No, this is not a lecture on why you need to become a vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist or any of the other eating plants you think I’m talking about when I say plant-based. While those are perfectly good eating plans and lifestyle choices, that will not be the topic of today’s discussion. Instead, I’d like to explain what I mean when I say ‘plant-based,’ and why I think we should all be on a plant-based diet.
What is a ‘Plant-Based Diet’?
A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like. A majority of the foods eaten are fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These four foods should be at the forefront of a your diet. Note that a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat or animal products! In fact, I personally think animal products like chicken, pork, beef, eggs, and shellfish are great sources of complete proteins and should be consumed regularly. Thus, a plant-based diet doesn’t mean a complete omission of animal products. It very well could be followed this way, but ultimately you should include lots of plant based foods in your meals and snacks.
While the plant-based diet is very inclusive in terms of meat and animal products, it definitely has some foods on the no-no list. Those foods include:
- Processed/Packaged foods(Chips, cookies, crackers, cakes, if it comes in a box/bag basically don’t eat it)
- Fast Food
- Foods with more than nine grams of sugar (excluding fruit)
- Refined carbohydrates (white rice, white bread, white pasta, etc.)
- Foods with high sodium content (over 500 mg)
- Foods with high saturated fat levels and/or trans fat
This list is basically five ways of saying NO JUNK FOOD! That’s right, there is no junk food or refined foods eaten on the plant-based diet. If it comes in a box or a bag, stay away! These foods are full of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and GMOs that your body can’t metabolize, making you unhealthy and sick.
You might be wondering about the nine grams of sugar rule. Dietitians and medical professionals suggest that it only takes nine grams of refined sugar to create a spike in blood sugar levels. This means that on a plant-based diet, try to avoid most sweets like candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream and other products that are high in sugar.
Of course, I know that it’s really hard to eat clean and plant-based all the time. Sometimes there are moments where you’re on the go and need to eat a protein bar in place of the meal. If that’s the case, fine. Just read the ingredients list and try to pick something that’s still within the guidelines of the plant-based diet. That means nothing with an incredible amount of sugar or weird ingredients you have trouble pronouncing.
Why A Plant-Based Diet?
Don’t think of a plant-based diet as some new fad. A plant-based diet is one of the oldest way of eating out there, and that’s because it’s a natural and normal way of eating. In layman’s terms, our bodies were designed to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats. That’s all the plant-based diet really is! It’s by no means a ‘diet’ in that you eat this way for a while to lose weight, then go back to your normal eating habits only to gain weight back. A plant-based diet is a way of life.
Don’t confuse a plant-based diet with a raw food diet! While raw foodists advocate for eating all fruits and vegetables in the raw, eating a plant-based diet allows and even encourages you to cook some of your vegetables and fruits. Did you know that carrots actually release MORE beta-carotene when cooked or stewed on low heat for a prolonged period of time? Cooking fruits and vegetables was once thought to destroy all the valuable enzymes they contained. However, we’re now discovering that there are benefits to cooking produce.
Another great benefit about a plant-based diet is it fits into a variety of eating habits. Whether you’re vegetarian, low-carb, low-fat gluten-free, or kosher, you can still follow a plant-based diet.
A Sample Plant-Based Diet
Here’s an idea of a sample plant-based diet to follow. This is by no means all you can eat, but just to show you that a plant-based diet isn’t as difficult as you would think!
- Not Your Mother’s Chicken Salad
- 1 slice sprouted grain bread
- Plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh strawberries, some raw walnuts, and a drizzle of raw honey
- French-Inspired Roasted Cauliflower Soup
- 3-5 ounces grilled chicken
- 1/2-1 cup brown rice
- Steamed/Sauteed broccoli
See how easy it is to follow a plant-based diet? Fruits and vegetables are in every meal. Add some protein and a few whole grains and you have a balanced diet that is wholesome, satisfying, and delicious. Sure, there is plenty of meat, dairy, and other animal products on this sample eating plan, but each meal is also packed full of nutrient-rich vegetables.
If you’re not used to eating more fruits and vegetables in your diet, start slowly with one or two more servings each day. Before you know it, you’ll be eating fruits and vegetables all day long! Stay tuned for more posts about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Happy eats everyone!