Plant-based dieting has increased in popularity in the last five years. Whether it’s black bean burgers or scrambled eggs made from mung beans, the demand for plant-based food products is evident in every grocery store. In fact, the Bloomberg Intelligence Report found that plant-based food sales are expected to increase fivefold by 2030 globally. So why is plant-based eating gaining popularity? Evidence shows that it can improve your mental and physical health.
What is plant-based eating?
A plant-based diet is pretty much what it sounds like, consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in conjunction with some type of lean protein. Unlike vegetarian or vegan diets, plant-based dieting doesn’t necessarily exclude meat or animal-based products. Instead, those who eat plant-based receive the majority of their nutrients from plant-based sources.
Why eat plant-based?
Balanced, healthy eating has always been plant-based. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate recommends that fruits, vegetables, and grains make up more than two-thirds of your plates. Eating plant-based can also reduce your risk for acute illness and chronic conditions. The American Cancer Society’s recommendations include an eating pattern with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Additionally, the American Diabetes Association recommends at least three-fourths of your plate include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. A plant-based diet is anti-inflammatory, will increase your fiber intake, lower your blood pressure, and improve your overall health.
How do I start?
Getting started with plant-based eating can be difficult, but not impossible. To start, consider finding ways to replace foods from your diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Replace a bag of chips with fresh fruit or a handful of nuts. Replace a burger and fries with a salmon filet with roasted zucchini and tomatoes. Making little changes to your diet over time can build healthy, lasting eating habits.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you get the majority of the nutrients your body needs, but there are some you’ll need from other foods. You can’t get enough calcium that you need from fruits and vegetables alone. Try to include a source of low-fat dairy or plant-based milk to ensure you get the proper amount of calcium. You’ll also need to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B-12, a nutrient that primarily comes from animals and does not have many plant substitutes. Eggs, red meat, fish, milk, and fortified breakfast cereals are high in vitamin B-12. Fortified nutritional yeast is another plant-based source. There’s also a misconception that a plant-based diet means only eating vegetables. While fruits and whole grains contain carbohydrates, they also contain many other nutrients that are necessary to maintain your health.
Where can I find help?
Navigating the switch to a plant-based diet can be challenging, which is where a nutritionist can help.
“We come up with ways to incorporate foods on a meal-by-meal basis,” said Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator, Gale Pearson of TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News and Williamsburg. With the help of a registered dietitian, you can unpack how many servings of which foods are necessary for a healthy, plant-based diet. They will also help you find ways to incorporate these dietary adjustments into a plan that fits your lifestyle. When people hear the word diet, they often think of restrictions. A dietitian can help add variety to your diet in easy, convenient ways. They can incorporate someone’s individual needs into their meal plan. They’ll consider whether the client enjoys cooking or if they have a busy schedule.
If you’re looking to individualize your plant-based diet to fit your lifestyle, talk to a TPMG dietitian today about how you can get started.
About Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES
Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 25 years of experience working with patients on dietary and nutrition wellness planning. Gale received her undergraduate degree from Hampton University and her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Howard University.
With extensive experience in nutrition counseling, Gale works with her patients to develop strategies to improve their eating habits and lifestyles, in turn helping them to manage their weight and medical conditions. She credits witnessing her patients’ symptoms and overall health improvement as a result of the lifestyle changes as one of the most gratifying and rewarding aspects of her career.
At TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News and Williamsburg, Gale provides one-on-one consultations, nutrition and weight management counseling, and diabetes education.