Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is so important to me and forms the basis for all of my work. What you put into your body will make a bigger difference to your health, vitality, energy and how you look than anything else.
When people work with me they either want to lose stubborn weight, increase their energy levels, feel good about themselves or improve their looks. They have tried diets but nothing worked.
I always start with explaining how ‘fad diets’ do not work, they are a quick fix. They may work in the short term but are unsustainable long term.
What does work is introducing more nutrient rich whole and live foods into your diet and upping your exercise and water intake. As you do that, you will feel and look better and you will naturally want to stop eating foods which are not good for you.
So, are you ready to make that change?
Remember, you don’t have to say goodbye to all the foods you love in order to eat healthier. Instead, you need to add more of the healthy foods to your diet.
In this blog you will learn how to transition easily into better eating and how doing so will both improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint.
It really is that simple. Just imagine if all of us made a few simple dietary changes not only would we improve our own quality of life, it would also have an enormous impact in reducing environmental destruction, and preserving natural resources for futures to come.
Interested in learning more? Read on and I will explain the benefits of plant-based eating, how to get started, and techniques for a smooth transition.
What is a whole-foods, plant-based diet?
For starters, a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB) is not necessarily a set diet, it’s a lifestyle. The food choices you make are the basis of this way of eating.
Plant-based diets vary widely according to the animal products a person chooses to include and exclude from their diet.
The WFPB diet is based on several eating principles and is, therefore, pretty flexible.
The basic principles for this lifestyle aim to:
- Emphasise the intake of whole, minimally processed foods.
- Reduce, limit, or eliminate animal products from your diet.
- Focus intake on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
- Exclude added sugar, enriched flour, and processed oils.
- Source locally grown and organic food where possible.
According to the United Nations, “Choosing healthier traditional Mediterranean, pescatarian, or vegetarian diets could not only boost human lifespans and quality of life but also slash emissions and save habitat for endangered species.”
Following a whole-foods, plant-based diet also offers many rewards including a reduced risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
As I mentioned, there are different variations of the WFPB diet. Here is an outline of each:
Vegan: Excludes all animal products, including meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
Raw Vegan: Has the same exclusions as veganism and in addition adds that foods should be eaten completely raw or heated at temperatures below 104–118°F (40–48°C).
Lacto-vegetarian: Excludes eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry (Includes: milk products).
Ovo-vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy (Includes: eggs).
Lacto-Ovo vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, and poultry (Includes: eggs and dairy).
Pescatarian: Excludes meat and poultry (Includes: seafood, eggs, and dairy).
There are two important things about these diets people forget to consider.
While these diets restrict animal products, this, by itself, does not automatically guarantee a healthy diet. To ensure health on any diet, it’s important to avoid processed foods, unhealthy carbs, added sugar, and excessive salt.
If one of these diets appeals to you, but the strictness doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, you don’t have to pick one and stick to it 24/7.
For example, there are many benefits from ‘weekday vegetarianism’ whereby you reduce your intake of animal products during the week and incorporate healthier options on the weekends.
If you are someone who eats animal products in every meal, then start with cutting them out two days a week and then build on that.
In other words, don’t get bogged down by diet definitions or expectations. Make your eating experience one that you enjoy!
If you need to put a word to your diet, then the Flexitarian diet was created in 2008 and defines someone who eats a semi-vegetarian diet which is centered on plant foods with the occasional inclusion of meat. It is a less strict diet pattern when compared to (other) vegetarian pattern diets.
Lowering your carbon footprint
Another incredible benefit of following a whole-foods, plant-based diet is the positive impact it has on the environment!
Living sustainably means different things to different people. Ultimately, sustainability is about living within our means, and if possible, leaving the planet in better shape for future generations. The changes we make today can affect not only the quality and length of our lives but our planet as well.
The term ‘carbon footprint’ is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.
Consuming less meat lowers the demand for animal products and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and land needed for livestock production.
Let’s talk about protein
When making the switch to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, people often wonder if they will get enough protein. This is a reasonable question based on the assumption that meat is the best source of protein. However, many plant-based foods are packed with this needed macronutrient.
I’ll start by answering the question, ‘Why do we need protein?’
Protein is found in every cell of the body and is considered the building block of life. There are 20 different amino acids that make up protein. The sequence of these amino acids determines the role of that protein, and not all 20 are found in every protein source. Of these 20 amino acids, 9 are essential, meaning the body cannot produce them and we must get them from our diet.
Protein has many vital functions, including:
– transporting molecules throughout the body
– helping repair cells and make new ones
– protecting the body from viruses and bacteria
– promoting proper growth and development in children, teenagers, and pregnant women.
One of the reasons meat is proclaimed to be the best source of protein is because it provides all 9 essential amino acids. However, eating a variety of plant-based foods will also supply your diet with these essential amino acids.
I’ll break it down with some examples:
1/2 cup of lentils = 9g protein
1/2 cup of chickpeas = 7g protein
3 tablespoons of hemp seeds = 10g protein
3 ounces of tofu = 8g protein
3 ounces of tempeh= 13g protein
1/4 cup of walnuts = 6g protein
1 cup of quinoa = 8g protein
1 cup of black beans = 10g protein
So, yes, you can get plenty of protein without animal products!
A variety of colours!
One of the largest International gut microbe studies recently found that individuals who ate 30 different plant-based foods a week had more diverse populations of microbes living in their intestine. When it comes to gut health diversity is a good thing.
Set yourself a challenge!
Write a list of 30 different plant-based foods you like and put it on your fridge door, you can tick off the ones you eat every day and see how many you can get into your diet in a week. Try to get a variety of colour onto your plate in every meal.
I hope you have found this blog post helpful. If you are a meat lover, then I am not saying to give up meat. I never tell someone what diet they should follow as we are all unique and you have to find what works for you!
If you need some support and accountability when transitioning to a more plant-based diet then this is something I can help you with. Please get in touch to book a clarity call with me.