The Dos & Don’ts of Following a Plant-Based Diet
This article attracted your attention probably because you are considering switching to a plant-based diet, like the Hallelujah Diet or at least wanting to incorporate more vegetables and fruit into your diet. Up to now, it is highly likely that you have been following the Standard American Diet (SAD). However, like many others, you might be dealing with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, a heart attack, or even a stroke and are seeking ways to make positive improvements to your health.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
The main advantages of a plant-based diet are more related to the foods you are eating: lots of (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts) rather than those you’re not (meat and other animal products). Sharon Palmer, RDN, editor of Environmental Nutrition says, “When you base your meals on plant foods, you’re packing your diet with the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that most Americans don’t get enough of.”
As reported in Consumer Reports, plant-based diets are also full of phytochemicals which are compounds that help keep many of your body’s systems running smoothly. For instance, the anthocyanins in berries help protect vision; carotenoids in carrots and cantaloupe, and the isothiocyanates in Brussels sprouts, neutralize the free radicals that cause cell damage; and flavonoids in apples help control inflammation.
Doses of Following a Plant-Based Diet
There are many more Dos than Don’ts when one follows a plant-based diet. Health.com highlights some great ways to successfully follow a plant-based diet and these are shared below:
DO eat plant-based foods: Be sure to consume a wide variety of unprocessed, nutrient-rich whole plant-based foods. These include vegetables, fruits, organic whole grains like quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. Be sure to seek out healthy plant fats, such as avocado and coconut.
DO drink plenty of water: Because you’ll be increasing your intake of fiber and grains, nuts and beans, you’ll need to make sure you get plenty of water. Since your body can’t directly break down the fiber in food, water helps move the fiber-rich food through your digestive system. With this new way of eating, much of your high-quality fluids will come from your raw fruits, vegetables, vegetable juice, and green smoothies. Aim for ½ ounce of high quality liquids per pound of body weight. One example of a high quality drink is this delicious Watermelon Ginger Mint Smoothie which can also be boosted with fresh spinach.
DO eat plenty of plant-based protein: Protein provides the building blocks that maintain and repair your body’s tissues, including muscle, as well as hormones and enzymes. It also boosts satiety and your metabolism. But you can relax about getting enough protein. If you are getting adequate calories, research has shown that your protein requirements will also be met. The American people are obsessed with protein—don’t fall into that trap. Plant-based foods that are great sources of protein include quinoa with 8 grams per cup; almonds, 7.5 g per quarter cup whole; lentils, 17 g per cup; and a vegan protein powder, which can be whipped into a smoothie, can pack 21 grams per scoop.
DO veganize your frequent meals: For example, stuff peppers with lentils instead of ground turkey, add cannellini beans to a soup instead of chicken, and make chili with kidney beans instead of beef. These are just a few ideas, but be sure to check out the many tasty (and free!) recipes offered by the Hallelujah Diet as well. Picture yourself inviting friends and family over to share your new plant-based lifestyle.
DO seek out ethnic eateries: Now that you have switched to a plant-based diet, dining out might seem like a challenge. However, in many cultures, vegan dishes are staples. This allows you to expand your options, and meeting friends or clients at nearby ethnic restaurants is a great way to socialize without being limited to just a side salad or a plate of steamed veggies. Some favorites could include Indian chana masala, Middle Eastern hummus and tabbouleh, and Thai green curry, but there could be even more variety in your neighborhood.
Don’ts of Following a Plant-Based Diet
DON’T load up on vegan junk food: With so many vegan products on the market these days, even at your grocery store, it’s easy to be presented with poor-quality plant-based food options. Some of this will be highly processed vegan foods, which could include pepperoni pizza and fake bacon, even vegan cookies, candy, and donuts. While there are vegan treats like ice cream made from coconut milk, these should be consumed in moderation. To look and feel your best, the bulk of your meals and snacks should be comprised of nutrient-packed whole foods.
DON’T be concerned about a loss of essential vitamins and minerals: While there is evidence to show that vegan diets do not contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient, “Vegans can get vitamin B12 from fortified foods (some brands of soy milk, fake meats, breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast) and from supplements. Vegan diets may be low in calcium and vitamin D, although there are vegan sources of these nutrients,” says Reed Mangels, Ph.D., RD, nutrition advisor for The Vegetarian Resource Group.
Now That You Have Started, Keep Going!
It’ll be easier to keep going once you have made those first initial steps. As Dr. Craig McDougall says, “Once you have more energy, have lost some weight, or your stomach pain has disappeared, then it’s easier to continue eating healthfully. One of the best motivators for people transitioning to plant-based eating comes from how great they feel and how much more they can do in their lives once they’re feeling healthier.”