Switching to a plant based diet is gaining in popularity due to documentaries such as Forks over Knives, What The Health and The Game Changers. The reason for the surge in popularity is because these documentaries show the proven health and environmental benefits that a plant based diet gives. In fact, it is now estimated that in just the USA approximately one third of people are attempting to eat more whole plant based foods.
Also, given the rise of prominent actors and athletes promoting this type of dietary lifestyle and also events such as Veganuary is it any wonder that it is on the rise?
So, what exactly is a plant based diet?
“A plant-based diet is one that centers on whole plant foods, namely vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices,” says Julieanna Hever, California-based nutritionist, founder of Plant-Based Dietitian and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.
One thing that people often do is to confuse a plant based diet with being vegan, they are slightly different phillophosies. “A vegan diet can be plant-based, but a plant-based diet is not necessarily always vegan,” states Hever.
So, why is adopting a plant based diet so beneficial? Here is what Hever has to say on it:- “A plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to not only prevent but to reverse advanced-stage cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes”
Other research shows that adopting this style of eating also aids with managing weight, is linked to reducing certain types of cancers and maintaing healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
As reported by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
So if you are ready to start on your Whole Plant Based Diet what do you need to know to get going?
Well the easiest thing is to ease your way in to it and plan your meals for the week. “Start with meals you have always enjoyed that just happen to be plant-based, such as oatmeal, pasta primavera, jacket potatoes, veggie stir-fry, bean and rice burrito, lentil stew, or three-bean chili. Then build on those meals,” suggests Hever. “Since we’re creatures of habit, we tend to stick to fewer different dishes, so start slowly and learn this new language of food without any pressure to be perfect” is Hever’s advice. One pitfall a lot of people fall into is using a lot of vegan ready meals to help them transition. Lets be clear here, processed food is processed food and full of additives that aren’t good for you, so learn to prepare your food from scratch if you want to be eat healthily.
The most challenging part is probably trying to replace meat in foods such as chilli or bolognese. One idea is to substitue them with lentils and mushrooms or using textured vegetable protein. You can also use Jackfruit and Tofu to replace chicken in foods such as curries or casseroles. Interestingly, jackruit makes a great pulled pork as do shredded king oyster mushrooms!
Use online resources such as YouTube to get ideas and be prepared to experiment, you will probably find your food ideas become more creative, varied and interesting.
Stock up your cupboards with pulses grains and legumes and enjoy foods such as baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes to keep those energy levels high, and don’t worry about your protein levels, you will still get plenty of protein on a plant based diet.
Another place to get inspiration and ideas is Facebook, there are lots of vegan and plant based groups on there that you can join and get support and advice from people that have already started this journey.
There are also online programs such as 1 month vegan challenge which can help you to stay focused and succeed in making the transition. Not only do they give you meal plans and tips but they will also take you through how to use a plant based diet to lose weight. Additionally there is advice on how to deal with the pressures that can come with adopting this lifestyle as unfortunately there can be ridicule and pressure from people who don’t understand why you would want to stop eating meat.
So to sum up, it doesn’t have to be difficult to switch to a plant based diet, you just have to remember to take your time, plan your shopping and meals and plug into the support that is out there and available for you, and more importantly feel proud of yourself for doing something that is good for your health, good for the environment and saving lives of animals that are being slaughtered for meat.