In the last few years, it seems the phrase “plant based diet” has become the new hot topic. It’s popping up everywhere from Netflix documentaries, food and wellness magazines, and the internet.
Is Plant Based the same as Vegetarian?
No, it’s not the same. Eating a “plant based” diet doesn’t mean giving up meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or poultry. It just means that you try to include more foods that come from plants to your meals.
A vegetarian, on the other hand, doesn’t eat meat or poultry at all. Some vegetarians eat eggs and dairy and some do not. Pescatarians are vegetarians that also eat fish. A vegetarian would be considered a plant based diet.
Similar terms that people use when referring to a plant based diet include plant centric, plant forward, or plant focused.
Is The Mediterranean Diet Plant Based?
Yep, it sure is!
The Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid focuses on including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans and legumes as the foundation of meals. All of these are considered plant based foods.
Since the focus of the diet is plant foods, it makes sense then that people following a Mediterranean diet would eat less meat, poultry, and fish. However, these foods aren’t eliminated, they are just enjoyed less often. Fish, dairy, eggs, and poultry are encouraged a few times a week while meat is encouraged once in awhile.
What are the Benefits of a Plant Based Diet?
While it seems like there is new nutrition and health information popping up daily, one thing is certain – plant based foods have major health benefits.
Research has shown time and time again that eating a well rounded diet, high in plant based foods can contribute to the following –
Decreased Risk of Certain Cancers and Chronic Diseases
Plant based diets are high in fiber, which can lead to –
- Reduced inflammation
- Lower cholesterol
- Blood sugar management
- Bowel movement and health
- Nutrient absorption
- Better gut health
All of these can lead to decreased risks for certain cancers and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
Better Heart Health
Cardivascular disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States. Diet and other lifestyle factors play a major role in heart disease prevention.
Eating a plant based diet can improve heart health by providing essential vitamins and minerals, decreasing blood cholesterol, decreasing high blood pressure, reducing inflammation and increased antioxidants.
Weight is a tricky subject, and honestly, one that we try not to put too much focus on here at The Domestic Dietitian. However, when it comes to talking about health in general, weight can be risk factor for certain diseases and conditions. Please note that every body type is different and weight isn’t always an indicator of health. Individual needs should be addressed before weight management is listed as a goal.
Eating a plant based diet can lead to weight management in the fact that it means eating less animal products that tend to be higher in saturated fats (i.e. red meat, butter). Increasing plant based foods can also lead to increased fiber, which helps with cholesterol as well as feeling of fullness. Not to mention improving gut health and restoring balance to the body so it can function at the best capacity.
How to Eat More Plant Based Meals
Following a more plant focused diet doesn’t mean you have to give up on meat, dairy, poultry or fish. We like to think of it as just switching your meal mindset. Most diets center around the “main” entree, which veggies being a side dish.
To create more plant focused meals, simply make the plants the star of the show and use meat/poultry as a side dish.
For example – rather than serving grilled chicken with a side of green beans, make a couscous salad with chopped cucumber & tomato, top with grilled chicken and then serve green beans topped with almonds as a side.
Plant Based Meal Ideas
Our advice whenever making changes is to always smart small and be realistic. Just start by taking a look at your meals and seeing how you can add more plant based foods.
Examples include –
- Adding walnuts and blueberries to rolled oats in the morning in place of plain oatmeal
- Switch out plain fried eggs for this Mushroom and Spinach Frittata
- In place of buttered toast, try whole wheat toast with avocado and tomato
- Bean Soup with Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh is hearty, filling and super plant based
- Add hummus to your sandwich for lunch and serve with a crisp, juicy apple
- Vegetarian Chili is perfect for chilly evenings
- These Mushroom Fajitas are filling and a family favorite
- Add fruit, nuts and grains to your salads, like in this Farro Salad recipe
Small changes add up to big benefits. Simply sprinkling sunflower seeds over a salad or replacing butter with olive oil is an example of adding more plant based ingredients to your meals. Don’t try to overhaul everything at once. Start small and build from there. Have fun with it and try new recipes.
If you are looking for more great plant based inspiration, check out our Meatless Monday Pinterest board. It’s full of delicious recipe ideas.
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