There seems to be a lot of talk about plant-based diets these days. With Netflix documentaries, magazine articles, and friends on Instagram talking about how obsessed they are with their plant-based diet, it might have you wondering …
Is a plant-based whole food diet for me?
But when you’ve been eating meat-based meals your whole life, the switch to plant-based can feel difficult, or even impossible. However, the transition doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Read on for an introduction to plant-based living and how you can incorporate plant-based foods into your routine.
What is a plant-based whole food diet?
A plant-based whole food diet emphasizes natural, non-processed foods.
Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t include any animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey. And in case you’re wondering, whole food just means natural foods that are not heavily processed.
If you’re on the fence about taking on a plant-based diet versus other options, such as vegan, we’ve written about plant-based versus vegan eating! It’s okay to explore your options to decide what way of eating resonates most with you and your values.
Health benefits of a plant-based diet
So now you may be curious if a plant-based diet will have a big impact on your health. The answer is … maybe! The impact of a plant-based diet varies from person to person.
There are a few health benefits consistently seen for people who eat plant-based, and this type of diet is largely supported by science!
People who eat a plant-based diet tend to be leaner and have an easier time with weight management than those who don’t. Being fueled by plants also makes it easier to lose weight and keep it off without counting calories. Eating less animal fat and more vegetables, fruits, and dietary fiber keeps calories and fat consumption at bay and promotes better digestion and metabolism.
Did you know that a plant-based whole food diet can prevent disease, too? Plant-based diets are high in antioxidants, which helps prevent, stop, or reduce the negative impact of inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Steering clear of heavily-processed foods also minimizes your exposure to harsh chemicals.
Other pros of a plant-based whole food diet
The benefits of a plant-based whole food diet don’t stop at your health! There are MANY other pros to living a plant-based lifestyle.
Positive impact on the environment: The environmental impact of the livestock industry is very high. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics all have an impact on the quality of our soil and air. Plus, livestock farming results in the depletion of fossil fuels and an increased amount of methane in the atmosphere. When you take on a plant-based diet, it can directly result in less stress to the environment.
Animal ethics: If you feel guilty when eating meat-based products, you’re not alone! Eating more plant-based meals lowers the demand for meat, dairy, and eggs, which reduces animal suffering on factory farms. If you’re not ready to go all in on a plant-based diet, switching to plant-based proteins even once a week can have a major impact on meat demand.
Exciting variety of food options: Plant-based whole food eating is having a moment, and there’s no shortage of yummy plant-based foods online and in your grocery store! In many cities, there are even plant-based cafes and restaurants devoted entirely to creating innovative and delicious plant-based meals.
Convenience: Believe it or not, plant-based meals can be prepared just as quickly as meals with meat! Many times, you can even find plant-based meals already prepared in the grab-and-go sections of your local grocery store. Keep your eyes peeled for bagged produce like already-washed salad greens and semi-prepared entrees and sides in the produce section.
Less costly: While eating fresh foods might seem more expensive, especially if they’re organic, other costs can be offset by eliminating meat, poultry, and/or fish. Foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and grains are inexpensive and filling. When you consider quantity and price, fresh foods go a loooong way in feeding yourself and your family in nutritious ways when compared to packaged foods.
Major food groups in plant-based whole food diet
So you’re ready to try a plant-based diet and are wondering what you can and can’t eat … what now?!
Here’s a quick overview of the common food categories you’ll get to enjoy on a plant-based diet:
Fruits: This includes any type of fruit such as apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, oranges, and blueberries.
Vegetables: The hero of the plant-based diet, if we do say so ourselves! ;) There are so many yummy veggies to choose from when starting your plant-based diet, like peppers, corn, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, and green beans.
Whole grains: This food group consists of starches in their whole form, like cereal, granola, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oats.
While the groups above are a great foundation to a plant-based diet, don’t forget that there are several other foods you can enjoy! A few examples are nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu, tempeh, and plant-based milks.
Best plant-based recipes
With a little practice in the kitchen, cooking for a plant-based diet can be easy! There are many tips and tricks you can use to make your favorite meat heavy recipes plant centric.
Try swapping the meat in your favorite chili with beans or lentils, grill black bean veggie burgers, or make vegetables the main focus of your stir fry recipe instead of shrimp.
Here are a few resources to test out some new plant-based recipes:
Plant-Based Juniors (great for parents with kids!)
And for those times when you want the taste of meat (without the meat)?! Proper Good’s got you covered. One of our favorite plant-based meals is our Southwest Chili, which is filled with meatless crumbles, beans, poblanos, and corn … with a chili this tasty, you won’t even miss the meat (trust us! ;) ).
See? Plant-based living doesn’t have to be complicated! It comes down to largely educating yourself on the process and planning meals in advance. We hope the foundational knowledge in this blog post is a good start as you embark on your plant-based whole food diet journey.