How to Start a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet is frequently misunderstood. Surprisingly, eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you never eat dairy or meat. It simply means you primarily eat foods from plants, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. There’s also a ton of evidence that shows an array of health benefits associated with this type of diet. In this article, we explore those benefits, what a plant-based diet entails, how to start a plant based diet and more.
Plant-based diets, such as the mediterranean and vegetarian diet, have been studied in-depth regarding their benefits.
The mediterranean diet focuses on including a high amount of plant-based foods, as well as fish, chicken, cheese, eggs and yogurt a few times a week. Other meat is also included in this diet occasionally. Research indicates that this type of diet helps reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, depression and even some cancers.
Similarly, vegetarian diets have shown to reduce one’s risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Plant-based diets help individuals obtain the necessary healthy fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins that a person needs to function at their best. Another piece of good news is that the plant-based diet requires little restriction. You can still enjoy a variety of foods. However, more strict plant-based diets, such as veganism, may require a more disciplined approach or supplements to ensure the person receives the right amount of nutrients.
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
So, what are the other benefits of a plant-based diet? What should you know?
1. Weight Maintenance
Since a plant-based diet doesn’t contain a lot of pre-packaged and processed foods, it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight. Your body is also receiving the nutrients it requires, which avoids most dysfunctions.
2. Prevention of Life-Threatening Diseases
A plant-based diet doesn’t just help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. It also may help reverse these conditions, contributing to a better quality of life.
3. Environmentally Friendly
This type of diet tends to leave less of an environmental impact than other diets, such as the carnivore diet. Although, it does depend on where you are getting your vegetables from. For example, if you’re buying an exotic fruit shipped from half-way around the world, you aren’t exactly significantly reducing your environmental footprint.
In a plant-based diet, you can enjoy an array of food, including:
- Vegetables: peppers, corn, avocado, spinach, kale and more.
- Fruits: blueberries, strawberries, bananas, grapes, oranges, etc.
- Root Vegetables: potatoes, carrots, beets and more.
- Legumes: beans and lentils.
- Whole Grains: quinoa, barely, rice, oats and popcorn.
Again, meats and dairy are enjoyed occasionally, such as a couple times a week. But where can you get started? How can you ease into this healthy diet? Here are a few tips!
1. Go Slow
Don’t make sudden changes all at once. Instead, consider incorporating more plant-based snacks and meals into your regular rotation. Make it gradual and have fun with it by finding new recipes to look forward to.
2. Limit Processed Foods
It is really easy to eat more plant-based items when you aren’t eating pre-packaged or processed foods as much. These types of foods often contain few nutrients and are high in calories. In other words, you’ll want to incorporate many whole foods, which fall right under a plant-based diet.
3. Build Your Meals Around Veggies Instead of Meat
Usually, the meat is the focal point of the meal. Start swapping out this way of thinking. Plan your veggies then choose other items to go with them.
4. Ensure You Get Enough Protein
A lot of people on strict plant-based diets struggle to eat enough protein. It may help to track your protein intake and find other sources of protein besides meat.
5. Make Fruit Your Dessert
Sugar isn’t necessarily bad for you. But what the sugar is in might be, such as processed foods or baked treats. Luckily, fruit is the best natural source of sugar. Plus, it contains a ton of great nutrients. Start incorporating fruit as your dessert or for a quick and sweet snack.
While plant-based diets can help prevent and even reverse certain chronic diseases, it’s always important to discuss your options with your doctor. You should not come off any prescribed medication without your doctor’s approval and supervision.
If you’re planning on transitioning to a plant-based diet, give it time. It takes time and effort to change your habits and adjust to a new way of living. But it’s absolutely possible! There are so many benefits associated with it that you’ve got nothing to lose. Start incorporating more plants in your diet today; as you can see, the idea of how to start a plant based diet isn't as difficult as many make it out to be!
- Harvard Health Publishing (What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it?)
- Forks over Knives (Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to a Plant-Based Diet)
- Forbes (How To Smoothly Transition To A Plant-Based Diet)
- MD Anderson Cancer Center (5 benefits of a plant-based diet)
- The Permanente Journal (Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets)