Exploring a Plant-Based Diet

In recent years I’ve opted for a more plant-based diet, and now, going through IIN’s Health Coach Training Program, I’m even more invested in this way of life.

All personal/religious views aside, a plant-based diet is good for your health and the planet as a whole. Plant-based diets are not necessarily fully vegetarian or vegan, although they can be. Plant-based simply means most of the food that you eat are plant products. You can still eat animal products (if you so choose) but the focus is on consuming more plants than anything else – this includes decreasing processed foods. I’ve transitioned into a plant-based diet where most of what I eat are plants, with some consciously sourced fish and chicken sprinkled in here & there. I have more energy, feel stronger, and am still full without feeling sleepy or weighed down.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a hard change to make, especially when you use a method called crowding out. With climate change being severely impacted by industrial agriculture, now is a great time to make a change. Educate yourself about where your food comes from and how it was grown, try out some new recipes, and up your intake of plant products like fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts & seeds. Now, if you’re asking well what the heck is crowding out, then let’s discuss. Crowding out is simply adding more healthy nutritious foods to your diet, in doing so your body naturally craves less of the bad stuff (like sugar and processed foods) and more of the good stuff. Basically, bringing in more of the good naturally pushes out more of the bad. So for instance, say you normally eat 1 cup of veggies and 2 cookies per day but your goal is to eat less cookies. Increase your veggies to 1.5 cups a day for a while, then maybe up to 2 cups and suddenly you realize you only want 1 cookie a day. Take it a bit further and increase it to 2.5 cups of veggies for a while, maybe then you realize you only want 1 cookie every couple days. The point isn’t to deprive yourself of the cookies, it’s to focus on adding more veggies. Eventually your body won’t want any of the processed food (ie. cookies) you used to fill your diet with because it is functioning happily on the good food (ie. veggies). This is a great and fairly easy way to transition into a more plant-based diet. Only instead of cookies, maybe it’s red meat or dairy for you.

Another misconception about plant-based diets is that you don’t get enough protein with them. This isn’t true, simply the type of protein is different. Animal products are considered complete proteins, meaning they contain all of the 9 essential amino acids that are needed in our diet for the body to function properly. Most plant proteins are considered incomplete proteins (minus ones like quinoa, chia seeds, & tempeh, among others), meaning they lack one or two of the 9 essential amino acids. This just means that to get all of the 9 essential amino acids your body needs on a plant-based diet, eating a variety of plant proteins, and including small amounts of any animal proteins if you so choose, is the way to go. There are many types of plants rich in protein so you don’t have to worry about not getting enough from decreasing your meat intake.

By combining a few of these ingredients into a sauté, salad or oven roasted dish along with other plant ingredients, you can get mega amounts of protein and all of the other nutrients and vitamins found in plant products (like calcium, iron, all vitamins, polyphenols/antioxidants, etc.).

When you start out, take some time to jot down how you feel making and/or eating the food. Do you feel stronger? Do you need more food than you normally eat? Do you feel more energetic? Does anything upset your stomach? Know that adding in more plants means adding in more digestive fiber, go slow and gradually add in more and more. This way you don’t shock your digestive system and it has time to digest things properly. You’ll get the most nutritional benefit out of the food this way. It’s also really important to make and eat foods that you really enjoy so you actually want to continue cooking and eating plant-based, if that’s your goal. If you don’t like broccoli then don’t make it or eat it. You’ll end up resenting it, and maybe plant-based eating as a whole, and are more likely to go back to eating the way you used to even if that isn’t what you really want to do. By making and eating foods you love, you’re ensuring success in this area of a healthy lifestyle.

Take some time to explore meals with more plants. You may find that this is something you truly enjoy and may even want to try vegetarian or vegan diets. It’s all up to you, I am simply inviting you to see what kind of benefits you may find in a plant-based diet. Already started exploring the wonderful world of plant-based eating?? Tell me your favorite recipe in the comments!

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