheat toast
Glass of milk Natural nut butter Banana
Lunch 3 Slices of cheese pizza Veggie pita pizza 1 Glass of juice Lentil salad
Dinner Bean burger in a bun Bean burger in a bun Fries Side salad
Both of these diets are considered plant-based, but “sample 2” includes minimally processed and more whole foods. Transitioning to a more plant-based diet comes down to your choices. Regardless of being plant-based or not, the goal is to strike the right balance of healthy fats, whole grains, and lean protein. But know that moderation is the key to success! If you don’t give yourself permission to enjoy the foods you really love, you’ll feel restricted and deprived. Not exactly a great way to live your life. I really can’t imagine life without cookies and cheesy pasta!
Take It Easy
Don’t try to overhaul your entire diet overnight! That might be feasible for some, but most people I’ve worked with benefit from a more gradual approach. This means that if you’d like to transition to plant-based eating, maybe you start with one or two meatless meals a week. If you can plan those meals so that the whole family or all of your roommates join you, even better! Support can be a wonderful motivator. Once you feel comfortable with that, you can increase those meatless meals and snacks to find the balance you like.
Swap the Proportions
Try reducing the meat in a recipe you make often and substituting the remainder with a plant-based option. For example, if you love taking a chicken salad sandwich or wrap for lunch, try reducing the amount of chicken in your recipe and add in some chickpeas. When you’re ready, you can complete the transition and try out this chickpea salad sandwich.
With the recent explosion of interest in plant-based eating, delicious and easy-to-make recipes are everywhere! So go online and search for inspiration, you’re sure to come across more than a few that look delicious to you.
Making the change is easier than you think, mostly because it’s entirely in your control. The main goal here is to simply eat more plants. Push your palate and experiment with some new flavours and ingredients, they just might become your favourite!
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