Want to start exploring the numerous health benefits of a plant-based diet, but not sure where to start? Here are a few tips I share with my clients…
Don’t be afraid to make a change
As a nation of meat-eaters, the term plant-based might sound a little scary. Luckily, all it means is a diet rich in vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit that does not include – or reduces the intake of - meat products.
What about protein?
When considering opting for a plant-based lifestyle, many raise the question of protein intake. If your protein isn’t coming from chicken or beef, will you still be getting enough?
The good news is that plants such as legumes, wholegrains, nuts, and even dark, leafy vegetables contain enough protein to keep you healthy and full.
In fact, adding an abundance of plants to your diet can help you gain energy, build muscle (when exercising), and reduce your intake of the unhealthy fats that can negatively affect the health of your heart and other organs, as well as your weight.
Plant-based proteins can also be easier on the digestive system and gut health, which we know to significantly impact our overall wellbeing.
Can your family afford it?
For families trying to include more plant-based options into their daily eating habits, the question of finances is an important one that keeps coming up.
While imported products and fancy packaging may leave you in a tizz when shopping, remember that - when it comes to the types of plant-based foods you incorporate into your diet - getting back to basics is key.
Education is imperative
When you’re ready to start moving to plant-based eating, educating yourself on this type of lifestyle change is important. Read as much as you can, speak to a dietician, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Doing research can help you make informed decisions about the types of foods you should be eating. It can also assist with identifying what you can treat yourself with, and what to stay away from (thus reducing wastage and helping you to reduce costs, as well as adverse side effects). Understanding labels is also important, as this will help you to make informed purchases.
Take your time to understand what makes up a healthy, plant-based diet. A peanut butter and jam sandwich may be plant-based, but it certainly won’t make you feel as good as a plate of carrots dipped in hummus will. Be intentional about incorporating as many plants into your diet as possible. If it feels overwhelming at first, start with just one day a week, perhaps on Meat-free Mondays.
Meal planning has proven to be one of the most effective ways to stick to eating plans and save money. By planning weekly and monthly menus, shoppers can make informed purchases without overspending - and may in fact save money, considering that plant-based diets do not contain expensive meats, but rather things like lentils and chickpeas, which can be purchased for as little as R20.
One way to make plant-based meal planning easy is to consider meals you already enjoy and substitute the meat for plant-based items. Lentils, for example, can be a great substitute for mince in recipes.
While any lifestyle change can be challenging in the beginning, incorporating more plants into your daily life will get easier and more rewarding with a little bit of research and experimentation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aziwe Booi is a registered dietitian and the founder of Health with Azi.