How to Change to Plant-Based Eating

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By Joanne Beccarelli

Plant-based eating is popping up everywhere, becoming mainstream and promising to save your health. Even doctors, who typically have no nutritional training, are beginning to recognize its importance.

But what exactly is plant-based eating and how can you embrace it without turning your entire food world and family upside down?

Plant-based eating is a healthy way of eating that is based on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, etc. In the most exacting sense, it does not contain any animal meats, seafood, dairy or eggs. However, there is also a growing tendency by some to be mostly plant-based with only minimal and occasional consumption of animal meats, seafood, dairy or eggs.

How does this differ from being vegan or vegetarian?

Most people that describe themselves as plant-based are very similar to vegan, only it is possible to be a vegan and still consume non-animal products, which are not derived from plants and are not often healthy. Some examples are Oreos, Red Bull energy drink and Doritos, to name a few of these accidental vegan foods.

According to the Vegetarian Society, the term vegetarian is the broader term that includes vegan, but in practice, the term vegetarian is usually used to describe those who add in dairy and/or eggs while vegan does not.

Here are some basic ways you can move towards plant-based eating.

1. Add in a lot of vegetables and fruits at every meal and snack. Try to double or triple what you usually eat/serve.

2. Eat as much as you want – fill up on plants. Plant-based eaters never limit eating non-starchy plant based foods (they only limit starchy foods when trying to lose weight).  Starchy foods are an important part of plant-based eating when completely moving away from animal based foods.

3. Become aware of how many plant colors you are serving at each meal.  Different colored foods contain different nutrients. For maximum nutrition and balance, try to eat a rainbow everyday.

4. Try unsweetened and unflavored non-dairy milks such as almond, coconut or hemp milks.  Choose organic if you can. Buy milks that do NOT contain carrageenan, which is a known carcinogen.

5. Find a health food store that contains bulk items to save money on staples such as lentils, dried peas, beans, quinoa, millet, brown rice and nuts. They often have organic produce at lower prices than a supermarket.

6. Join a CSA or go to your local farmers markets regularly. Chat it up with farmers if they are not advertising as organic, asking what type of pesticides and fertilizers they use. Be aware of the produce that is most and least tainted with pesticides.

At meal times:

7. Try a smoothie or fresh juice made with mostly vegetables for one snack or meal a day.  Each 16 oz. smoothie typically contains 2-3 servings of veg/fruit and fresh juices have about 4-5 servings.

8. Participate in meatless eating days – whether it is meatless Monday or another day. Start with one day a week and add more meatless days as you start feeling more comfortable.

9. Replace animal protein with things like legumes, beans and high-quality grains/seeds like quinoa, millet, etc. It is a myth that plant-based eaters can’t get protein.

10. Eat a loaded green leafy salad at least once a day. Learn how to build a great salad and, for improved health, make your own dressings or try using vinegar or lemon juice only.

11. Add more and many creative plant-based dishes to meals. Even if you continue to eat meat, over time you will eat less of it. Find plant-based recipes online at Fitlife.tv, Forks Over Knives, Happy Herbivore and Vegetarian Times to get you started. Use herbs and spices generously to make these dishes delicious.

When eating out:

12. Ethnic restaurants have the most plant-based options. Try Indian, Ethiopian or even Chinese.

13. In almost any restaurant, consider ordering 2 plant-based appetizers to take the place of a meat based entree.

14. Check out trendy vegetarian or mixed fare restaurants.

When you approach plant-based eating from the perspective of what it includes rather than what it excludes, the focus of meals will be about plants first and the rest will be secondary until it is finally crowded out.

Finally, keep in mind that your efforts towards adopting a plant-based diet is movement towards better health and lower, long term medical costs for you and the entire family.

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Joanne Beccarelli
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Joanne Beccarelli

Holistic Health Coach, Juicing Junkie and Writer at GLAD for Health
Joanne Beccarelli is a holistic health coach, juicing junkie, writer, soon to be cookbook author and recovered emotional eater. Inspired by many great voices in the health-thru-food revolution, Joanne found her way out of hiding in shame (losing almost 100 lbs in the process) and stepped away from the corporate world. She now dedicates every day to helping others who are overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed, find awareness, fulfilment and better health.

Joanne has a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell/T. Colin Campbell Foundation, and became a Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is also a member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), and the International Association of Health Coaches (IAHC).
Joanne Beccarelli
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