It seems like the buzzwords of this last year surrounding nutrition and fitness have been vegan and plant-based. Now, although you can lose weight switching to eating only vegan or more plant-based, these are meant to be practiced as lifestyle changes, not as fad diets. Being plant-based means making more conscientious decisions about what you are putting into your body. It's choosing what to eat based on how it will affect your overall health and well-being.
Plant-based is still not to be confused with vegan. Vegan is deeply rooted in animal rights. That is where the intention mainly lies — in the ethics. On the other hand, plant-based is focused more on consuming whole foods and avoiding or minimizing meat, dairy products, and refined foods.
Think of it like this. A vegan could eat Oreos because there are no animal products in it, but Oreos are not considered plant-based, as they are filled with tons of refined sugars and oil.
My journey to eating more plant-based is unique to my own lifestyle, my beliefs, and how my body feels. I have no intention of cutting out meat in the future, but I do believe I can have the intention to eat more plant-based while still consuming animal products. These are my top 10 tips I'm following right now.
- If your grandmother wouldn't recognize the ingredients, limit or don't get it. This is one of Michael Pollan's 12 commandments for serious eaters, and I couldn't agree more. Some common examples are high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, erythritol, artificial colors, and monosodium glutamate.
- Shop from what is in season. It's not only cheaper and healthier, but the produce also tastes better. This means the food was grown closer to you so it doesn't have to be picked before its peak freshness for the trip to the grocery store. I found that when I looked for what was in season, I was able to incorporate new veggies and fruits into my diet. The more of the rainbow that you include in your meals from produce, the more types of micronutrients you are giving your body.
- Shop at the local farmers market. The closer the produce was grown to you, the less likely it contains pesticides and preservatives that can harm your body. Fruits and vegetables from farmers markets are more likely to be organic and grown using non-GMO seeds. Plus, you can get to know the farmer and exactly how, where, and when your produce is grown.
- Switch up breakfast. Growing up, I loved having sugary breakfasts, which usually revolved around processed foods. This included sugary cereals, frozen pancakes and waffles, and white bread. Now, I try to make sure I'm getting a balanced breakfast filled with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Some examples are protein shakes, smoothie bowls, and veggie omelets with sweet potatoes.
- Be pickier when purchasing meat and seafood. For eggs, I try to get pasture-raised, and you can tell by looking at the yolk — the more orange, the better. For beef, I try to get grass-fed, grass-finished, and organic. The organic is key here because just because they were fed grass and not grains does not mean that grass didn't have any pesticides or the cows weren't given any antibiotics or hormones. Chicken should be pasture-raised as well. I also make sure my salmon is wild-caught, not raised in a farm, and has no added coloring.
- Plant an edible garden. This is probably the most guaranteed way of knowing exactly what goes into your food. Being able to pick it when it's ripe and eating it that same day will make your fruits and vegetables taste unreal. Also, the process of farm to table brings awareness to the labor of love that goes into planting and growing food to make us a lot more appreciative.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. As you have probably noticed before, the grocery store is set up so that the perimeters typically include the fresh produce, meats, and dairy while the center includes more preserved items that can last on shelves. This is not to say that everything on the shelf is processed or contains harmful ingredients, but it's just more likely. If you create a list of clean foods to purchase, you're more likely to make better choices at the grocery store.
- Educate. The first step is to always learn. Eating healthy doesn't have to be as confusing, complicated, and restricted as people make it out to be. Listen to your body and see how it reacts to certain foods. Really pay attention to see how you feel and try to be the best caretaker of your health.
- Get creative in the kitchen. A lot of times when we are in a rush or don't have time to cook, we grab the most convenient packaged food, which can be filled with ingredients your grandma definitely wouldn't recognize. If you are lacking inspiration, try picking up a new cookbook.
- One swap at a time. A complete change in lifestyle is not going to happen overnight, but you can take gradual steps to get to where you want to be. For example, if you like candy, try swapping it for fruit. If you love potato chips, try making kale chips or sweet potato fries at home. I've been loving swapping pasta and rice for zucchini or carrot noodles and cauliflower rice.