THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO A PLANT-BASED DIET
Why and how to put plants first.
WHAT’S A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Contrary to popular belief, a whole food, plant-based diet is not necessarily vegan. (It doesn’t have to be vegetarian, either.) A plant-based diet is low in animal products and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
The best part? Nothing is off limits. You can still eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy—including the occasional ice cream cone and slice of pizza. You just have to prioritize plant foods while minimizing animal products, sweets and highly processed foods. (Most adults can benefit from a plant-based diet but always consult your doctor before making any drastic changes.)
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Better for the environment.
Cutting back on animal products reduces your carbon footprint. According to the United Nations, the conventional meat and dairy industry is responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of global greenhouse emissions, and scientists have found that going meat and dairy free is one of the most significant ways to reduce your environmental impact.
May help you lose weight.
A plant-based diet can help with weight loss and maintenance because it focuses on whole foods which are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Fiber-rich foods like veggies, soy, legumes and whole grains fill you up faster and help you to feel full longer. Animal products are also higher in fat so reducing the amount of meat and dairy can also reduce your caloric intake.
Improves heart health.
Whole plant-based foods are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. According to a 2018 study, following a vegetarian diet is associated with a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease while following a vegan diet can actually help reverse CHD. The review also cited a 34 percent reduced risk of hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease.
Protects your brain.
Eating green does a body good, but now there’s evidence that it’s good for your brain too. Thanks to the antioxidants and phytochemicals found in plants, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Whether you go all in or take it one step at a time, check out our top tips to make the transition.
Fill up on vegetables.
Make a meal out of a salad or eat veggies for breakfast (add frozen kale to your smoothie or spinach to your eggs). Don’t forget that seaweed counts too.
Making plant-based substitutions is a great way to get started. For example, swap mayo for hummus. Or try soy, almond or oat milk instead of dairy milk. Make your favorite tacos with crumbled tofu instead of ground beef.
Try Meatless Mondays.
Cutting back on animal products for just one day a week or even one meal a day can have an impact on your health and the environment.
Change the way you think about meat.
Use it as a garnish instead of a main course or eat regeneratively farmed meat and dairy products that embrace sustainable farming methods.
Eat fruit for dessert.
Desserts are typically made with lots of dairy or eggs (or both). Satisfy your sweet tooth with ripe strawberries, a crisp apple or a juicy peach instead.
Prep your pantry.
Stock up on grains, nuts, canned beans and frozen fruits and veggies so it’s easy to incorporate plants throughout the day.
WHAT’S SEAWEED GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Getting enough of certain nutrients like iron, iodine, Vitamin B12, calcium and magnesium can be more challenging on a plant-based diet, especially a strict vegan one. A serious superfood, seaweed can be an easy way to get more of what your body needs. Make veggie sushi rolls or crumble seaweed sheets over grain bowls and salads for a tasty hit of umami. Once you get started, you’ll discover how quick, painless and delicious plant-based eating can be.