Omnivore. Vegetarian. Vegan. Plant based. In a world of ever fluctuating dieting culture and macro tracking, you’ve probably heard of these terms before. The “newest” trend to emerge (although actually not quite new at all) is “plant-based” and it’s picking up steam as health crises across the globe escalate and climate change continues to be a topic of rising concern.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet focuses largely on whole, unrefined and unprocessed foods and is largely based on plants rather than animal products.
The key types of foods that a plant-based diet focuses on are:
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Nuts + Seeds
How is plant-based different from a vegan diet? One of the key differences is the focus: a plant-based diet focuses on what is eaten (whole, unrefined foods) while a vegan diet more focuses on what isn’t eaten (any animal products) and also, a key tenet of veganism is the ethics and moral stance behind it, which is adhering to a strict lifestyle that doesn’t contain animal products/use/exploitation in any form. For example, not eating meat but also, not buying leather shoes (leather comes from cow skin). Here’s a great chart to break down the differences:
The Blue Zones:
The Blue Zones are 5 different areas in the world that have the oldest population and are considered some of the healthiest in the world. These places are: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.
What do these 5 places have in common? There are 9 common denominators that are outlined here (https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/) but one of the most important is that these 5 locations adhere to a plant-based lifestyle with a very sparing inclusion of animal based products. Check out the chart below for a visual representation of the Blue Zones Food Guidelines:
Why transition to a plant-based lifestyle?
While each person has his/her own individual story and reasons for doing so, there are some popular reasons that are enticing many to adopt a change in their habits:
- Health + Disease Prevention
- Weight Loss + Management
- Environmental Impact
Did you know: the prevalence of adult obesity in the USA is 42.4%?
Obesity-related conditions include: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
The healthful and wholesome consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts and seeds have been illustrated in various studies to help prevent these diseases and in some cases, even reverse certain diseases (diabetes, heart disease, obesity). On the other hand, high consumption of red meat, processed and cured meats, refined sugars, flours and oils have been documented to contribute to obesity, heart disease and more.
From an environmental standpoint, animal farming (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, egg) has been highlighted as a major stressor to the Earth: increased greenhouse gas emissions, stripping the ocean of oxygen, polluting rivers and streams, interrupting the natural ecosystems and food chains, and more. Reducing the amount of animal products we consume helps the climate and the planet.
How to get started:
Now that you have a surface introduction to a plant-based diet and why it can be a powerful lifestyle for you and the planet, let’s talk about how to get started. I’ll be sharing some of the most important tips and tricks for becoming more plant-based.
- Progress over perfection. Some people work well going cold turkey. Some people work well with some incremental changes. Whatever path you choose, focus on doing better each day rather than being in perfect accordance with the food guidelines. Getting healthier should be fun; not an additional stressor.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. The rate that habits are changed vary from person to person. Some of you may start at 20% plant-based and some of you may already be 60% plant-based. Focus on your own exciting journey and not others. The only person you have to compete against is yourself so focus on tomorrow being better than today and not what Karen is doing.
- Start small. I have found it most effective to start with a few incremental changes at a time. Going cold turkey is not for most people and too many changes at once can become overwhelming and unsustainable for a lot of people. Nail down one change and then move to the next.
- One of my favorite ways to help others become more plant-based is to start with changing breakfast. Starting the day off strong can really set the tone for the rest of your meal choices throughout the day and it’s also one of the easiest things to change. For breakfast, try these options: oatmeal, avocado toast, tofu scramble, or a healthy pancake. I have recipes for these that can be found here (thewholescoopblog.com)
- Change your environment. This is a big one so let’s break it down into a few categories!
- Clean out your pantry and stock up. If you have potato chips in the pantry, then you will eat the potato chips. Start with a proper cleanse and surround yourself with the foods you want to eat more of.
- Control your information flow. Social media is a big part of the information we get every day. Are you surrounding yourself with plant-based information and recipes or are you being submerged in unhealthy food feeds? Seeing these pictures on the day to day can trigger emotional food cravings.
- Preparation is key. Do you have a proper grocery list and meal plan for the week? Do you have a list of healthy takeout options? Do you have go-to friends that support your journey to more plant-based choices? Do you meal prep and will that help you adhere more to a healthier lifestyle? These are all important questions to ask yourself as you begin or continue your journey.
Let’s face it: there’s a ton of information on the internet and it can be overwhelming to try and sift through it all. The debates about food have gone on for decades and it doesn’t seem to be slowing: evil sugar, are eggs good or bad, the effects of meat, processed flours, bad fats, protein protein protein — and many more.
So let me leave you with a tidbit of information to keep top of mind as you consider embarking or choose to embark on a plant-based journey: there may be debates about meat, sugar, eggs, etc., but the universal consensus in the scientific community is this: vegetables are good for you. Start with that and run with it.
Check out my blog www.thewholescoopblog.com