As a vegetarian myself, I believe wholeheartedly in the benefits of plant-based eating – and as I’ve experienced, filling your plate with plant-based foods does wonders for your health and waistline, not to mention the planet!
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is a diet consisting mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants, including veggies, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes such and lentils and chickpeas, and fruits, and with few or no animal products.
As dietitian and Harvard Health contributor, Katherine McManus, explains – plant-based doesn’t mean that you’re strictly a vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy products. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.
In South Africa, it’s certainly becoming easier to stick to a plant-based diet. I’ve noticed that I have way more options when it comes to eating out and shopping. Woolworths, for example has launched a range of new plant-based meals, and dairy-free cheeses. They’ve also increased their range of dairy free milks and it’s wonderful to see.
When I see clients for a wellness consultation, I start them on my Elimin8 programme, which is a vegan-based programme, for 10 days. We eliminate all potential foods that could aggravate the gut and trigger allergies such as sugar, wheat, caffeine etc. Then, they they follow a Mediterranean diet as their maintenance programme- and we focus on including plenty of plant-based foods into their eating plan. It really is the best way to eat for overall health and longevity.
I truly believe that it’s not about becoming vegetarian or vegan per se, but more about reducing the demand for foods that put pressure on the environment and drive animal cruelty practices. Less demand for these products, will be better for us and the world.
Plant-based foods are good for your health
There are many documentaries revealing the horrors about dairy and meat production, as well as the health-related risks of eating too many processed/deli meats, and too much saturated fat from animals etc. I think this is one of the main reasons why the plant-based movement is here to stay.
In a recent report by Harvard Health, researchers emphasised that plant-based diets, including the Mediterranean diet- which I recommend, has the biggest positive impact on heart health.
And because plant-based diets are predominantly rich in fibre and vitamins, they also help to:
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of disease
- Help to prevent obesity
- Minimise the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
How to start a plant-based diet
The key is to start slowly and focus on what you can eat, rather than what you can’t eat. So, begin by filling your plate with more fruits and veggies, grains, seeds and nuts, healthy fats from olives, avocado and olive oil – and pulses including beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Then, start to cut down on the amount of animal products you consume, including cheese, milk, eggs and meat. You don’t have to cut it them out altogether, but the more plant-based foods you eat, the more satisfied you’ll feel and the less you’ll crave other foods.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Try healthy swaps. Instead of using cow’s milk in your tea or breakfast cereal, substitute it with a dairy-free milk such as almond or rice milk. And, instead of smearing butter on your bread, use avocado, vegan mayo or peanut butter for a healthier, plant-based option.
- Experiment with different fruits and veggies. Try a new recipe or two each week with a new veggie you haven’t eaten in a while. Make sure you include plenty of different colours.
- Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Some of my favourites include vegetarian curries, stir-fries and burgers made with vegetarian patties and delicious condiments such as cooked onion, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.
- Build your meal around veggies or a salad. And let the meat portion of your dish become the condiment rather than the hero.
- Go for greens! Include plenty of spinach, kale, swiss chard and broccoli into your dishes, smoothies etc. Greens are rich in fibre and phytonutrients which help to keep your immune system strong.
Healthy snacks on-the-go
Whether I’m rushing off to teach a rebounding class or heading out to shoots or meetings for the day, I always make sure I have at least 1-2 healthy plant-based snacks with me, especially if there’s a chance I’ll be working through lunch. Some of my favourite, healthy plant-based snacks include;
Biogen Whey Oat Bars or Energy Oat Bars
The Biogen Whey Bars are not only delicious (they taste better than chocolate bars), they’re also made with whey protein isolate, which is better absorbed by the body. I enjoy having these straight after a hard workout as the protein helps to retain the muscle mass I’ve worked hard to build.
The Biogen Energy Oats Bar is also an ideal post workout snack because it contains L Glutamine and electrolytes to assist with muscle recovery.
Crudités with hummus
Super Scoop or a protein shake in a travel mug
Both these drinks are simple to prepare and packed with nutrients to boost my energy levels and immune system. Or, I add some protein to my Super Scoop drink and voila, I have everything I need in one travel mug.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, consider trying Biogen’s new Plant Based Protein from their Well Range.
Wholewheat blueberry crumpets
If you’re not a fan of crumpets, you can whip up some healthy sugar-free bran muffins or my popular caprese egg muffins if you eat dairy products.