So youre interested in eating only plants, eh?
Well, youve come to the right place to learn all about it. Ive seen many people over the years have success with a Plant-Based Diet.
Truth be told though, Ive seen many people also struggle with it too.
(After all, donuts are plant-based and pizza just got declared a vegetable).
There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to embark on eliminating animal products from your diet.
Today, Ill share with you how to safely and correctly follow a plant-based menu and still hit your goals.
Now, although Ive been running this site for 10 years, I may be drawing a large target on my back by diving headfirst into a topic Ive thus far avoided.
As a blogger, if you want to tenfold your hate mail, take a stance on a Plant-Based Diet.
And saying ANYTHING about veganism for OR against is an easy way to get virtual produce tossed at you.
Although most people discover Nerd Fitness through our guides on Paleo or Keto, we get SO many questions on how to eat a Plant-Based Diet that I figured Id give my two cents.
With pop stars and famous directors advising folks to try veganism, these inquiries are only going to increase.
So today, we are going to talk about how to eat a Plant-Based Diet safely.
The right way, and the wrong way, to go vegan or vegetarian.
BIG ASS CAVEAT: Im not going to try to convince you to give up meat. If youre reading this, Ill assume youre here because youre interested in doing so, and want to know the best path through it.
The politics, controversy (yes, Ive read the China Study), and geopolitical impact of veganism are beyond the scope of this article. Im just a nerd who studies the hell outta health and wellness and sometimes wears pants.
So setting all the controversy aside, I want to explore the science and the how to for people who are heading down this path.
There are quite a few different versions of a Plant-Based Diet.
Itll be good to start with some definitions so we land on the same page.
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal.
So NO eating:
Instead, vegetarians DO eat:
Plants, more or less.
Vegetarian can be a broader term for more specific examples of plant-based eating. Some examples would be:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians is someone who doesnt eat animal flesh but does eat dairy and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian.
Lacto vegetarians dont eat eggs but do eat dairy.
Ovo vegetarians avoid all animals products, with the exception of eggs.
Vegans avoid all animal products, including dairy and eggs and even things like honey. If it came from an animal, its not a part of a vegan diet. Some even take it one step further and eat only a raw vegan diet, where the plants consumed are not cooked prior to consumption.
The above are the most common forms of Plant-Based Diets, but there are others!
A pescatarian is someone who consumes no animal products except fish and shellfish.
A flexitarian is someone who follows a vegetarian diet a majority of the time, but who will occasionally eat meat.
Now granted, neither pescatarians nor flexitarians are technically vegetarians because both contain animal products on the menu.
However, they are mostly plant-based, so worth mentioning especially if somebody is doing this in an attempt to be healthier.
There are many more considerations and labels, which can tackle a lot of the ethical stances around being vegan: not wearing animal products, the treatment of animals, etc.
To be blunt, this is outside the scope of this article.
Im only interested in If you are going to eat only plants, how do you do it? So well politely ignore clothing, testing, and captivity for this article.
Which brings us to
What you can or cannot eat on a Plant-Based Diet depends a lot on what kind of vegetarianism you follow.
Eggs and dairy, for example, may or may not be included. It really comes down to what path you are choosing.
There are some general food groups we can consider as universal no matter what form of vegetarianism you follow.
A Plant-Based Diet will include the following foods:
Whole grains. Rice, oats, barley, and buckwheat would all be examples of whole grains. Most vegetarian diets include a sizable amount of whole grains as their base.
Vegetables. Of course, a vegetarian diet is going to include vegetables! And it should because vegetables are great for you! Theyre packed full of nutrients, fiber, and generally low in calories. Most people could stand to eat more veggies. If you find yourself not being able to stomach greens, I got you. Check out this post for tips on how to turn around any vegetable hater.
Legumes. Beans, lentils, and soy make up the legume family. If youre following a plant-based or vegan diet, legumes would be a great way to get protein (more on this to follow).
Fruit. Bananas, apples, and oranges all come from plants, so all are vegetarian-friendly. While high in fructose (sugar), they are also nutrient dense. Our general stance on fruit around these parts is to eat in moderation.
Nuts and seeds. Again, they come from plants, so almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are good to go on any vegetarian plan you pick. So is quinoa, which although is often thought of as a grain, is actually a seed. Mind=blown.
Nuts and seeds, although high in fat and calories, are another great way to get protein on a Plant-Based Diet.
No matter what type of vegetarian diet you pick, youd be free to eat the above (provided they fit into your current nutrition goals but Ill get to that shortly).
The below will depend on what kind of vegetarianism you are trying. We may be stepping into controversial waters (remember, dont shoot the messenger) with the following:
Eggs. Eggs are a great source of vitamin B12 and protein, which will become important in a section further down.
Dairy. Whether or not you consume dairy will be determined by your specific strain of plant-based nutrition. On the one hand, its from an animal (moo). On the other hand, dairy can be full of nutrients that might be harder to source from only plants, like omega-3s and calcium.
Fish. Look, I get it. Fish are animals, so technically not allowed on a vegetarian diet. However, if you eat a mostly-Plant-Based Diet that includes a little fish, it wouldnt be too different from a Mediterranean Diet. There are a lot worse ways to eat than like the Mediterraneans. And as mentioned earlier, depending on who you talk to, being pescatarian could be a form of a Plant-Based Diet.
Thats a lot of the major food groups when it comes to plant-based eating.
So heres all you need to remember:
Whatever form of vegetarianism you may pick, stick to REAL food whenever possible.
Pinto beans, asparagus, apples, and quinoa would all be examples of real food. These are nutrient-dense foods that will keep you full and energized throughout your day. Deep fried cheese balls, donuts, and candy bars are examples of plant-based, but not real food.
And Ill give out a warning on processed vegan junk food in a moment.
For now, there may be a question you are thinking.
Its one of the most common ones we get when it comes to eating a vegetarian or vegan diet.
There are plenty of examples of people losing weight on a Plant-Based Diet.
However, there are also stories of the opposite where people gained body fat when going vegan.
However, anecdotal evidence isnt science.
What does the research say?
If you look at studies on the subject, theres nothing here that will surprise us: plant-based calories count just as much as animal-based calories.
There are some studies which show the success of veganism compared to omnivore diets for weight loss. Then there are others showing that a diet including meat outperforms vegan diets for trimming body fat.
Depending on who youre trying to impress, you can find six studies that say vegans will lose more weight than meat eaters, or half a dozen studies that show vegans will lose less weight.
It honestly doesnt matter, because when it comes to weight loss, it comes down to calories, calories, calories.
Oh and calories. Did I mention calories?
Put bluntly, if youre not losing weight, youre consuming too many calories.
It doesnt matter if theyre vegan or vegetarian or Paleo or certified organic. Check out our Why cant I lose weight? article to learn the science behind why!
Lets get to the point: Youre here, youre eating plants, and you want to lose weight. So heres how to do it.
If you typically ate a standard American diet filled with burgers and french fries, and then moved to salads? Yeah, Id imagine that you would lose weight simply because youre now eating fewer calories than you were eating in the past.
However, if you go from scarfing down normal burgers to scarfing down an Impossible Burger or a vegan burger? Maybe not.
Lets take a look:
The Impossible Burger is made with wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein and heme (a molecule found in plants and animals). So its very calorically dense.
Moral of the story: dont assume that food without any meat in it will have fewer calories in it.
While there are plenty of nuances, when it comes to weight loss, calories in and calories out plays a major role in whether or not you are successful.
Just because something is vegan doesnt mean its necessarily healthy. As someone pointed out in our private Facebook Academy group, Oreos are vegan.
If you dont plan properly, you could be deluding yourself into thinking veganism will be a weight loss strategy.
I know that adopting a new lifestyle can be challenging, especially if youre really busy. Whether its veganism, a low-carb diet, or trying to build muscle, embarking on a new habit can be tough if you dont know what to do.
Weight-loss, no matter which strategy you pick, can be a hard road to follow.
I want you to know that youre not alone, were here to help. We offer a 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program to help busy people like you embark on complete life overhauls. We can help you with dietary changes, exercise, and accountability so you can create new healthy habits that fit into your chaotic day-to-day life!
If youre thinking about a Plant-Based Diet for weight loss, we can help you switch to a less restrictive diet over time. Slow and steady is our preferred approach.
If youd like to learn more, click on the big image below:
Contrary to popular belief, you CAN get enough protein when following a Plant-Based Diet.
However, protein consumption SHOULD be something thats prioritized if youre trying to lose weight, build muscle, and be healthier. What we call protein is actually a combination of different amino acids. There are 20 or so amino acids that we use to build muscle and keep our organs functioning.
Nine of these amino acids our body cant produce itself, so we need to get them through food.
Getting all nine is important, because these amino acids do everything from build and repair muscle tissue (which is HUGE for strength training), run our metabolism, and even help our genes function correctly.
All nine are found together in all forms of meat. When you eat a piece of chicken, you are getting all nine.
When it comes to non-animal sources, most plants will generally be missing one or two of these nine essential amino acids.
Soy might be the best way to get all nine together in one plant; however, soy doesnt seem to provide the same biological functionality as dairy or eggs.
You can overcome this small challenge easily by varying your dietary choices.
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Eating a Plant-Based Diet: Safely Going Vegan | Nerd Fitness