Is Plant Based For You?
For your Health, For the Environment!
I made the decision to go plant based almost 2 years ago when I first started at studying nutrition at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Going plant based can help fight inflammation, decrease acidity, promote a healthy digestive system & mind and so much more. A plant based diet is based on eating whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains while limiting meat and dairy. Plant based does not mean you have to cut out all sources of meat and dairy. Some choose to continue to eat meat and dairy, other's don't. Have you heard of meat-less Monday or tofu Thursday? Meat-less meals are becoming very popular! Limiting meat and introducing new foods can be an exciting way to get your partner or the family pumped about eating healthy. There is no wrong way of going plant based, it's just a matter of choosing what works best for you body, eating as much plant based foods as you can and eat meat when you feel like your body needs it.
How do you know if your body needs serious protein, or meat?
fatigue/brain fog adrenal fatigue anemia hair is falling out constantly getting sick If you suffer from these or any other similar symptoms I could highly suggest to rei-introduce meat back into your diet for a couple of week or talk to your health care practitioner.
I don't believe in necessarily restricting myself from certain foods, I believe in having a balanced diet. Although, limiting myself to meat & dairy agrees much better with my body & digestive system. I probably have meat 2-3 times a week and I limit myself to dairy (such as milk and cheese) as much as I can. Dairy causes a few different reactions in my body. After I eat dairy, especially non-organic MILK.. I bloat instantly and the next day I wake up with a rash looking break out all around my mouth, not fun!! I have tested this before by eliminating dairy and re-introducing it into my diet. You can try it to!
There are a few concerns and questions people have from going plant based. Like how do you get enough protein? How do you portion your meals? How do you get enough calories? The list can go on! Before I get into this post, I want to emphasize on the importance of building a relationship with food and gaining nutrition knowledge. If you are just plopping random plant based foods down onto your plate thinking your getting enough nutrients and calories, not really knowing what you are doing - don't worry! Being a plant based expert does not happen overnight haha. As a holistic nutritionist, I have built a little food list in my brain. So when I put together my meals I basically know the nutrient value of what I am eating. My advice to you is to build your own nutrition knowledge! That is exactly why I created this post, was in the hopes of you learning more about going plant based and seeing if it is the right lifestyle for you!
Balancing Macro-Nutrients & Foods
I don't count calories or macro-nutrients! If you read the post below this, you can find out why I do not count macro-nutrients or use a macro calculator for any of my meals. The one thing with being plant based is you need to know what the nutrient value of your food is and it's really not that complicated! It's important to make sure you are getting enough macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) every day. If you aren't eating enough macro's or you are limiting yourself to calories, imbalances things like elevated cortisol, hormonal changes and weight gain or loss can be triggered. When I put together my meals I think.. am I getting enough protein, carbs and fat? I also like to think of color and flavor! I use my plate or bowl as a food calculator, filling it up with the necessary nutrients I need at each meal. For example, many of my meals look like this:
Oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, chia seeds and ground flax!
Quinoa with roasted vegetables topped with hemp hearts and pumpkin seeds (not pictured).
Palm-ful size of chicken breast with roasted asparagus and potato and an avocado aioli.
I don't have meat everyday but if I do I like to fill majority of my plate with vegetables!
I add different foods that have different nutrient values to my plate. Like adding quinoa, tempeh, beans or lentils for protein. Vegetables for carbohydrates, avocado, nut butter or olive oil for healthy fats and always hemp hearts, nuts or seeds for extra protein - not to mention the nutty taste of hemp hearts literally tastes delicious on everything! Adding different foods with different nutrient values is how I make sure I am consuming enough macro-nutrients at every meal! Now eating plant based sometimes means your meals may not be as calorie dense as non-plant based meals are. Which is why it is very important to make sure you are eating larger meals or eating several times throughout the day! The two things I want you to take away from this section of this post are... #1 Expand your knowledge in foods and nutrition. This can be done by researching and cooking & experimenting with different foods and seeing what works best for you body in terms of nutrient needs! #2 Use your plate as a food calculator, look at your plate in terms of nutrients and color. You know that different foods have different nutrient values, so it is your job to put together those foods at each meal to ensure you are getting the amount of macro-nutrients your body needs. PLANT BASED MACRO TIP: adding nut butters to your meals, snacks or smoothies is an easy, quick & healthy way to increase the calorie, protein and fat content. If you need more help about plant based macro-nutrients please read my blog post directly below this post about Intuitive Eating!
The Benefits of Plant Based
Excellent for your health Excellent for the environment Fights inflammation Decreases acidity in the body and helps balance pH Beneficial for the digestive system and colon Supports the liver and organs Clears up skin break outs Aids in weight loss Saves you money You are not supporting animal cruelty or the factory farming industry
Supplementation When Needed
As a nutritionist and as someone who enjoys to eat plant based there are a few supplements that are in my daily regimen. A plant based diet has endless health benefits but it does limit your body to a few nutrients like B-12, vitamin D, protein, omega's 3 - 6 - 9, iron, zinc and calcium since these nutrients are mostly found in animal based foods. Actually most people in our society are depleted from these important vitamins and minerals and many more!! Taking a multi-vitamin can supply these nutrients to your body if you are deficient but I would recommend for some to be taken separately so you can have a higher dosage of the certain vitamin/mineral. Example: 1,000 IU is not enough vitamin D for our body to utilize. Taking 5,000- 6,000 IU will have a much more therapeutic effect.
There is nothing wrong with supplementation. We live in a day and age were our soil and food is very depleted of vitamins and minerals, this is where supplementation comes in and supports out body by giving it what it needs that is no longer found it our food anymore! You can supplement from whole foods, not synthetic vitamins and minerals - it's just a matter of choosing the right product. A few things I would recommend to supplement when eating a plant based diet would be: - Vitamin B12 - Plant Based Protein Powder - Vitamin D - Plant Based Omega 3 - 6 - 9 - Iron - Zinc - Calcium/Magnesium Supplement (2:1)
Take Away Message:
There is no wrong way of eating plant based. GO plant based for your own health and the environment + animals. Build your nutrition knowledge & a relationship with food and cooking. Supplement when needed. Balance your macro-nutrients by using your plate and looking at foods in terms of nutrient value and color.