I get this question daily and something find it difficult to respond in a concise way - as it's a topic I feel very passionate about...
Firstly, I want to talk about the definition of 'plantbased' meals / diet as most people associate this with being vegan - and being limited in options as well as your view of the world.
But if I told you that eating plantbased only means you focus on foods primarily from plants.
Would you feel differently about it?
Eating plantbased (primarily foods coming from plants) such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.
This doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.
If you viewed plantbased eating in this way and found out that by eating plantbased, you can boost health; lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Why wouldn't you give it a go?
In my practice I work with people who are just looking to eat a bit more plantbased foods, people who are looking for reassurance in terms of nutrient balance and some fully vegan individuals who want to find a way to incorporate more variety and tackle resistance, limiting beliefs within their own family to feel more balanced and satisfied.
This wide range of people all have one thing in common - they want to eat in a way that helps to protect the environment while providing them a huge load of health benefits.
Here are some of my tips to those of you who are at the beginning of your plantbased journey:
1. Eat a load of vegetables - ensure you have 2-3 different colours on your plate at each meal and fill half of your plate with vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as snacks too, such as carrot sticks and hummus or guacamole with rice cakes.
2. Change your thinking around meat / protein - thinking that protein only comes from animal sources and needs to be a huge part of the diet is something that will limit you, until you decide to open your eyes to the wonderful world of plantbased proteins.
Have smaller portions and serve it as a side instead of the 'main' and try an 'alternative' to discover what it is that is important for you in eating meat as part of your diet.
Often by experimenting with alternatives, we find out what it is that we find comforting or important in a single food item. In most cases it's familiarity, but for some it's texture and the feeling of satiety afterwards. Find out for yourself.
3. Aim to cook a plantbased meal at least once a week. When it comes down to 'the one vegetarian meal' - make sure it's something you enjoy. There's no point in making the veggie meal a salad if you hate salads. Instead, aim to make something you see as a 'treat' such as risotto or curry. This way, you're more likely to want to have it more often. This is not an invitation to overload any meal you're making with all the 'unhealthy' things just because it's veggie. Build these meals around vegetables, beans, pulses and whole grains.
4. Start your day with whole grains - make your breakfast using oats in some form. Porridge, muesli, oat bar or smoothie. Include nuts or seeds to boost your protein intake. Add 1-2 colours in the form of fruits and vegetables.
5. Build meals as 'bowls'. By switching around the way you see meal building / planning can help you break free from the mind limitations that you may have about 'coming up with plantbased options'. Take a soup plate and fill it with half full with vegetables, 2-3 different colours. Choose 1 grain and fill 1/4 of the plate with these and then 1 protein source in the form of lentils or beans
6. Spice it up! If you have a favourite spice, use it to add a familiar flavour to new ingredients to make sure they're easy to love.
These 6 tips are my go-to answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding HOW to eat more plants - and the short answer to WHY is:
It's a kind, considerate and sustainable way to eat - for our individual health, our children's future and the wellbeing of the whole planet.
Taking the first step on your more health conscious food journey into the world of plantbased foods can seem daunting, but by taking it slow and using the 6 easy ways to eat more plants - you can start to feel lighter (in body & mind) in just a week.
So why wouldn't you give it a go?