Eating more plants is widely considered an effective way to improve your general health, boost energy levels, and enhance overall wellbeing.
A growing body of research associates predominantly plant-based diets with health benefits like lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and reduced body weight. And becoming less reliant on animals for sustenance will also help the environment.
These potential benefits certainly strengthen the case for reducing the amount of animal-derived foods in our diets.
But you don’t have to go all-in on the green theme and ditch the meat and dairy completely to realise these benefits.
While many people are embracing vegetarianism and veganism as a lifestyle preference, you can take a less extreme view and simply replace a few animal-based meal ingredients with plant-based options.
And it’s easier than ever to do so with the abundance of meat and dairy alternatives available at food retailers, which you can add to the list of natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oils, beans and legumes.
And with the abundance of plant-based recipes at our fingertips these days, it’s never been simpler to get more of your foods from plant sources without sacrificing on taste and meal-time satisfaction.
How do plants benefit our health?
When compared to animal products, food derived from plant sources supply more digestion-friendly fibre. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and are lower in both saturated fat and cholesterol than animal-derived foods.
Many people who have switched to a predominantly plant-based diet often report experiencing higher energy levels and overall better health outcomes.
Natural, unprocessed plant foods also provide complex carbs, which provide our bodies with the energy they need to function and grow, and can reduce our intake of processed and refined carbs and sugars. This can help to improve energy levels, aid weight loss and may help to reduce inflammation.
How to make the switch
It can feel daunting to switch over to plant-based eating, even if it’s just a few meals a week. Many people don’t even know where to start. But it doesn’t need to be complicated if you follow these tips, which will help ease your transition.
1. Start by subbing, not eliminating
If you normally have a serving of animal protein with some carbs and a vegetable at dinner, such as roast chicken with rice and roast veg, don’t just eliminate the animal protein from your meal. Rather sub the chicken with a plant protein such as beans or legumes.
You can also find plant-based alternatives such as faux-schnitzels at supermarkets and speciality stores. These substitutes generally contain ample plant-based protein to ensure you hit your macros, while also making it easier to replace animal protein with an alternative that has a similar taste and texture.
2. Earmark certain meals as purely plant-based
You don’t need to go cold turkey on meat (unless you want to become vegetarian) but it’s a good idea to set up some parameters to help you stick to eating more plants.
You can do this by dedicating an entire day to eating only plant-based meals, like #meatlessmondays, or you could decide that all lunches during the week will be devoid of animal ingredients.
That means you can include animal-based ingredients at breakfast and dinner. The options are endless! This flexible way of eating makes it less stressful and more convenient to start your transition, making it more sustainable to ensure you start to reap the rewards of eating more plants.
3. Stick to what you’re used to
Don’t completely change the meals you enjoy eating, or the flavours you’ve come to know and love. Rather spend time researching how to sub plant-based ingredients that have a similar taste and texture profile to their meaty counterparts.
For example, sub the beef in spaghetti bolognese with lentils, or make a chickpea curry instead of a chicken dish. This approach means you don’t need to completely reinvent how you eat, and the flavours will remain familiar. This combination increases the likelihood that you’ll succeed in eating more plants.
4. Try something new
Keep experimenting with tastes and flavours by finding new recipes on a weekly basis. Having fun with plant-based eating and making it interesting will keep you engaged and motivated to sustain this way of eating. And it’s always nice to try something new!
5. Find someone to do it with you
Things are always easier when you’re not alone in doing them. Get a friend, family member or co-worker to join you. Take turns in bringing each other different plant-based meals or treats to try, or get your partner or family member involved and take turns cooking up something plant-based during the week.