What is it?
What is a Plant-Based Diet? Is it vegetarian? Vegan? Can you eat meat? Well, the truth is that, the definitely of a plant-based diet defers depending on who you ask. Generally, it is a lifestyle choice that emphasises on eating more real, whole foods that comes from plants. To me, plant-based does not mean completely eliminating lean sources of protein.
So when I started this year, I knew I needed a cleanse from all the holiday foods and decided to go on a plant-based diet for 30 days. Honestly I was a little bit worried as I know that my body will NOT do well consuming lots of beans and lentils on a daily basis. I have a very sensitive stomach and often feel bloated because of my IBS. Beans and lentils can cause bloating because of the excess fibre I’m taking in. Plus I’m intolerant to tempeh, so that’s completely out of the question.
Knowing my body, I decided to not stress myself out and take a more relaxed approach. At the end of the day, you need to eat according to what works for your body and not just follow a certain diet, restrict your food, or even force yourself to eat too much of a certain type of food, just because they are healthy. So it really is a process of understanding your body and how your body reacts to different foods.
So I didn’t completely eliminate meat. As some of you might know, I’m a Pescatarian. So I do consume fish and seafood, because I know that my body needs higher amounts of Omega-3s and Vitamin B12.
During that 30 days, I made sure to add a lot more plant based foods especially fresh vegetables into all my meals. For the first 2 weeks, I consumed fish for one meal daily and on the 3rd and 4th week, I reduced it to every alternate days. So it wasn’t a drastic change, but a gradual one.
When it comes to consuming beans and lentils, I’d go for canned beans. The canning process actually helps to break down some of the carbs in the beans, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause gas. If possible choose the “low-sodium” option and be sure to rinse the beans to reduce the sodium content.
Another trick is to soak the beans in water before you cook them for 3 - 4 hours, to help get rid of some of the gas-producing carbs. Some of the beans that work well for me are black beans and chickpeas. That’s also the reason why you see them being repeated a lot in my recipes, haha! So it was a lot of trial though the years.
I don’t consume dairy as I’m lactose intolerant. So I’ve swap that with non-dairy milk such as unsweetened soy or almond milk.
What I’ve Learned
What I’ve learned bout about the plant-based diets is that they promote INCLUSIVITY over EXCLUSIVITY. So it’s not asking you to completely eliminate a food group, or restricting what you can eat such as no carbs or low fat, which you know that I’m against, but rather, it’s about consuming a well-balanced diet that emphasises on the consumption of healthy real plant-foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, healthy fats, while reducing the intake of unhealthy plant foods as well as animal products.
Did I feel hungry when I was eating more plant foods? Not really, because having huge amounts of veggies really filled me up, plus they are low in calories which can help with weight loss. Did I have a sense of not feeling satisfied? No, because I could enjoy healthy complex carbs and also healthy fats such as nuts and avocado, which helped satiate my hunger. Did it affect my workout? No, as I was consuming enough protein from beans, tofu, nuts and seeds as well as fish.
To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult because it didn’t defer much from my previous eating habits and my values. I didn’t feel as bloated compared to when I tried a Vegan lifestyle because I felt that my food choices were very limited and those foods didn’t do well with my tummy.
I wanted to emphasise that this is a WHOLE FOOD, Plant Based Diet. Because you can eat plant foods but be super unhealthy! For instance, eating French fries and cookies every day is still a plant-based diet, but it’s going to cause more damage to your body! So again, it goes back to the principle of eating REAL WHOLE FOOD and avoid fast food, desserts, sweetened drinks, refined grains, packaged foods and processed meats.
How can you make the transition in 7 simple steps
If you have been struggling to make the transition to eat better or you have failed in all sorts of different diets out there, then the plant-based approach may suit you.
Here are 7 really simple steps for you to make the transition:
What you decide to avoid is up to you. Some of you might consume 100% plant food, whereas others might include some meat. Even if you do 70/30 plant-based eating, I think your body will feel a difference. That's kind of where I am right now. I feel less bloated, I have more energy, better focus and I don’t have as much cravings compared to when I would restrict my food and beat myself up over eating a piece of cookie.
The bottom line is to “not sweat the small stuff” and to look at the big picture instead: “Focus on the big changes like consuming less processed food and more whole foods and vegetables.
I’d like to think that plant-based eating is a holistic approach to better health, but in a simple and actionable way that won’t overwhelm you, plus this is LONG TERM.