Transitioning to Plant-based Eating

  • Published
  • By Kirsten David
  • Health Promotion Flight

Plant-based diets exclude animal products to varying degrees and promote a way of consuming food that is primarily focused on plants. The term “plant-based diet/nutrition” refers to what foods are encouraged for the majority of food intake which is whole/minimally processed vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), whole grains, seeds and nuts. There are many different types of plant-based diets and nutrition. To name a few: the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, flexitarian diet, pescatarian diet, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and vegan diet are all different types of plant-based diets.

Plant-based eating recommendations have become common among mainstream medical groups like the American Cancer Society, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American College of Cardiology. There is mounting evidence that a plant-based diet can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers. Other reasons one might consider a plant-based way of eating are concerns over environmental conservation and sustainability, ethical concerns regarding the treatment of animals, and religious influences.

The many health benefits of plant-based eating are very clear and there are some easy ways to get started. You probably already like a lot of plant-based foods and recipes. Think about what those are and make them staples to your diet.  It could be oatmeal and fruit, a bean burrito or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you have some favorite recipes that include meat, see if you can adapt them to be more plant-focused. For instance, switching from a beef chili recipe to a 3-bean chili recipe or instead of making beef hamburgers try black bean burgers. There are probably some plant-based foods you have never tried before too! So have an open mind and try some new plant-based foods like tempeh, tofu or nutritional yeast.

Start thinking of some plant-based recipes you would like to try and build a grocery list around those and stock your pantry with the basics. If you are on a budget, make sure to check what you already have in your pantry and then add onto your grocery list with other plant-based foods that you still need.

To get you started, here are some staples for a plant-based diet: canned or dried beans, pastas and noodles, nuts, seeds, nut & seed butters, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus, non-dairy milks, quinoa, brown rice, oats and other whole grains, salsas and low sodium tomato/pasta sauce. By creating a plant-based grocery list before you go to the store, it will give you a plan, prevent impulse buys and ensure you have healthy meals on hand for the entire week! Meal planning is crucial to stay on track in the beginning of your plant-based journey.

Involve the entire family when you transition to more plant-based meals. Children are more likely to try and enjoy foods they have helped select and prepare. Take your child grocery shopping with you and have them pick out a fruit or vegetable and have them help prepare it at home. Ease your family into plant-based eating by offering foods they already like but with a plant-based twist. For example, include pizza with more vegetables on top, or bean burgers and sweet potato fries. Get creative and your family will be surprised at how delicious plant-based recipes can be!

You can still eat out at restaurants and follow a plant-based diet too. Many restaurants now offer healthy, delicious plant-based options so don’t forget to ask your server where they are located on the menu. Some examples of these options are: a vegetable wrap or veggie sandwich and black bean soup, tofu and veggie stir fry with brown rice, whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and vegetables. 

Remember you are transitioning to plant-based eating to better your health. Focus on the progress you are making toward more plant-based foods and eventually these whole plant foods will become the rule and processed, packaged and animal-based foods will become the exception. It takes time to make new changes become a habit. but by following some of these simple guidelines you will be well on your way to a healthier diet and lifestyle. 

For more information on plant-based eating please contact Kirsten David at 846-1483.