Is a plant based diet healthier than a conventional diet? Before jumping on the plant based diet trend, consider your unique nutritional needs. Age, activity level, and potential food sensitivities all need to be factored into the equation when considering dietary changes. A female in her childbearing years would have different nutritional needs than a woman in her fifties, as would a marathon runner vs. a yoga instructor, make sense? Food preferences (Veggie Burger or a meat burger?), our desire to cook (or not) and personal life style all need to be taken into account. Maybe you aren’t a morning person and don’t care for breakfast right away. All the literature says it’s best to start the day with breakfast. I think otherwise and believe that waiting later in the morning to eat is perfectly fine. We are all unique, imperfect human beings and that’s what keeps life interesting! Be open, and yes we can change. Baby steps.
Can you define “plant based diet”?
A plant based diet contains fruits, vegetables, legumes, and beans; and excludes or reduces meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Plant based also means less or no refined foods like sugar and white flour and instead uses sprouted, whole grains, and fruit based sugars such as date, or coconut. There is so much information on social media about the pros and cons of certain ways of eating that it often feels overwhelming and the result is that we do nothing to change in any direction. People are interesting! Health status, ethical and and social reasons will impact our eating style. After reviewing all the information I can possibly handle, the takeaway for me is that it isn’t all or nothing and common sense should prevail! In other words you may select the elements from one or more plans (vegan, plant based, paleo, carnivor) to help you figure out what works best for you. Personally, I’m not going to go totally vegan however I will eat less meat and make sure that when I do that the animals are ethically raised; living in a pasture and fed grass. There are plenty of pros and cons to this topic and “both sides” make sense it all makes sense but again, common sense prevails and I’ll just take a walk right in the middle.
- To transition to a more plant based diet, consider reducing the amount of meat, chicken, or fish on your plate and replace those calories with legumes (peas, beans, or lentils) and vegetables. Rather than eliminating a food group, simply reduce and replace with a different choice.
- Try to eat a wider variety of foods including plenty of healthy carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, and sprouted grains. When you need a snack, go for something with nutrient dense ingredients like kale, garbanzo beans, and lentils.
- Try Almond or Hemp Milk. During early development, children need vitamin D and calcium and the lactose (milk sugar) in cow’s milk helps absorption of these nutrients. Work with your healthcare provider when making substitutions here to assure that your child is receiving an equivalent replacement of these nutrients. For the rest of us, you can get your daily dose of calcium by eating lots of green leafy vegetables. Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, cheese, and fish (oil). If you are going totally plant based, vegan omega fatty acid supplements can be purchased on line. There’s been some controversy over Soy products recently. The general consensus is that you should buy organic and soy can be eaten in moderation and remember that soy based products can cause sensitivity reactions just like lactose based dairy in children and adults. Soy, Hemp, Almond, etc.. are all available with and without sweetener. You can also make your own nut milks however it does take some prep time and by the time you purchase the ingredients and factor in the time it takes to make it, you may find it easier to purchase your nut milks already prepared.
- Gluten free and Vegan prepared foods are available everywhere! Some are delicious and mimic the flavor and texture of dairy and meat products. Spread a nut based cheese on a cracker or grill bean or vegetable burgers on the grill. These items are often made from soy, tempeh, legumes, vegetables, and grains, and can be tasty depending on the brand you are sampling. Add lots of condiments like pickles, vegenaise, nut cheese, and vegetables to create a juicy burger!
- Add a vegan protein powder like Garden of Life to your smoothie. Look for one that contains less than 6 grams of sugar per serving and made has ingredients like pea and bean protein. As a bonus you also might find one with pumpkin, hemp, berry, and turmeric added.
- Including plant based foods in our daily diet may help get us on track health-wise but if you are still struggling to get those extra pounds off, remember that even healthy foods contain calories and at the end of the day it’s about balance.