The best plant-based diet is for sure one you can stick with. That said, when it comes to truly optimizing your health, the science tells us again and again a whole food plant-based diet is hands down the winner. But if you're new to WFPB eating, you may not really know what the means...or looks like. Luckily, we're sharing some tips for the visual learnings out there.
Before We Begin: The Easiest Way to Eat More Plant-Based Foods
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Want to Get Healthy? Why It's Time to Say Goodbye to Diet Culture
There are so many diet plans out there and it can be confusing when you're desperate to feel better, lose weight, sleep better, etc...and you can't seem to get a straight answer as to which diet is best.
But here's something to consider: a diet that solves your pain point (i.e. helping you lose weight) isn't necessarily the healthiest diet for your body. As Dr. Greger says: “the goal is not to fit into a skinnier casket.” As morbid as that may sound, it’s just the kick in the butt someone might need to realize that fad diets don't work. Not in the long-term. They may help you drop weight fast, but they can be hard to maintain...and they can have some serious health consequences to boot.
So what does work — long-term? A whole food plant-based diet!
It's not a fad. It's not a gimmick. It's not even a diet, really. It's a lifestyle, and it can change your life and health forever.
The magical thing about a whole food plant based diet is that it solves all those pain points, but not just in the short-term.
Plant foods have the highest concentration of nutrients, while containing low amounts of fat. Keeping to whole foods ensures that refined grains, oils and sugars stay far away from your body, leaving your internal organs to function at the top of their game.
It's all about quality, not quantity, so no need to restrict or deprive yourself, even if your goal is weight loss.
And unlike some diets, it doesn't have to be all or nothing.
Not ready to give up your processed favorites or animal proteins? Keep 5%-10% of your diet flexible and go from there. The goal is progress, not perfection, and you will certainly feel results on a more "flexitarian" diet, too!
Benefits of a WFPB Diet
I'll let a doctor explain why eating more plants is good for your health...
Rather read than watch?
There are so many benefits to a plant-based diet, but for now, here are the cliff notes.
1. Healthy Weight Loss
39.8% of the US adult population suffers from obesity. And it’s not just about jeans getting tight. Obesity has so many health risks and is one of the biggest killers in the country.
And shedding unwanted weight is just the beginning...
2. Reduced inflammation
Chronic inflammation is another big problem in America. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, telling the immune system to repair damaged tissue and fight off infection. Many animal foods (including red meats, dairy products, and saturated fats) increase inflammation in the human body. And when inflammation becomes chronic, it causes disease like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.
Plant-based foods, on the other hand, reduce inflammation!
3. Overall Wellness
And health doesn’t stop with the physical body. At MamaSezz we believe mental and emotional health is just as important. Plant-based diets improve all of the above.
Omnivorous diets are low in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — chemicals are used to regulate brain-cell function. Not so with plant-based diets, rich in both EPA and DHA. Why’s this matter? Plant-based eaters experience fewer negative emotions and boosted mood overall.
A plant-based diet for beginners is a heckuva lot easier with the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) Power Plate.
A general rule of thumb:
- ¼ of your plate should be vegetables and fruits
- ¼ of your plate should be leafy greens and raw veggies
- ¼ of your plate should be whole grains and starchy veggies
- ¼ of your plate should be legumes, beans and cruciferous veggies
WFPB Meals Ideas for Beginners (Using the Power Plate as a Template!)
Yes, you could divide your plate into 4 even sections and fill them accordingly. That’s just no fun though! Instead of hyper-focusing on portions, just try to get a little bit of each category onto your plate:
Taco Night WFPB Style
Love black bean tacos? The sautéed peppers and onions count as your "fruits and vegetables," the lettuce, avocados and sliced tomatoes count as your, “leafy greens and raw veggies,” the corn tortillas count as your, “whole grains and starchy veggies,” and the black beans count as your “legumes and cruciferous veggies.”
Pasta Night WFPB Style
Pasta lovers, rejoice! You can definitely keep pasta night on the rotation as part of your plant-based diet for beginners. Simply enjoy whole grain, brown rice or legume pasta as your, “whole grains and starchy veggies” topped with marinara sauce with diced eggplant as your, “vegetables and fruits” and then enjoy a large side salad with some hummus to fulfill the “leafy greens and raw veggies” and “legumes and cruciferous veggies” sections.
Missing a section?
No worries! Fruit makes a delicious salad topping, or dessert. Plus, you don't have to think about this as a hard and fast "rule" for every single meal. Think of your diet in terms of the day, instead of each meal. Did you get all your "sections" in today? Great! If you didn't, tomorrow's another day.
As long as your plate is colorful and you’re eating enough food, there is no need to worry about micronutrients or calorie counting. The more plants your enjoy, the more optimal your diet will be, and therefore, the healthier you will feel and look. It's science!
The exciting thing about a WFPB diet is you can stop measuring, weighing, counting and hyper focusing on micronutrients!
Simply eat the rainbow. Lots of natural colors on your plate means you’re getting a variety and balance of nutrients. Don’t worry about protein, calcium, iron, carbs or calories. As long as your plate is beautiful, your insides will be too! (And yes, you can get enough of all those aformentioned nutrients on a WFPB diet — easily I may add!)
- The best plant based diet for optimal health is a whole food plant-based diet.
- Overwhelmed? Just start by adding more fruits and veggies into your diet!
- What should your WFPB plate look like: aim for 1/4 whole grains and starches, 1/4 leafy greens, 1/4 beans, and 1/4 fruits and veggies.
- But don't overthink it! The best way to ensure you're getting a balanced diet it to fill your plate with colorful foods! The more color variance, the more nutrient variance. Did you know nutrients express themselves through colors?
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.