A plant based diet for beginners should be fairly straight forward, however that isn’t always the case. We’re always being told to plan our weeks meals to make our busy lives easier. After all there is nothing worse than having a hard day at work and then not being able to decide what to have for an evening meal.
Now this great strategy can get thrown off track if you decide to change your eating habits, particularly if that eating habit means omitting something that you have probably always planned your meals around. Now all of a sudden you are having to have a total shift in thinking and become more creative in planning your meals.
I am of course talking about ditching the meat and switching to a plant based diet. Now without that bit of chicken or steak to plan your meals around it can leave you scratching your head, after all the veg always went with the meat, now what do you put with the veg?
Well the truth is that it doesn’t have to be that daunting. In fact it can be a lot easier as vegetables are great for being able to prepare them in bulk and then you have the perfect healthy ready meals to go to when you get in from work, saving you time and probably money.
Now, when you think plant based you probably think vegan diet which is not strictly true, as plant based is probably defined as getting the majority of your nutrients from plants which kind of leaves that little window of opportunity there for some meat or dairy. Whereas vegan is completely no animal products at all, and that extends to food groups such as honey and also avoiding any meat by-products such as leather. So yes there is room for meat on a plant based diet but I woulds say most people avoid consuming it for health reasons and go 100% plant based.
“For some people, plant-based means eating predominantly plants with some other whole foods, like dairy, eggs and even a little meat thrown in. For others, it’s eating only plants” says NYC-based registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, RD.
Once you have decided how you are going to approach your diet you can then focus on the weekly planning of it, and if you are going 100% plant based there are a couple of extra things you will need to bear in mind.
“For instance, if you’re vegan, you’ll have to pay more attention to getting protein, iron and Vitamin B12. If you eat dairy or eggs, you’ll have more access to those nutrients” says Rizzo. So obviously if you are omitting meat and dairy then you are probably going to want to look into getting some supplements to make up the shortfall.
One of the big misconceptions is that you are going to be lacking in protein, as it is widely thought you have to have meat to get protein, however there is an abundace of protein in plant food so don’t worry about having a protein shortage. After all, protein comes from plants and when we get it from meat we’re actually getting it from the plants they ate in the first place.
One of the reasons a lot of people decide to ditch the meat and dairy is to avoid the ingesting the fat that comes with it, after all this is now known to have a huge impact on heart health, but fat is needed in our diet. So, how do we replace it?
“Healthy unsaturated fats add texture to a dish, as well as increase the satiety factor. Add a little bit of healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado, or nuts to a plant-based dish to make sure it keeps you full for a long period of time,” says Rizzo.
Of course in this day and age there is a wealth of resources to help with a plant based diet for beginners, YouTube is crammed with videos, there are loads of plant based cookbooks on Amazon and there is also the brilliant 1 month vegan challenge which takes you step by step through your first month with everything you need to know and tons of food ideas.
So really there is no need to find it daunting, do some research, get some inspiration, plan your first week and away you go to a healthier version of you.