Choosing what to eat every day may not seem like a big deal, but what you put into your body for each meal has huge impact on your mind, your health and the earth. Taste of course is part of it, but it’s also important to consider the long-term impact that your food consumption will have on you, and the world around you. There are plenty of established diets that address some combination of these concerns. One diet that not only allows you to eat delicious food, but also has proven beneficial to your health and to the environment, is a plant-based diet. Having guidelines when it comes to your food consumption can be nerve-wrenching, and like any diet, a plant-based diet may seem intimidating at first, but we promise; this one is well worth the benefits. To get you started, we’ve created the ultimate guide to a plant-based diet with everything you need to know to feel comfortable and confident with these valuable eating habits.
What is a Plant-Based diet?
A plant-based diet is a style of food consumption that focuses on consuming plant-based foods, foods that come from plants, rather than animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy. While a plant-based diet focuses on consuming foods that come from plants, and plant-based foods should be the main focus of everything you eat, this diet does not completely exclude animal-based foods. Some people following a plant-based diet choose to eat some animal-based products, in which case it is important to focus on the quality of the product you are consuming.
Is Plant-Based the same as Vegan or Vegetarian?
Although they all possess similarities, a plant-based diet is not the same as a vegan or vegetarian diet. A vegan diet completely excludes all animal-based products. A vegetarian diet excludes meat and poultry, but still includes some animal products such as dairy. As mentioned above, a plant-based diet, on the other hand, does not completely exclude these things. A plant-based diet is much more flexible than a vegan or vegetarian diet. The important thing to remember when following a plant-based diet is that you should be consuming mostly plant-based foods.
What are the Benefits of a Plant Based Diet?
Nutritional and Health Benefits
Following a plant-based diet has proven to be very beneficial to your health in many different ways. Due to the essential nutrients in plant-based food that other foods do not possess, a plant-based diet both supports your immune-system and works to reduce inflammation in your body. Additionally, a plant-based diet is loaded with fiber which helps you lose weight and keep it off. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight can lead to further benefits such as a lower risk of cancer, a lower risk of diabetes, and a lower risk of heart disease. Eating less meat can also reduce the risk of stroke. A plant-based diet is also good for your overall wellness, as studies show that restricting your intake of meat, fish, and poultry can improve your mood and make you feel well-rested and more energetic.
A plant-based diet is also very sustainable. Consuming minimal amounts of animal-based products helps reduce greenhouse gasses that are created by livestock, and reduces water consumption. Ensuring that the animal-based products you do purchase are local and produced in the most sustainable way possible helps minimize factory farming; a major contributor to water and air pollution as well as deforestation.
Which Foods Should You Eat on a Plant-Based Diet?
While following a plant-based diet means limiting your intake of animal-based products, there are still many foods that you can eat, including:
Fruits- a great source of nutrients. We love smoothies made with our açaí and acerola
Vegetables- a plant-based diet includes lots of veggies
Whole Grains- starches in their whole form such as brown rice, quinoa, cereals, barley, oats, and more
Tubers- potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, etc. These are usually high in starch.
Legumes- lentils, chickpeas, all kinds of beans, etc.
Nuts/Seeds- Cashews, almonds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, etc
Plant based milks- Here are our top 10 favorite non-dairy milk alternatives.
Plant based proteins- tofu and tempeh are great forms of plant-based protein, but some of the foods listed above are also great sources of protein, such as lentils and nuts.
If consuming animal products: quality, sustainable, local, free range/wild caught- It is important to know where and how these products are being produced before purchasing them.
Foods to Avoid or Minimize on a Plant-Based Diet
These are foods that should not be consumed as part of a plant-based diet.
Fast food- Generally, even the “plant-based” food offered by fast food restaurants is extremely processed and may not be entirely plant based
Added sugars- corn syrup, fructose, etc.
Refined grains- white bread, refined pasta, white rice, etc.
Processed animal-based or plant-based products
As mentioned above, it is imperative to know where and how these foods are being processed, if you do choose to occasionally consume them.
Meat and poultry
Tips for Eating Out on a Plant-Based Diet
Just because you’re following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to skip eating out, however doing so may require a little bit of preparation. After selecting a restaurant that you want to go to, look at the menu online before you go to scope out their plant-based options. Next, call the restaurant ahead of time to learn more about where they source their food from and confirm which of their items are plant-based. If none of their menu items are plant-based, ask if they are able to make changes or substitutions in their menu items in order to make them compliant with your diet. These simple steps can ensure a smooth plant-based dining experience.
While a plant-based diet does come with restrictions on what you can consume, it does not unrealistically ask you to stop consuming the foods you love. Instead, a plant-based diet encourages you to consume the foods you love in a healthy, sustainable way. Now that you know all about what a plant-based diet is and the benefits this diet possesses, we encourage you to try it out for yourself and educate those around you. Choosing what to eat is a huge decision, so always make your decision count!