Although the term 'plant-based diet' has been on the rise for some time, that doesn't mean everyone knows exactly what it means.Often perceived as being part of veganism and frequently misunderstood, its entry into the wellness world's vernacular isn't exactly new, with many doctors and dietitians having long advocated for the style of eating.So, to better understand exactly what makes up a plant-based diet, we consulted Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist Marika Day, for all the ins-and-outs. Keep scrolling to learn more.Main image via @romeestrijdWhat Is A Plant-Based Diet?
"A plant-based diet is one that is made up predominantly of plants," Day told BAZAAR.
"Many people get it confused with a plant-only diet, which would be a vegan diet. A plant-based diet or a plant-centric diet is one that includes mostly plants but smaller amounts of animal products."
It's important to note that although some people incorrectly use the terms interchangeably, most consider veganism to be underpinned by the belief that animals should not harmed or exploited for human consumption, while plant-based eating isn't built upon an ideology.
According to a vast amount of research, plant-based diets offer a number of positive health outcomes.
"Plants have numerous health benefits, from antioxidants to dietary fibre and so much more, so a plant-based diet is great for us," Day explained.
"A plant-based diet is much more environmentally sustainable than a diet which contains large amounts of animal products," Day said.
"By having less meat or animal products, we are reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we can't have healthy humans if we don't have a healthy planet, too."
Although there are no concrete restrictions as to exactly how much animal-derived foods you can consume on a plant-based diet, the key is to remember that your overall diet should be comprised largely of plants.
"There is no firm definition of what a plant-based diet is with regards to how much animal product would push you 'over'," Day said.
"My suggestion is to look at what you eat in a day, or even just one meal. [Ask yourself] 'What proportion of that meal is from an animal vs. plants?', then work on improving that ratio to bump up the plant portion."
From an environmental perspective, even the smallest changes can make a difference, Day emphasised.
"A little bit goes a long way when it comes to our health and the environment. I think it is so important to remember we don't have to be perfect. Small swaps or small reductions in animal products on a global scale make a big difference," she said.
"Our best dietary sources of plant protein can be found in foods like tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, chickpeas, quinoa, and in smaller amounts in other grains, nuts and seeds," said Day.
If you're interested in moving towards a plant-based diet, it's a good idea to assess how much animal-based product you are consuming before making any changes, Day expressed.
"My suggestion would be to think about how much animal product you are having at the moment, then come up with one to two simple things you could do to increase your plant intake and reduce animal-based products.
"For example, it might be as simple as having one meat-free meal a week, or swapping out half the mince in a dish for lentils, or having a smaller serving of meat with your veggies. Don't over-complicate it, start where you are and make small but meaningful changes."