So what is a plant-based lifestyle? There are many diet plans people follow to achieve a healthy lifestyle and different routines work for different people.
While most people are aware of vegan and vegetarian diets, there are other in-betweens that help balance your food consumption and patterns for healthier, more beneficial results.
One of these diet types is a plant-based diet. Now, you probably think of vegan or vegetarian as soon as plants become the highlight of the diet plan, but they are not all the same.
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Difference between vegan, vegetarian, and a plant-based diet
A vegetarian diet eliminates meat from the menu, meaning no beef, chicken, lamb, fish, or seafood in any form is included in your meal plans. Instead, you resort to all other food groups for your required nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
A vegan diet takes this one step further excluding all kinds of animal-derived products from your diet. This means that meat, dairy, and anything involving animal produce is out of the question. This also means there is a much heavier reliance on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and beans in order to meet the body’s natural requirements.
Finally, there is the topic of the day, the plant-based diet. This is a lesser extreme from both vegetarian and vegan diets. Meat is not boycotted completely in this case but reduced as much as possible. You’re inclined instead to hyper-focus on plants as your main ingredients for every meal.
Dairy is also on the table as an option, but once again not made to be the primary focal point. In all your meals, the plant ratio is proportionately greater than everything else on your plate. All foods derived directly from plants are prioritized and encouraged over other food groups.
Start cooking plant-based meals. Try this delicious Lemony Broccoli Mushroom Quinoa Casserole!
How to start a plant-based diet
Just like any other diet, starting a plant-based diet also takes time, commitment, and research. You need to be able to understand what is expected from the lifestyle before you invest in it.
- The easiest way to settle into a plant-based diet is by going green. Make veggies the highlight of your dishes and binge-read up on vegetarian recipes beforehand. When choosing veggies, be sure to pick a whole rainbow of options trying everything at least once.
- In the two bigger meals of the day, be sure to cover more than or at least half your plate with veggies. Try to commit to at least one vegetarian meal a day to reach your desired veggie intake.
- If you can’t make your meals 100% veggie-themed, then make all your daytime, afternoon, and evening snacks solely fruits and veggies.
- There are other food groups to focus on as well such as whole grains and fruits. Fruits, being sweet and delectable in smaller amounts can be the perfect snacks and sweet treats to treat yourself to.
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and barley are all easy options to implement into your daily breakfast.
- You can have healthier fat options such as olive oil, nuts and nut butters, avocados, and seeds to balance out your snacking needs or toppings on meals and dishes.
- Finally, there is how to handle meat. Meat, though not completely eliminated from meals can be sidelined as much as possible. Avoid making any sort of meat the centerpiece of your meals. Instead, use it as a garnish, appetizer, or side dish with your bigger meals to enjoy without overpowering the focus of plant-based foods.
Here is a complete Plant-Based Beginners Guide to help you on your journey!
Different types of vegetarian diets
Just as there are different diet plans, you’ll also find sub-categorized plans within bigger plans. In short, there is more than one type of vegetarian diet, most of which you’ll notice working splendidly as a base for a plant-based diet.
First, there is the semi-vegetarian diet. Also known as the flexitarian diet, it has the same goal in mind as the plant-based diet, which is to prioritize plant-based foods. There is no restriction on meat and dairy products, but they are sidelined for the purpose of concentrating on plants.
Next up, there is the pescatarian diet. This dieting plan allows eggs, dairy products, fish, and seafood to be included into your meals but not meat or poultry. It’s one step closer to an actual vegetarian diet without quite reaching the finish line.
Finally, there is the intriguing Mediterranean diet. This diet is diverse in style and not very restrictive in nature. The most encouraged foods within this diet are all plant-based including fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and herbs.
Then there are fish, seafood, and virgin olive oil making it closer to the pescatarian diet than the flexitarian one.
Poultry, eggs, dairy, and red meat are allowed though highly discouraged. So, if a recipe calls for them, you can include them. Just try not to use recipes that center these foods as their main ingredients.
Completely out of the question are refined, processed, and foods and beverages with high levels of added sugar. These can all be dangers to your diet that are not welcome in your stomach.
Supplements and a plant-based diet
One concern that stands is that people following a plant-based diet may not get enough vitamins and minerals when looking for alternatives to meat in the diet.
To counter this, some people are advised to also take supplements on the side by health professionals. Talk to your doctor, before taking any form of supplement.
Some of the most common ones include the following:
Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B 12 is important in maintaining the health of the nervous system and gets utilized during the creation of new blood cells. You can find this vitamin in mushrooms and seaweed otherwise.
Vitamin D is an essential component in boosting bone health and overall immunity. Though the easiest and most obvious way to attain vitamin D is through sun exposure you can also locate it in fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms.
Calcium, considered the staple for building and protecting bones, is easy to incorporate in a plant-based diet via leafy and other greens like broccoli, kale, and collard greens. Not only are these excellent sources but also deliver high absorption rates.
Once you research and commit to a plant-based lifestyle, you’ll find that it’s not that different from regular eating patterns. You eliminate the harmful foods, reduce other food groups, and prioritize all that Mother Nature gave you through greens.
Learn more on What Plant-Based Foods are High in Calcium?
Low iron is a serious issue, and quite common to come across.
Even though plant foods contain non-heme iron, it’s harder for the body to digest and it can become hard to meet iron requirements solely through plants.
Heme iron, on the other hand, is found in meat, poultry, and seafood as is much more easily digested.
You can find non-heme iron on lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and cruciferous green veggies. If you combine these iron-laden, plant-based foods with vitamin C filled fruits, you’ll get better results as vitamin C makes it easier to digest this type of iron.
Fish, shellfish, and dairy are good sources of iodine. However, if you’re avoiding these, then you can use seaweed, fruits, vegetables, and iodized salt to meet your requirements.
Zinc is another nutrient abundant in red meat, oysters, crab, and poultry. In the plant kingdom, you can use pumpkin seeds, baked beans, chickpeas, and cashews to source this mineral.
Soaking your zinc sources like nuts and seeds is advised as this removes the phytates present which otherwise make it harder to digest food and is not desirable.
To get started on your plant-based journey, check out my plant-based recipes and begin a healthy relationship with food, by starting to cook your own recipes.
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