A Newbies Guide to Plant-Based Diets

A plant-based diet is free of animal products such as meat, eggs, and milk. Instead, such a diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and plant-based oils.

Key takeaways:

A plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, boost the immune system, and maintain a healthy body weight.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Switching to a plant-based diet means relying on plants and whole foods for daily nutrition. Animal products such as poultry, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey are completely avoided.

Plant-based is sometimes used interchangeably as vegan or vegetarian. However, a vegan diet focuses more on the aversion to all animal products but not necessarily encouraging the consumption of whole foods. In addition, religious beliefs sometimes influence a vegan diet.

Eating more plant-based foods has significant benefits. Research shows that a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Excellent evidence shows that a plant-based diet can prevent colon cancer.

A 2022 review based on three million subjects found a significant correlation between a plant-based diet and reduced risk of cancers of the digestive system. These benefits are due to the low saturated fat levels, high fiber content, and sugar regulation of plant-rich diets. Other benefits of a plant-based diet include maintaining a healthy body weight and boosting the immune system.

Common mistakes people make when switching to a plant-based diet

Unfortunately, our diets are an inseparable part of our lives, and deciding to say goodbye to all animal foods can be a big decision. Sometimes people make this decision without giving it enough thought and making adequate plans. Deciding to transition to a plant-based diet is great for your health. However, because benefits accrue over time, this way of eating requires consistency. Here are some common mistakes people make when switching to a plant-based diet.

Not eating enough food

A plant-based diet doesn’t mean eating light. Avoid cutting out filling foods and consuming only juices and salads. Yes, they are healthy options, but the body needs calories to maintain health and energy. If you are always hungry or fatigued, this may be a sign you are not eating enough. Your body needs calories, and switching to a plant-based diet doesn’t mean deprivation of more filling foods. Foods like potatoes, yams, rice, and beans are excellent plant sources of carbs for energy.

Assuming all vegan options are healthy

There are so many vegan processed and junk foods out there today. However, understand that just because something is vegan doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthy. Some of these foods have lots of added sugars and saturated fats and lack the necessary nutrients your body needs. When choosing to transition to a plant-based diet, it’s best to consume whole foods whenever possible while limiting the consumption of processed foods.

Worrying about protein levels

Meat and poultry are synonymous with protein, so avoiding these animal products can keep one wondering if they are consuming enough protein. However, the truth is that plant foods are also excellent sources of protein; therefore, you need not worry. Some amazing plant sources of protein include tofu, spinach, legumes, beans, and broccoli.

Overthinking the switch to a plant-based diet

Changing your diet can be overwhelming, and you may find yourself constantly thinking of what to eat. Making this change doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start simply by taking small, consistent steps. You don't have to make a sudden switch but rather ease into it. Perhaps start with one plant-based meal a day and gradually increase your consumption of plant-based meals until you are comfortable with eating plant-based meals every day.

Not planning properly

A plant-based diet needs proper planning. Doing some research into the nutritional content of foods and meal planning can help make the switch easier. You can also try using a meal planning app to stay more organized with your dish planning. Additionally, plant-based recipes can help with planning the meals. Also, if you’re planning to eat out, looking at the menu beforehand can help you decide on what to order.

Tips for switching to a plant-based diet

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Make sure to include vegetables in your meals. Switch from snacking on junk foods to fruits and vegetables.

Gradually remove meat from our diet

You don’t have to quit meat and poultry all at once. Start by reducing the amount you eat and gradually remove it completely from your diet. Remember its progress over perfection.

Eat a whole-grain full breakfast

Start your day with whole grains for energy and vitality. Oatmeal, wheat, and quinoa are excellent options.

Stick to healthy options

Not all vegan foods are healthy. Choose whole foods and avoid processed foods. Pay attention to the amount of pasta, rice, and bread you eat. Try to consume 100% whole wheat bread and pasta whenever possible.

Plan your meals

As mentioned earlier, planning your meals makes things easier. Use healthy plant-based recipes to prepare meals; this helps you stay sorted for some time.

Embrace different salads

Salads are a great way to stick to a plant-based diet, so build your meals around them. Because there are so many different types of salads, it should be easy to stay excited about your next meal. For example, switch things up by adding beans, tofu, olives, or natural herbs to your bowl of vegetables.

Keep your dessert fresh

Swap the ice cream and cakes for fruits for dessert. Keep desserts simple and fresh.

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