Plant-Based Eating: A Beginner’s Guide

The plant-based eating trend is celebrated as a top 2020 trend by Whole Foods Market. One big question being asked right now is–why?

Today, I am going to break down everything that you need to know about plant- based eating, including its potential health benefits, foods to eat, and how you can make the change!

By Alyssa, RDN, LD, Expert Dietitian

What is plant-based eating?

There is no clear definition of what constitutes a plant-based diet, which is why people understand and use the term “plant-based eating” in different ways. Generally, it is an eating style that emphasizes real, whole foods that come primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.

Some people interpret it as a vegan or vegetarian diet, which involves avoiding all animal products. For others, a plant-based diet means that plant foods are the main focus of their diet, but they may, occasionally, consume meat, fish, or dairy products. With this flexibility, you can make the choice on how you’d like adopt this style of eating.

So what can’t you eat on a plant based diet?

What you decide to avoid is entirely up to you. For the most part, people eat less of the following:

  • Fast food
  • Desserts and sweetened beverages
  • Refined grains: white rice, white bread, refined pasta
  • Packaged foods: cookies, chips, sugary cereals
  • Processed meats: bacon, sausage, etc.

Why is it good for you?

There are several major benefits to your health as well as the environment when moving to plant-based eating. For example, according to the American Heart Association, eating more plant-based foods and less meat can reduce the risk of:

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Certain cancers
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity

A 2019 study from the Journal of American Heart Association found that middle aged adults who ate diets high in plant foods and low in animal products had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 16 perfect and dying of this health condition by about 31%.

Another great benefit is that plant-based foods are packed with fiber and phytonutrients that support immunity, combat inflammation, and feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Did you also know that twenty servings of vegetables have fewer greenhouse emissions than one serving of meat? Adopting sustainable eating habits can reduce your carbon footprint by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land use for factory farming–which are all factors in global warming.

Tips to get you started with plant-based eating!

Eat more vegetables. Meals should center around plant-based foods. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Be sure to include plenty of colors when choosing your vegetables!

Change the way you think about meats. If animal foods are eaten, they should be in smaller quantities, with attention paid to the quality of the item

Try switching your meat portions for vegetables. Foods like meat, seafood, poultry, dairy and eggs should be used more as a complement to a plant-based meal, not as the main focal point

Choose good fats. Cook with plant-based oils, like olive, canola, avocado, and sesame. Fats in olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds and avocado are particularly healthy choices.

Include whole grains. Start your day off with oatmeal for breakfast or add a side of quinoa with dinner.

Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach, kale or leafy greens. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with nuts, fruits or beans.

Eat fruit for dessert. A bowl of berries or a crisp apple will help satisfy your cravings for a sweet bite after a meal.

Cook a vegetarian or vegan meal at least one night a week. There are some great recipes and ideas out there for you to try something new! Here are a few recipes I think you’ll love and might be worth a try:

Overwhelmed? Start Small & Ease in…

If embracing a full plant-based diet feels intimidating, then start small. Overturning your entire diet in a day can be overwhelming. Try picking two small changes to implement each week.

Regardless of the type of plant-based diet you choose, adopting this way of eating can sure help to boost your health. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to check out the rest of our website and other blogs (links below)! Learn about our weight loss program here and if you’re interested, fill out our initial consultation form and we’ll be in touch!

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