Plant-Based Eating: What’s In It For You?

Plant-based eating is no new fad – still it continues to gather a healthy following. With a focus on whole foods, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about.

What is a plant-based diet?

Plant-based eating is a celebration of nature’s kitchen. More flexible than veganism and more diverse than a plate full of kale, it focuses on foods that are minimally processed. With proven health benefits and support for environmental sustainability, there’s little doubt that most of us could benefit from the inclusion of more plant foods in our diet.

The Power of Plants

Plant-based foods contain certain nutrients that can’t be replicated by supplements or even animal products. Their unique combination of heart-healthy fats, fibre, protein, phytonutrients and quality carbohydrates gives your body a nutrition boost straight from nature itself.

If you think plant-based eating sounds bland, think again! Plant-forward eating can still mean eating from the five food groups. However, unlike vegan or vegetarianism, which are typically defined by which foods you can’t eat, plant-based diets are defined by what you can eat — lots of plants!

This means eating predominantly veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, tofu, olive oil, and moderate amounts of animal products and minimal refined foods.

Staying healthy on a plant-based diet

Keeping moderate amounts of meat and poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy products, if you choose to eat them, ensures you’re getting added nutrients such as highly absorbed iron, vitamin B12, omega-3 fats and bone-strengthening calcium – nutrients which may fall short if eating plants alone.

Due to the flexi nature of plant-based diets, some followers refer to their diet as “flexitarian” (a combination of the words ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’), meaning you can still reap the benefits of eating predominantly plants without having to completely shun meat and animal products. Meatless Monday, anyone?

Your guide to going more green

Here are some simple ways to get started with a plant-based diet:

Start your day right: Include whole grains such as rolled oats, high-fibre muesli or multigrain sourdough with avocado and mushrooms. Add some seeds, nuts or fruit to top it off.

Eat a rainbow: If half your plate is made up of plants, then you’re on the right track. Aim for variety – the more colourful the better. For more nutrition bang for your buck, shop for seasonal produce

Sensible snacks: Enjoy crunchy veggies or whole grain crackers with hummus, salsa or guacamole, or crunch on some walnuts, almonds, macadamias, or cashews. Nuts deliver a huge hit of protein, fibre and heart-healthy fats. Sprinkle them through your salads and stir-frys or add a dollop of nut butters to smoothies.

Quality carbs: Plant-based doesn’t mean carb-free. It simply comes down to making smart carb choices. Swap out refined starches for sweet potatoes, rolled oats, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, millet or corn to give you a sustainable source of fuel. Plus, whole grain sources of carbs contain fibre to feed the beneficial gut bacteria to help support your immunity and bolster mood.

Become a keen bean: They’re full of protein, fibre and have minimal artery-clogging fat. From chickpeas to kidney beans, black beans to butter beans, they’re a cost-effective meat substitute and nutritious addition to your plant repertoire.

Make meat your side piece: Reduce your portions and think of meat more as a garnish. Focus on beans, whole grains, tofu or veggies and get creative with salads.

Find friendly fats: Your body needs fat to function. Seek out healthy kinds like olives, olive oil, nuts, and nut butters, seeds and avocados. QE has a great range of natural nut butters as shown below.

QE has a tasty collection of plant-based recipes and products to get you started.

Smashed avocado on toast

Vegan Tacos with apple slaw

Poached pears with cashew cream

Author: Kathleen Alleaume is a nutritionist, health writer and recipe developer.