The health benefits include improved weight loss, helping the environment and reduced risk for chronic diseases. Yet interestingly enough, just over 50% of Americans rank taste as their primary reason for switching to plant-based proteins, signifying that eating a plant-based diet can be just as tasty as being a meat-eater, and doesn’t only have to be made in the interest of health and eco-consciousness.
Whatever the reason for making the switch, transitioning to a plant-based diet can still prove challenging if you’ve never tried it before. If plant-based eating interests you, here are five tips to help you get started.
Opting for a plant-based diet is a personal decision. Perhaps you’re interested in feeling better and trying to shed a few pounds. Maybe you want to adopt more environmentally conscious lifestyle choices or are concerned about animal welfare in livestock agriculture.
Likewise, research shows that plant-based eating leads to a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular deaths and an 11% decrease in overall mortality from other conditions for those with a family history of heart disease.
Discovering your motivation for going entirely or predominantly vegetarian will help you stay on track, whatever your rationale. Write your reasoning down, discuss it with friends, and research it to remain informed and inspired about your decision.
Some people can stop eating meat cold turkey — no pun intended — while others may find it easier to establish a plant-based diet by swapping out foods slowly.
Start with Meatless Monday, then add another day or two of only plant-based eating. You could begin cutting out certain meats from your diet, as well. Decide to stick to eating chicken and fish for a while and skip the beef and pork. As time goes on, begin cutting out the rest.
It could take some time to feel the benefits of swapping out meat. Other people could see an immediate improvement in bodily inflammation and gut health.
Research has indicated that plant-based diets may alter anti-inflammatory biomarkers and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart problems and cancer. Studies also show that vegetarian and vegan diets improve gut health by creating more diverse microbial systems.
Plant-based diets can be confusing in the early stages. If you previously ate a lot of animal products and heavily processed items, you’ll probably feel hungry and want to fill your plate with the same amount of food in veggies and fruits.
Plant-based foods are high in fiber and water. They’re also much lower in calories than meats and animal by-products.
Look for more natural foods loaded with protein to keep you fuller longer. The recommended dietary allowance of protein is 10%-35% of the daily calorie intake for American adults over 19. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some vegetarian foods with high protein counts include:
Beans, legumes and edamame
Nuts and seeds
Grains like barley or quinoa
Tofu or tempeh
Milk substitutes like almond, oat, coconut or soy milk
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, watercress or bok choy
Let’s say you plan to continue eating eggs, which many vegetarians do. You’re in luck because the average egg has 6-7 grams of protein, making it an excellent option for adding essential nutrients to your plant-based diet.
As you come to grips with what a plant-based diet looks like, you may find yourself stocking up on unhealthy snack foods. That's easy to do when your body is trying to adjust.
Make a conscious effort to purchase healthy foods packed with the nutrients and minerals your body needs. Go through your refrigerator and pantry and either toss or donate the items you’re no longer planning to eat.
Fill your kitchen with fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and nutritional drinks that are readily available for munching or incorporating into your new vegetarian recipes. You can also buy frozen produce, which is convenient for cooking, has a longer shelf life and will help prevent food waste.
Do your research, whether you’re considering transitioning to a plant-based diet or have already begun. Medical science oscillates between eating animal products for a balanced diet and avoiding them entirely.
If you’ve decided to eat less meat and more plant-based foods, stay informed about the health benefits. Is it because you have inflammation throughout your body? Are you trying to prevent a heart attack? Read through studies that have examined the link between vegetarianism or veganism and your particular condition.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a collection of several resources and nutritional recommendations for eating a plant-based diet at any age. You can also speak with your physician about your desire to cut out meat to boost your overall well-being.
Plant-based eating is easier than it seems, and diving in headfirst is one of the best ways to transition. Start a collection of vegetarian recipes and cookbooks, and don’t be afraid to try new foods and experiment in the kitchen. You’ll be reaping the health benefits in no time.
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