When you hear “plant-based diet”, automatically it is assumed that the entire diet will consists of vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables. Although this may be the case for some diets, this isn’t particularly true for plant-based diets. Plant based diets are based around vegetables, but other components such as animal based proteins and whole grains are added to the diet to make it more appealing or to suit the consumer’s dietary needs. In fact, getting started with a plant-based diet is quite easy.
Plant-based diets come in different forms, including:
- Pescatarian – a diet that consists of mainly of fish, seafood, select dairy items, but no meat.
- Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian – a diet that consists of occasional meat consumption, select dairy items, fish, and seafood.
- Vegetarian – a diet that consists of select dairy and poultry, fish, seafood, but no meat.
- Vegan – a plant-based diet that does not include any animal foods.
The first thing that you must do is understand your own dietary needs. Are you looking to lose weight? Are you trying to control an underlying disease? Or are you wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Understanding what your goals are and what needs to be either changed or incorporated into your diet makes a world of a difference in planning out the plant-based diet. In most cases, people seek this type of diet out to lose weight and to live healthier. Here are some tips on how to get started with planning your diet.
1. This diet revolves around YOU. Not the other way around! This means that if your dietary needs must include some type of animal protein, then incorporating your choice of protein is important. However, understand that the ratio of vegetables to animal protein will be 2:1. Consider meat to be a “garnish” rather than the centerpiece of your meal.
2. Eat lots of vegetables! A plant-based diet does not have to be as mundane as it seems. Add all-natural spices to your vegetables if you’re not totally comfortable with the “plain” taste. Remember, the less processed the vegetable the better it is for you. This means going to local farmer’s markets, selecting organic vegetables over those who have been treated with pesticides, and going for those leafy greens. The greener the vegetable, the better it is for your digestive system.
3. Think about the good fats (monounsaturated fats). A good diet consists of good fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and the fats in olive oil. Cooking with olive oil or grape seed oil can give you the right amount of fats that you need in your diet, but it’s recommended that solid fats are incorporated for better absorption.
4. Stay away from the artificial sweeteners! If you’re craving sweets, try a natural one: fruit. No matter the type of fruit you choose, make sure that it’s organic. The less pesticides we ingest, the better. Fruit contains natural sugars that help balance our blood sugar levels.
Whichever diet you choose to follow, it will be tailored to your dietary needs. Working your way into a totally plant-based diet will take some time as your body will need to become acclimated with the introduction of raw vegetables and fruits. Plant-based diets are better for the body as they promote a healthier digestive system, reduce the feeling of being “bogged” down by meals that focus solely on meat being the centerpiece, and allow for more consumption and absorption of water.