‘What on earth do you eat on a plant-based diet?!’
If I had a pound for every time I was asked this…
However, understandably it’s a question lots of people have and can put them off exploring a plant-based diet.
A fully plant-based diet is when what you consume comes solely from plants and not from animals in any form.
Being plant-based is a spectrum and where you choose to sit on it is totally up to you!
Note: the main difference between someone being plant-based and someone being vegan is often the reason behind why they are doing it and their entire lifestyle.
Someone who is vegan would be taking the ‘no animal product’ rule into their whole life – no leather, no beauty products containing animal products, sustainable and eco-friendly clothing, cleaning products and so on. Someone who is plant-based might sit on a spectrum and it only refers to the diet they choose to adopt.
Why might you go plant-based?
There are a whole range of reasons why you might be interested in adopting a plant-based diet.
The environmental impact, for animal welfare, allergies, health reasons, the list goes on.
Whatever that may be is totally justifiable.
I often speak to people who think it needs to be all or nothing.
All plant-based or what is the point?
Just like with your mentality towards your nutrition and training with us at The Barn, it doesn’t need to be this way!
Perhaps you want to try ‘Meat Free Monday’, or want to have 2 plant-based days per week – this is great!
It is important to remember that everyone is different and allergies will influence what you can/can’t eat, so use this to give you ideas on what you could add to your shopping basket to help you have a well-rounded plant-based diet.
Here are some of the things I wish I knew as I transitioned from an omnivore to being 100% plant-based.
What is not Plant-Based?
These are the things not considered to be plant-based:
Dairy (egg, cheese, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, mayonnaise etc)
Honey (up for debate)
Avoiding these things in their whole form is easy.
I know chicken breast is not plant-based.
I know an egg is an egg.
What you will want to do is read the packaging to check the ingredients on lots of things.
For example, crisps often contain milk.
Wine and beers sometimes contain eggs and isinglass, which is a thickening agent derived from fish bladders.
In lots of cereals, vitamin D3 is found, which is often derived from sheep’s wool.
Sweets contain gelatin, a thickening agent that comes from the skin, bones and connective tissue of cows and pigs.
Vanilla flavouring is often created using castoreum which comes from the secretion of a beaver’s anal scent glands (yes, really).
There is more to consider of course, but these are the things that really caught me off-guard initially.
There are also lots of foods that are ‘accidentally vegan’, things you wouldn’t expect to be plant-based that are!
10 kcal Jelly Pots
Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter etc)
Bisto gravy (original, reduced salt, vegetable and onion)
So although there are lots of things that are off the cards if you got 100% plant-based, there are some hidden gems that mean going plant-based isn’t as hard as people think!
Hitting your Protein Goal
Probably the second most asked question behind ‘what do you eat when you are plant-based’ is…
‘How do you get enough protein?’
As meat and dairy are great sources of protein, it can be difficult to get your protein in when you go plant-based, so here are some tips to help you hit that macro goal.
High protein plant sources:
- Edamame/soya beans
- Beans (kidney, butter, black etc)
- Split peas
- Black-eyed peas
- Plant-based protein powders
- Soya milk/yoghurts
- Seeded and soya-based bread
- Meat alternatives
As with any diet, the priority should be having a diet that consists of lean, minimally-processed foods.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan are all high protein, high fibre and low carb meat substitutes, so can be a straight swap for your usual meat! For example, instead of chicken curry, you can simply swap that for seitan.
Beans, lentils and split peas are brilliant sources of protein and fibre, however, be aware that their carb content is also a little higher.
In this instance, when you think of swapping lentils for chicken in your curry, it won’t necessarily be a straight swap. As you are getting a higher % of carbohydrates from the sauce, you might want to reduce your rice portion to hit your macro target.
This isn’t about eating less, as you are still getting your carb intake through the lentils.
However, eating both the lentils and your usual amount of rice might take you over your calorie goal and out of a deficit if that is what you are striving for.
Meat alternatives come in all shapes and sizes. You can pretty much get a plant-based version of any meat now!
Similar to meat, the quality of a plant-based alternative is important to consider.
Check packaging and focus on:
1. How many ingredients does it have? If there is a long list of ingredients and you don’t know what half of them are, chances are it is highly processed.
2. Protein content – per portion, how much protein are you getting? On average, per 100g of chicken breast, you get 31g of protein. A plant-based alternative is likely to be lower, but 20g plus per portion is a good guideline to follow for a high protein food.
3. Carb content – high carb doesn’t necessarily equal a bad choice, however, it depends on what you are cooking it with. Also, keep your goal in mind, and whether or not something with a higher carb content is a good option for you.
Protein powders are a quick and convenient way to increase your protein intake.
Should you only get your protein from shakes?
But supplementing a healthy, balanced diet with a shake when you are struggling to hit your protein target isn’t a bad thing.
You can also add protein powder to things like your morning oats or some banana pancakes!
There are plenty of options for this out there. If you would like a recommendation, speak to me, Alana, next time you are at The Barn I’ll happily share my favourites!
Milk and Yoghurt Alternatives:
There are several plant-based milk and yoghurt options, each coming with its own flavour and consistency.
The nutrient value of these may influence which you opt for, or if you are anything like me, will have 1 of every single type in the fridge, each for a specific situation.
Hazelnut milk = coffee, oat milk = smoothie, sweetened soya milk = porridge, unsweetened soya milk = cooking… I won’t bore you with the rest.
But there is a reason for this madness.
I love hazelnut milk in my coffee and is not something I want to compromise for a milk alternative with better nutritional value. However, my bowl of porridge for breakfast is there to be enjoyed but also fuels me for the morning so I want to pack as many nutrients into it as possible.
|Hazelnut Milk (Alpro)
|Soya Milk (Tesco Own)
Hazelnut milk is higher in carbs, lower in protein and lower in fibre, so in theory, is a less nutritionally sound milk choice.
However, it froths up like a dream and tastes delicious in my coffee so I am okay with that.
I do opt for soya milk in most other instances as it is going to complement my nutrition goals far better and tastes pretty great too.
Food choices are all about finding a balance.
A balance between what is enjoyable and what is good for you and going to help you reach your goals.
It is no different whether you are plant-based or an omnivore.
Understand what you’re putting in your body and why.
Understand the impact it will have on your goals.
And remember, food is fuel but it is also that birthday celebration, that catch up with an old friend, that cinema date night.
Make good choices that keep your mind, body and soul happy.
If you need help with a plant-based nutrition plan, speak with one of our trainers.