Eating a plant-based diet has been scientifically proven to improve your overall health and is a powerful way to live longer, reduce your risk of illness, prevent chronic diseases, boost energy levels, improve your mood, achieve a balanced weight and feel great in your body.
There’s a lot of buzz out there about plant-based, whole food, vegan diets so I wanted to share what I know about this lifestyle from scientific research, training, and personal experience.
Debunking Common Myths
The truth is… 100 calories of broccoli actually has 12 grams of protein compared to 100 calories of beef which has 6.4 grams of protein. Plants have all the protein you need without the violence of killing innocent animals.
And yes, it is possible to eat boring, bland foods if you don’t cook with herbs and spices or follow a recipe. I never knew how to cook prior to becoming a plant-based eater, but have enjoyed creating really delicious and simple plant-based meals from scratch. It all comes down to using the flavors you personally enjoy.
The meals I make are typically 30 minutes or less because that’s all I really have time for! Cooking plant-based meals is not any more complicated than cooking with meat and dairy. My go to plant-based recipe blog is minimalistbaker.com because she has so many delicious recipes that are minimal ingredients, 30 minutes or less of cooking time, and sometimes 1-bowl which makes for super easy clean up. I highly recommend her recipes!
So… let’s dive into how eating a plant-based diet can improve your health. I’ll also provide practical tips and guidance on how you can eat this way without feeling overwhelmed. The tips I share here are how I personally have journeyed through eating plant-based and were helpful to me when I first started out based on the research I had done.
Eating plant-based has changed my life and the composition of my body in positive ways. I no longer struggle with acne, digestive issues, weight fluctuation, poor body-image, mood swings and low energy. Not only has my health improved drastically, but I have a really healthy relationship with food that didn’t exist before, I have learned how to cook and enjoy it, I’m helping the environment and protecting innocent animals from being killed.
What Is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?
A whole-food, plant-based diet helps you meet your nutritional needs through eating minimally processed foods where none of the ingredients come from animals.
- Whole food describes natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.
- Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t contain animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey.
Plant-Based Food Examples
- Fruits: any type of fruit including apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, etc.
- Vegetables: plenty of veggies including peppers, corn, avocados, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, collards, etc.
- Root Vegetables: like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, etc.
Whole grains: grains, cereals, and other starches in their whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, oats, barley, etc. Even popcorn is a whole grain.
- Legumes: beans of any kind, plus lentils, pulses, and similar ingredients.
- Proteins: Tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, beans
Whole, plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are also high in protein and fiber, which helps slow the digestion of carbs so we don’t experience a sudden spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. This answers the question I get on where I get my protein from.
PLANT-BASED DIET HEALTH BENEFITS
- Weight Management – This way of eating promotes weight loss and a healthy, balanced weight. It is easy to lose weight eating plant-based and keep it off without counting calories because your body is properly nourished, satiated and balanced.
- Environmental Impact – A plant-based diet reduces the environmental footprint by avoiding the leading cause of climate change – animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is is the largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution. Cattle are by far the biggest source of emissions from animal agriculture, with one recent study showing that in an average American diet, beef consumption creates 1,984 pounds of CO2e annually. Replacing beef with plants would reduce that figure 96 percent, bringing it down to just 73 pounds of CO2e.
- Disease Prevention – A plant-based diet can prevent and even reverse chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
MY TOP TIPS FOR PLANT-BASED BEGINNERS
1. FOCUS ON NUTRITION, NOT RESTRICTION
If you’re already wondering “what can I eat?” it is important to first look at all the delicious foods you can eat. There are hundreds of foods to choose from and millions of amazing plant-based recipes online. Focus on what the foods you eat provide nutritionally. For example, when start my day, I eat the foods that taste good to me but also provide healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein for energy and vitamins and minerals for anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory benefits. Eat food to help your body run properly and efficiently.
2. PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
No one is perfect and that is okay! Starting a plant-based diet or any new lifestyle change is a journey and it’s very important to focus on all the little moments of progress versus focusing only on the end result. You will mess up, but that’s a natural part of change. Accepting this reality before you begin something new is a healthy mindset to have to set you up for success. I follow a 90/10 rule – eat plant-based 90 percent of the time and the other 10 percent I eat out at restaurants or eat processed foods – with an occasional dairy ingredient. If I’m invited to a party, for example, and there isn’t anything plant-based for me to eat (which there typically is), I just do my best to eat the healthiest options there. It’s not the end of the world and won’t affect your health.
3. EAT UNTIL YOU ARE SATISFIED
A plant-based diet is naturally lower in calories, so make sure you eat enough to supply your body with the energy it needs. Eat foods that make you fuller for longer, such as nuts, seeds, and beans. The beauty of a plant-based diet is that you can eat large quantities of these foods – which I love because I really enjoy eating! Portion control isn’t really a concern when eating plant-based.
4. EASY MEALS ON REPEAT
Collect about 4 or 5 plant-based dinner recipes that you like and keep them handy for nights when you don’t know what to cook. It can feel overwhelming to try new recipes and make meals from scratch. I have found that cooking the same recipes for all mealtimes has made preparing food easier, quicker, and more enjoyable. It takes the stress out of feeling like I have to cook something new every night. The other perk is that you get really good at making these handful of meals.
For recipe inspiration, subscribe to my newsletter for exclusive plant-based recipes and healthy living tips. You can also search my blog for recipe ideas, such as my homemade granola or my black-bean, butternut squash burritos.
5. JOIN A COMMUNITY
Starting a new journey can make you feel alone, especially if you are the only one in your family and friends who is making this change. I can relate to this feeling. I found that the best thing you can do is to find support and like-mindedness from other new or experienced plant-based eaters. I follow a lot of great people on social media who provide incredible recipes and tips for plant-based eating/living, such as @plantproof, @forksoverknives and @sarahlemkus on Instragram, to name a few. Search for YouTube channels, such as Sarah Lemkus or Ellen Fisher. You can also join my Healthy Living for Women Facebook group where I share practical plant-based healthy living tips and recipes.
6. START SLOW
Easing slowly into a plant-based diet change is smart. You don’t have to stop eating animal products and processed foods immediately. The best way to spark change that you can stick to is to add more plant-based foods, such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes to your everyday routine because they will keep you full and satisfied. You’ll naturally eat more plant-based foods and less processed foods and animal products that make you sick and unhealthy. Focus on easy changes you can make such as switching from animal milk to plant-based milk (almond, cashew, oat, etc). I highly recommend making your own almond milk at home because it’s cleaner and SO much tastier than store-bought, in my opinion. It’s also really simple to make and saves major dollars.
These tips made a huge impact on my life and I hope they are helpful to you! Enjoy the journey and of course, please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Ready to make changes to your health today? Contact me to learn more about my 8-week Be Well For Life online program. I personally walk you through the foundational steps towards a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Certified Health Coach