A common nutrition challenge that many people struggle with is consuming plant food. I am specifically referring to fruits, legumes, beans, and vegetables. In my experience vegetables are the most challenging. In this article interview my colleague Michelle Smith, MS, RDN, an expert in plant-based eating, vegan and vegetarian eating styles is sharing some of her knowledge, wisdom and tips.
I believe that there is no one perfect diet or eating style for everyone. Whether you choose a vegan, Mediterranean, low-carbohydrate, ketogenic, or high-carbohydrate, (etc.) approach to eating, there is no dispute that plants are an integral part of all of those approaches. Further, they contribute high nutrient value from phytonutrients, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Crafting a nutrient-rich, whole-foods approach does benefit everyone, so let’s dig in!
Q. Michelle, what inspired you to become an expert in plant-based eating?
A. Simply, I loved animals and decided I wanted to abstain from eating them but I had no idea what I was doing when I first went plant-based! I had read about all of these success stories, with people feeling recharged, but honestly those first few months I felt awful.
It wasn't until I started studying how to follow a balanced, plant-based diet that I saw the benefits for myself. I finally experienced an Increase in energy, healthy, glowing skin, and hit my goal weight.
I decided I wanted to help others achieve the same amazing results and focused on understanding as much as I could about plant-based eating.
Q. I know that some people are confused on what are the key differences in a vegetarian versus a vegan eating style. Can you help us understand that more clearly?
A. That’s a great question, and one I get all of the time! A vegetarian is someone who doesn't consume meat, poultry or fish, but will still enjoy other animal products like eggs and dairy.
Vegans omit all animal products (like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, honey) from their diets and even their lifestyles.
Aside from not consuming beef or milk, you wouldn't typically see a vegan wear leather shoes, have a wool sweater or purchase beauty products with animal ingredients.
Q. If someone is thinking about adopting a vegan style of eating, what are a few of your top recommendations both for transitioning into it and to creating a well-nourished approach?
A. My top recommendation would be to educate yourself!
Research the information from credible sites, like nutritionfacts.org, and read books by credentialed individuals, like Becoming Vegan.
I would also say to start small, with realistic changes over time. We know that lifestyle changes can take 3-months before they become our new norm so don't rush the process. Start with a Meatless Monday, try out a new plant-based restaurant each Friday, buy a new plant-based cookbook and make a new recipe three times a week.
And understand what a plant-based plate is! For a breakdown of what plant-based eating looks like, check out a blog where I break it down.
Q. For those who want don’t want either a vegetarian or vegan approach but struggle with getting enough plant foods into their daily intake, want are some of your favorite strategies to bolster inclusion of plant foods?
A. There are so many ways to up the plant foods! You can start small by simply by:
Q. Can you explain what some of the common nutritional short-falls in a poorly designed plant-based only eating approach?
A. Of course! Supplementing and eating well balanced plant-based meals are essential. When we fall short on the critical supplements (Vitamin D, Vitamin b12, and Omega-3), or fail to create balanced meals rich in iron, calcium, iodine, or zinc, to name a few important minerals, we can experience low energy levels, mood changes, and more colds.
Also, you want to make sure when you first go whole-food, plant-based you are getting in enough calories. I have had clients that were suffering from low energy and headaches only to find out they were not getting enough calories! Plant foods tend to be lower calories, meaning we need more to hit our caloric needs. So load up on those plant-foods!
I'm grateful that Michelle participated in this article and I hope it will give you something to think about.
In closing, I hope you will be inspired to bring more plant love and life into your daily eating. Make your plate colorful! Prepare your veggies in a variety of ways to play with flavors, visual appeal and textures. Try them raw, grilled, sautéed, broiled, mashed, roasted, or steamed and see what your pallet discovers.
There is so much more to say about the benefits of plant-foods, that we can’t cover in just one article, but remember that there are a wide-variety of plant foods, it’s not just the vegetables. The list includes fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, legumes, and grains. It’s a big plant world out there, so go find your favorites and enjoy!
If you are interested in getting help with crafting a well-designed healthy vegan or vegetarian eating approach you can reach my guest at firstname.lastname@example.org her website is: www.sensiblysprouted.com.
Photo by ja ma on Unsplash.
I'm Carmina McGee, MS, RDN, and my mission is to support women to live their happiest, healthiest lives and THRIVE!