Plant-Based Lifestyle Quick Start Guide
HOW TO EAT LESS MEAT AND MORE PLANTS WITHOUT BEING VEGAN
There are so many health benefits from following a plant-based lifestyle. From preventing certain cancers and lowering risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes to boosting immunity and brain power, the nutrient density of plant-based whole foods can’t be beat. The best part is, this style of eating can be completely adapted to fit your lifestyle - whether or not you eat meat, seafood, dairy, eggs or are a strict vegan.
It's all about adding more nutrient dense whole plant foods to your plate and limiting or “accessorizing” with animal based foods if you eat them.
There is a lot of great advice out there on how to become a vegan, but we wanted to share some tips for those who are just learning about plant-based eating who may not be ready or interested in ditching all animal products.
WHAT PLANT-BASED IS ALL ABOUT
A plant-based lifestyle emphasizes whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains while reducing animal products (like meat, seafood, dairy and eggs) and processed, refined foods. Some people even eliminate all animal based foods to follow a plant-based vegan lifestyle.
Some examples of whole plant foods:
Veggies: dark leafy greens like Swiss chard or spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, beets, squash, cucumbers, corn, cabbage
Fruits: apples, pears, grapes, peaches, watermelon, bananas, blueberries, tangerines, avocado
Legumes/Beans: lentils, green peas, black eyed peas, green beans, edamame, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, black beans
Whole Grains: oats, brown rice, quinoa (technically a seed, but we cook it like a grain), barley, corn, sorghum, farro, amaranth, millet
Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts
Seeds: sunflower, sesame, hemp, chia, pumpkin/pepitas, flax, poppy
For fruits and veggies, fresh is best (nutritionally speaking). But, frozen (without added sauces or salt) and canned (without added sauces, preferably with lower sodium, and then drained) can also provide important nutrients.
For legumes and beans, if soaking and cooking dry beans isn’t doable, canned and rinsed beans are a good alternative.
Quick Tip: Rinsing canned foods can help reduce the sodium up to 40%!
WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN?
Protein is made up of various amino acids (called essential and non-essential). Essential amino acids have to be eaten from different foods as our bodies cannot make these nutrients. Non-essential amino acids can be made by our bodies, so they don’t need to come from foods.
Many people think that if they reduce or avoid animal based foods they won’t get enough protein. But, the truth is that many plant-based foods naturally contain protein already! Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and even whole grains have various amounts of protein (and different types of amino acids). It was once believed that certain plant-based foods had to be eaten at the same time to make a “complete” protein, like beans and rice. But, as long as you are regularly eating a wide variety of plant-based whole foods each day, protein needs can still be met (if you’re unsure or have a medical condition, consult with a dietitian who can help analyze and map it out for you).
Check out the protein profile of these 5 common plant-based foods:
¼ cup hummus: 5 g
1 cup cooked regular oatmeal: 6 g
½ cup vegetarian refried beans: 6 g
2 Tbsp peanut butter: 7 g
½ cup cooked lentils: 9 g
MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
We can all benefit from eating more plant-based foods. A good way to get started is by following the "plate method" for your meals and snacks:
Make 1/2 of your plate or meal full of colorful fruits and veggies
¼ of meal whole grains
¼ of meal lean protein (ideally from beans/legumes and nuts - or if you eat animal foods choose mainly fish, seafood, eggs, or skinless poultry)
SAMPLE ONE DAY PLANT-BASED + PROTEIN PACKED MEAL PLAN:
Oatmeal + Fresh or Frozen Berries + Sliced Almonds + Cinnamon + Honey Drizzle
Coffee or Tea
Sonoma Salad (Mixed Greens + Barley + Red Grapes + Cucumber + Garbanzo Beans + Pistachios + Red Wine Vinaigrette)
Avocado Toast (Whole Wheat Bread + Fresh Smashed Avocado + Sea Salt)
Fruit Spiked Sparkling Water (Sparkling Water + Fresh or Frozen Fruit like Strawberries + Fresh Herbs like Basil)
Roasted Garlic Hummus + Bell Pepper Strips + Baby Carrots + Whole Wheat Pita Chips
Iced Tea or Kombucha
Grilled Summertime Power Bowl (as is for vegetarian or add grilled salmon, chicken or shrimp)
Fresh Peach + Plain Icelandic Yogurt + 2 Tbsp Chopped Pecans
Kickstart Your Plant Based Meal Plan with Our Free Planning Templates
PLANT-BASED AT RESTAURANTS
One trend we’ve continued to see grow on restaurant menus is the addition of more plant-based options. From popular avocado toast, smoothies and grain bowls, to scratch made veggie burgers, veggie noodles and garbanzo bean curries - restaurants are making plants a focus on the plate.
Here are a few popular plant-based restaurant menu items:
At this year’s National Restaurant Association Industry Trade Show #NRAShow18 - plant-based foods were practically everywhere. Meatless burgers and meat alternatives got a lot of attention at the show, with lines of people wanting samples clogging up the aisles. In the name of research (wink, wink), we couldn't pass it up ourselves, so we sampled sliders, breakfast sausage, meatballs, bratwurst and tacos. While we still favor minimally processed whole foods, we were excited to learn one brand was using different types of beans and peas in their products. Other popular ingredients were pitaya (aka dragonfruit - a sweet white or bright pink speckled fruit that is a perfect base for smoothie bowls and is loaded with magnesium and fiber) and jackfruit (often used as a meat replacement because of its texture, it contains a decent amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals, but not a lot of protein).
ONE BITE AT A TIME
One small plant-based change at a time can make a big impact on your overall health.
Get in the summer spirit with some plant-based grilling! Move over those hamburgers and hot dogs, and try grilling avocados, bell peppers and squash to fill your next outdoor meal.
And check out these popular plant-based recipes we found on pinterest!