Now more than ever, people are starting to appreciate the benefits of plant-based eating. A growing number of people are choosing to incorporate more plants into their diet and looking for plant-based alternatives to meat and animal products.
There are many reasons for the switch. From increased energy and improved performance, to animal welfare and environmental concerns, this way of eating is increasingly making sense for people.
While individual reasons vary, there are several benefits to moving towards plant-based nutrition. Adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the standard american diet is a big step in the right direction for lowering inflammation and improving overall health.
If you’re looking to take more of a plant-based approach, there are several ways to do this. Let’s look at the most common types of plant-based eating to see which might be a fit for you.
Defining Plant-Based Eating
There are several variations of the definition, depending on which foods you’re choosing to consume or avoid.
Flexitarian: a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing some meat and other animal products in moderation. This is a great starting point for those considering or transitioning to a fully plant-based way of eating.
Vegetarian: this category includes several sub-types:
- Lacto-vegetarian: this diet does not contain red or white meat, fish, fowl, or eggs. However, lacto-vegetarians do consume dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt.
- Ovo-vegetarian: this diet does not contain any meat, fish, fowl, or dairy products; however, in addition to mostly plant foods, egg products are consumed.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: this diet does not contain red or white meat, fish, or fowl; however, in addition to plant foods, dairy and egg products are consumed. This is the most common type of vegetarian.
- Pescatarian: this diet does not contain red or white meat, fowl, dairy, or eggs; however, in addition to mostly plant-foods, fish and aquatic animals are consumed.
It’s important to note that someone may choose any variation of these eating patterns based on what works for their body. Focus less on fitting into a category and more on what works for you.
Vegan: a vegan diet is devoid of all animal products, including meat, fish, fowl, eggs, and dairy; as well as animal by-products, like honey, beeswax, bone broth and gelatin. People who adopt a vegan lifestyle (apart from their diet) also choose not to use animal products such as silk, leather, and wool. For some people veganism is a way of living that excludes all forms of animal exploitation, whether for food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose.
There’s a sub-category of veganism often referred to in jest as a “junk-food vegan.” This is not an advised diet category, rather it’s important to understand the definition so you don’t fall into this pattern.
Junk-Food Vegan: a vegan diet lacking in whole plant foods, relying heavily on mock meats and cheeses, french fries, vegan desserts, and other heavily processed animal-free foods.
Whole-Food Plant-Based: whole-food describes natural foods that are not heavily processed, i.e., whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients. Plant-based refers to food that comes from plants and does not include any animal ingredients. So, putting it all together, a whole-food plant-based diet focuses on natural minimally processed plant foods.
*Note on the word “diet” – here we refer to it as a way of eating/the kinds of foods habitually consumed, not a calorie restricted program intended for weight loss*
As you can see, there are many ways to approach plant-based eating, and it’s up to you to make the dietary choices that best fit your lifestyle and values. Remember that there is no one size fits all way of eating. It’s more important to focus on what works for your body and your lifestyle, than it is to fit into a specific diet category.
For those looking to get started with plant-based eating (of any type) here are some ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:
- Smoothies – a great way to blend fruits and vegetables into a delicious drink. You can add vegan protein powders as well.
- Use lettuce leaves as a food wrap – add more nutrients to your diet and skip the bun.
- Veggie noodles – sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, zucchini and squash are commonly spiralized into noodles to form the base of just about any meal.
- Make soup – a traditional way to get a ton of veggies in one meal. You can puree your soup or leave your veggies in pieces according to your taste.
- Swap rice for cauliflower – buy ready-made or make your own in a food processor. This is an easy way to swap in more veggies.
- Use raw veggies in place of crackers with dip – they’re just as delicious but pack more fibre and nutrients than crackers.
If you’re looking for an easy way to add protein to your plant-based diet check out Iron Vegan protein blends. Sign up to be a MoveCamp community member for perks on Iron Vegan products.