The science is there, eating a diet abundant in plants is beneficial for both your health and the environment. Vegan and vegetarian diets have been promoted for their preventative health benefits for decades by the majority of health professionals. Recent documentaries have brought this method of eating back to life with a new(ish) diet trend labeled “plant-based”.
This new twist on the vegetarian diet isn’t really all that new, but the label “plant based” has hit the mark. This branding, in my opinion, has made a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes trendy, more palatable, and easier to understand. While documentaries may push this message to extremes (a topic for another day), the important take away is aim to include more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins on your plate. “Eat food…mostly plants”!
What I love about this new title is that there are no hard and fast rules. Rules do not belong in the same sentence as food anyway. While the general guidelines push plants as the main focus, there is room for meat, poultry, dairy, fish, etc if you choose. There is no conclusive evidence to support that consuming small portions animal-based foods will negatively impact our health. In other words, vegan, pescatarian, and the Mediterranean diet all fall within the parameters of plant-based.
Does a plant-based diet guarantee you will never have cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer? No. Will you lose weight if you follow this diet? Maybe or maybe not. Weight loss is never a guarantee with any diet, and poor marker of health. More on weight loss another time.
What the science does show is that an average of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day correlates with a reduced risk of CVD and cancer in comparison to fewer than five. There are many plant-based proteins that are vegetables. There is also an inverse relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and risk for above stated diseases. In other words, as intake of fruits and vegetables increases the risk of disease decreases.
Bottom line… Is it beneficial to eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Yes! Do you have to eat a perfect five everyday to gain these benefits? No! You can also include animal based foods, processed foods, and high fat foods in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and still benefit.
If this is a method of eating you would like to adopt, go for it. As I always do, I urge you to make these changes slowly and sustainably. Be mindful of any extremes, as this can be detrimental to your health in other ways. Remember, there is no perfect.
Four tips to ease you into a plant-based diet:
1. Transition the proportions: A good first step is to adjust the portion sizes of the food groups you eat during your meal. Do this by reducing the amount of meat your serve yourself and replace with veggies. Typically eat 8oz of animal-based protein at a meal? Cut it back to 6oz for a few weeks, followed by 3-4oz after that.
2. Make the vegetables the star: When preparing a meal the focus is often around the protein (animal based) and the veggies are an afterthought. Instead, choose a vegetable and find a recipe that highlights that ingredient as the main attraction/ingredient. Enjoying vegetables is a huge part of the equation after all.
3. Meatless Monday: Pick one day of the week to eliminate animal products from your meals. Meatless Monday is campaign that began in 2003 with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15% worldwide. Their website is a great resource for recipes that will help you keep the faux meat to a minimum.
4. Meet with a Dietitian: If you plan to cut animal products out of your diet meeting with a dietitian is a good place to start. We can educate you on the nutrients you may be missing in your diet, how to plan your meals to get the most out of your diet, and to guide you in successfully making the transition. Interested in making an appointment you can read about our services here or book a complementary discovery call.