Wanting to move toward a plant-based diet this year? Changing our approach to eating and nutrition can certainly seem daunting, but the benefits of choosing a plant-based lifestyle are remarkable. With a few simple swaps, you’re on your way to eating well and feeling better.
Let’s start with the basics. Why choose to go plant-based?
Choosing a plant-based diet can help support your immune system, reduce inflammation, maintain a healthy weight, increase fiber intake, and decrease risk of disease. Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, from the MD Anderson Cancer Center, said, “The closer you can come to following a plant-based diet, the better. That doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan or vegetarian, but it means we need to be eating more plants in our diet.”
There are four major types of plant-based diets, suited for different lifestyles and goals. They include:
- Mediterranean Diet
- Flexitarian Diet
- Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
- Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet
A Mediterranean diet is emblematic of a dietary lifestyle. Emphasis is placed on shared meals and enjoying the experience of not only eating, but cooking with others. This diet limits sweets and meats to approximately once per month, and shines the spotlight on plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. Healthy fats are staples in the Mediterranean diet and it is linked to promoting good heart health.
The U.S. News Best Diet Rankings recognizes the Flexitarian diet, and it’s exactly how it sounds: a flexible approach to the vegetarian diet. Though this diet does focus on reducing your overall meat consumption, you don’t have to say goodbye to a hamburger forever. The Flexitarian diet simply emphasizes those fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and is designed to maximize health, pleasure, and wellness.
We’ve all heard of vegetarianism and veganism, but it’s never too late for a quick review. Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, and veganism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of any and all animal products. Both diets are known to aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, and decrease later risk of disease. Veganism, in particular, is a friend to the environment — it helps reduce livestock emissions, removes nitrous oxide from the atmosphere, lowers energy consumption, conserves water, and stabilizes the ocean.
The Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet is essentially “Whole foods.” Putting plants first and removing artificial, processed foods is the name of the game. The WFPB diet is similar to veganism, in that you refrain from eating meat, dairy, and eggs. This diet calls you to eat closer to the plant, and pay close attention to the quality of what you eat — an important practice that often goes unnoticed.
It’s clear that there are a myriad of ways to approach a plant-based diet and reap the benefits of the lifestyle, without compromising taste or time. All it takes is a bit of research, creative thinking, and courage to take the plunge. And we’re here to help with 6 steps to move toward a plant-based diet in 2022.
Get a Gradual Start
Choosing a plant-based lifestyle and diet can seem daunting at first, and it’s important that you don’t go from one extreme to another — it’s simply not sustainable. Start by taking a look at your current diet. What plant-based foods are familiar to you, and which ones do you love? Pick a few of those favorite dishes, or even sides or snacks and include them in your rotation.
Celebrate your New Lifestyle
Don’t be afraid to get excited about beginning your plant-based journey! Watch plant-based YouTubers, follow your favorite vegan influencers, and subscribe to blogs about all things plant-based. Join online forums and create a running list of new recipes. Scope out plant-based restaurants in your area, and get excited about the week ahead by meal planning and preparing in advance. Check out Oh She Glows — a blog dedicated to sharing special recipes for the whole family, and providing resources about plant-based and vegan diets.
Change your Perspective
Typically, we think about meat as the centerpiece of our meals. A chicken or turkey breast is usually accompanied by a smaller serving of vegetables or whole grains. Let’s change that. Embark on your plant-based lifestyle by making a plant-based food the new centerpiece of your lunch or dinner. It’s a small physical change that can make a big mental change in approaching your meals!
Prioritize Nutrient-Rich Foods
It’s a common misconception that plant-based diets do not provide proper nutrients. Wrong! While it is important to know your food inside and out, many plant-based foods offer a wealth of nutritional value. It just takes a bit of research and trial-and-error to find the right ones. For those following plant-based diets, it’s especially important to prioritize protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, iron, iodine, vitamin A. For a quick list to prompt your research, check out this list of nutrient rich foods that contains a variety of plant-based options.
Get Friendly with Meat Alternatives
With meat alternatives, you can indulge in your favorite meat products without the guilt. Today, there are widespread hamburger, meatball, ground meat, sausage, and seafood substitutes that taste just as delicious, and will help you achieve your lifestyle and health goals. Check out this article for highly-ranked meat substitutes that plant-based consumers love! Jackfruit “chicken” nuggets? Yes, please!
Snacks are an important part of our day-to-day lives. They can fuel you throughout the day and put that pep in your step to curb that afternoon slump. Instead of reaching for your favorite processed snack, try shopping with Makeena to help you find and purchase better-for-you foods by better-for-you brands! By navigating to the brand tab on our website and choosing the “plant-based” attribute, you can become connected to a host of new options in just an instant. From Beanito’s tortilla chips to Mamma Chia’s squeezable chia packets, you’re just a click away from earning cash back from stocking up on your new, favorite, plant-based treats.
If you’ve been thinking about trying a plant-based diet, and lifestyle, there’s no better time than the present. You don’t need to eliminate meat from your diet forever, but it’s important to note that meat consumption is linked to heart disease, increased stroke risk, diabetes, and more. In addition, meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gasses from food production.
A healthy diet isn’t built in a day, but don’t wait to start your research on how to optimize your kitchen and meals to live a healthier, fuller, more enjoyable life — in a way that makes sense for you. It’s been said that, “World peace begins in the kitchen,” and we agree!