A plant-based diet is a core principal of plant-smart living.
In the world of vegetarians and vegans, plant based foods are a staple of daily nutritional needs. To some outside of this lifestyle, this may come as a surprise and lead to questions like "Can you get enough protein from plants?" and "How do you ever feel full?" These are simple questions and sometimes come from individuals who are genuinely curious about this manner of living, while on occasion someone may ask these questions with a sarcastic tone in their voice as they too heavily rely on heavily processed foods and meat sources.
First and foremost, before I dive more heavily into my personal interpretation of how to kickstart your plant based diet, I want to preface this article by addressing that within the world of "plant eaters" there are often differing viewpoints regarding even what types of plant life we should consume. For example, here at Plant Smart Living, Farmer Fred is a firm believer in a starch based diet with no use of oils (because of the fat content). This viewpoint can sometimes be considered divisive in vegan communities, and we understand this. However, if this is the first time you have been seriously considering a veggie based diet, we acknowledge that you should always question what you are being told and make your own judgments regarding your lifestyle and dietary choices. As far as we see it, we would rather you eat vegan foods exclusively and stay away from the highly artificial foods the modern grocery store puts out, even if this means going against the lifestyle choices of Farmer Fred.
Farmer Fred's plant based diet is heavy on potato starches and does not include oils, and we feel this is a valid lifestyle choice considering how positively this has impacted his own life. If you have not done so yet, please check out his About Me page which details some of his personal challenges in life and how he conquered some of life's ailments and lost a large chunk of weight by shifting to a plant based diet without any oils!
With all this said, let us explore how YOU can start easing into a plant-based diet to live plant-smart!
What is a plant-based diet?
It might be a silly and simple question, but we like to believe that there are no silly questions (just silly people!) and, more importantly, no simple questions. Something that constantly surprises us is how education on very simple components of the vegan lifestyle is so poor, and when available, minimal. So let us begin by defining what this plant-based diet is at it's most basic level:
According to Wikipedia, "a plant-based diet is a diet of any animal (including humans) based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products. The use of the phrase has changed over time, and examples can be found of the phrase 'plant-based diet' being used to refer to vegan diets, which contain no food from animal sources, to vegetarian diets which include eggs and dairy but no meat, and to diets with varying amounts of animal-based foods, such as semi-vegetarian diets which contain small amounts of meat."
I can really appreciate the simplicity and brevity of this definition. Without a doubt, the plant-based diet encompasses so many different dietary lifestyles and ways of thinking about the food we eat.
Steps to easing yourself into eating a plant-based diet:
In the modern world, it can be difficult to just quit the diets we are accustomed to as a result of upbringing, advertising, convenience, and that sometimes seems forced upon us as a result of cost. From the McDonald's 1$ menu to simple frozen entrees filled with high levels of sodium and other artificial elements, we can sometimes be deceived into eating these foods for a number of reasons. As has been made evident through much scientific research and reporting on the news, this "traditional" diet in the Western world has lead to a rise of obesity, childhood obesity, heart problems, anxiety, depression...The list is virtually endless. Of course, we could not make this statement without also noting that other elements do play a role in these health problems, such as low levels of exercise, but it is vital to realize that diet is a key component to your overall health because a proper diet will help "lift you up," provide you more energy (hopefully proving to be an incentive to help push you to exercise more!), and help stabilize your mind.
With this said, the first things you can do to get into eating plant based foods more heavily include:
1). Start limiting your intake of meats and artificially processed foods. If you are able to quit these types of foods "cold turkey," please feel free to do so. However, be aware that given the amount of chemical additives, high sodium content, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sugars, etc. it may not always be easy on your body or mind as the food you eat can sometimes be addictive as your body needs to to be reprogrammed to do without these foods and derive more pleasure from eating fruits and veggies.
2). Start educating yourself about vegan/vegetarian foods. It is amazing how little some folks may know about the vegetables and fruits they see and occasionally by at the grocery store. We have created Plant Smart Living to help you better understand the foods we grow in our garden and bring to our table in the form of recipes and educational content about the individual vegetables and fruits.
3). Get to know a farmer. If you are able to meet a farmer in real life, it may help open your eyes to appreciating the process the food undergoes from the tilling of the soil, the planting of the seed(s), to upkeep and nourishment of the plant life as it grows, and reaping the harvest. I like to think that this is much like the process of raising livestock, except in the case of plants, there will be no guilt over taking a life to serve as meals on our dinner plates. Another reason why Plant Smart Living exists is to help teach people about the farming and gardening process. If you are unable to meet a farmer in your real life, consider Farmer Fred your new friend that you can ask questions to and examine his process.
4). Start eating plant based foods with each meal. Consider ways in which YOU can incorporate plant based nutrition into your daily meals and snacks. Again, when just easing into the vegan lifestyle, the best method of doing this could be just adding some vegetables to your diet. Some great research was done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the unfortunate reality that the large majority of Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. According to this research, briefly summarized, only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and veggies, defined in this case as 1.5 - 2 cups of these plant based foods. Consider simple changes to begin: change out a candy bar for a baggie of carrots. Change out a chicken leg for a baked potato. The options are endless!
5). Consider what YOU need to change in your own life. If you struggle with your weight, a plant based diet can be an approach to cutting away fat in the most natural way possible. It's possible you may know that you NEED to make changes to your diet and lifestyle, but your just not sure where to start. All I can say is this: just start somewhere. As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day!" But the truth of this analogy is very simple: someone started building Rome one day with just a couple of bricks (so to speak). It is only overtime that the entire city is created. Day 1 of Farmer Fred's new plant smart lifestyle was not an easy one, but it is the pivotal moment that laid the foundation for all movement forwards towards a healthier and happier life.
The more I learn and delve into creating and eating plant life, the more I realize how powerful this lifestyle is in how it impacts my life on a daily basis. I know this can be frightening to change your way of living so significantly, especially for those of us up in age who have been comfortable with an unhealthy way of living, but from my own experiences I have realized that veganism can be transformative for your mind and body. If you do decide to explore this lifestyle and have questions, feel free to contact Farmer Fred by using our Contact page.
An additional overview of the plant based dietary lifestyle:
Information about the plant-based diet is vast, and it can be difficult to cover all of the important ground in one article. Please be aware that we provide many other resources and educational articles (and some fun content along the way!) on our website as well. For the remainder of this article, I would like to touch on some questions and viewpoints often heard in vegan groups:
One of the first HUGE topics that is often lodged at vegetarians/vegans by individuals who eat meat is the question: "How do you get enough protein in your diet?" No doubt, meat products provide a good dosage of protein content (at least, this is what is says on the package!). Often, it seems, people perceive vegetables and fruits to lack nutritional value, as if they are meant to only be added to a meal in the form of a side salad. The reality is that, while most vegetables and fruits are low in calories, they are packed with nutritional content. Many veggies turn out to be excellent protein sources that will also provide other nutritional content as well. One of my favorite, simple, examples is to ask you to look at the back of pack of dry peas such as Just Tomatoes Just Peas. You can identify where the nutritional label addresses how much protein content is present per serving online if you need to see it to believe it. In the case of this high quality product, the protein content is 7 grams per serving, of which a small 8 ounce bag provides 8 servings. In one 8 oz bag you get 56 grams of protein!
According to WebMD, the average required amount of protein per day are the following:
- Babies need about 10 grams a day
- School-aged kids need 19-34 grams a day
- Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day
- Teenage girls need 46 grams a day
- Adult men need about 56 grams a day
- Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams if pregnant or breastfeeding)
These values are relatively easy to acquire from eating plant based proteins. Remember when considering your protein intake to bare in mind that you will also want to be sure you are getting enough other nutritional content in your meals as well!
Of course, as an outspoken vegan living "plant-smart," the final component of taking to the plant-based diet that I would like to address right now that has been most pivotal for me is taking on the task of becoming self-sustaining by growing my own food in my backyard garden. This is something unique that is available to individuals who love eating the foods nature has provided us, and that like to see the rewards of their work outdoors. Of course, we are aware that some fans of Plant Smart Living do not have the space or ability to do this, and no doubt great alternatives are available such as being able to shop at Whole Foods, visiting local produce markets, and even growing some simple plant life indoors by using kits like the Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Ultra LED Indoor Garden.
For myself, by growing my own food and putting energy into my diet, I have learned to get more pleasure from what I am eating because I have created it for myself. During the spring and summer, I am able to reap so much from my garden that I have to make few (if any) trips to the grocery store for the purpose of picking up vegetables. This is very satisfying and, also of importance, a huge saving in the long term.
I hope that you have been able to find our discussion of "how to kickstart your plant-based diet for plant-smart living" useful. I have attempted to pack this content with a lot of useful information, but bare in mind that this is meant only as an overview of some of the major topics and considerations that individuals considering a plant based diet will no doubt see again and again.
Please consider leaving a comment below and starting a discussion on your own journey and thoughts on living this plant smart lifestyle to it's fullest!