On almost a daily basis, someone asks me how to become plant based or just how to include more meatless meals. In today’s world, we all are aware that there are serious health and environmental benefits (more about this in my next blog) as well as benefits for animal welfare.
Whatever your reasoning for considering plant based eating, start slow. By starting slow, you will not become overwhelmed and see it as too much work. Any change to our lives is just that – CHANGE – and most of us fight change in any way, even when it is to our benefit. So remember that this (and anything worth doing) may not feel easy at first but by starting small and staying consistent, you can make life long changes that will greatly benefit you, just by reducing your animal product consumption, even by a little bit.
What does plant based eating even mean?
Plant based eating means the obvious – fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, nuts & seeds and beans & legumes. Since plant based diets often rely heavily on these healthful staples, they tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. A diet like this is abundant with vitamins B1, C, and E, folic acid, magnesium and iron while also low in cholesterol and saturated fats.
A huge benefit to this is that ALL these foods contain phytochemicals, or plant nutrients. Growing up we probably all heard that we need to eat our carrots so we have good eyesight. Actually true. One of the phytochemicals found in carrots is carotenoids which have antioxidant properties, which can help reduce the oxidative damage caused in our body by free radicals. Research has shown multiple links between dietary intake of carotenoids and reduced risk of many diseases. That is just one example; there are thousands.
Where’s the protein?!
I am the first to admit, after years in the fitness industry and competing as a bikini & figure competitor, the shift to a plant based mindset was challenging. However as Americans, we tend to WAY overeat protein. A 200 pound man needs about 73-92 grams per day, possibly up to 138 grams with serious weight workouts. As a female around 135 pounds, I need 49-61 grams of protein per day (.8-1.0 g/kg of actual body weight). If I’m working on building muscle, I might bring it up to 92 grams (1.5 g/kg) at most. I have women all the time tell me they are eating 150-200 + grams of protein per day during fat loss… truth be told, it is just not necessary. As a coach and registered dietitian, I have found that by finding appropriate balance with nutrients, my patients and myself are more satisfied by their adjusted diets and love that it is more gentle on the kidneys and delivers them the same results as high protein diets.
Anyways...plant based protein. There’s a million sources, here’s a few:
1/2 cup chickpeas: 7 g
1/2 cup lentils: 9 g
1/2 cup firm tofu: 10 g
1 cup quinoa, cooked: 8g
1/4 cup almonds: 7.4 g
1 whole grain bagel: 12 g
2 slices sprouted grain bread: 14 g
1 whole wheat English muffin: 8 g
1 cup soy milk: 8-12g
1 medium orange: 1.2 g
1 cup broccoli: 2.6 g
1 scoop vegan protein powder: 10-25 g
A key here is to think about combinations. If for breakfast I have peanut butter on a whole grain bagel and an orange, I’ve hit 17 grams of protein. If I’m consuming ~60 grams a day, I’m almost a third of the way there.
How do I start though?
I suggest you start by incorporating a few meatless meals per week and see how you feel. I swear…it makes a difference! Find a few recipes that you want to try and try a new one each week. Focus on ONE new recipe per week to keep things manageable.
Think about replacing ½ your ground beef or turkey in tacos with beans or beefless crumbles and go from there. Try chickpea pasta (Banza is my favorite) with marinara sauce for dinner…add veggies to your sauce or on the side. Make a quesadilla with a whole grain tortilla, black beans and avocado. Have a sandwich on whole grain bread with hummus and veggies. Just keep it simple to start.
By starting slowly, you can build a repertoire of plant based meals that you like. This makes the eating style simple and low stress. Little changes over time are key to lasting results.
Comment and let me know what kind of plant based recipes you want to try…. I’ll share my favorites!