10 Ways To Add More Plant Based Foods Into Your Diet | The PNW Clinic
May 5, 2023
Eating a plant-based diet is becoming more popular. This means that plant-based foods are now available at most restaurants, cafes and grocery stores.
When first making the change towards a plant-based diet, the options may seem endless and overwhelming.
Here are 10 simple and easy ways you can include more plant-based foods in your diet, whether you are transitioning to a totally plant-based diet or just interested in eating more plants!
What is a plant-based diet?
The term “plant-based” has been used as an umbrella-term to categorise a number of eating patterns that limit or avoid animal products (1).
For some people, being ‘plant based’ means excluding animal products from just their diet. Others may choose to remove animal products and by-products from their life entirely including skin-care and health products, leather goods, some fabrics and certain plastics (2,3)
- Vegan → no animal products at all (no meat, seafood, poultry or dairy).
- Vegetarian → excludes meat and meat products from the diet, but still includes dairy and eggs (sometimes this is called lacto-ovo vegetarianism).
- Flexitarian → a flexible/semi-vegetarian diet, where the individual consumes dairy and egg products but also sometimes meat, seafood and poultry.
- Pescatarian → includes eggs, dairy and seafood but no meat or poultry.
These are just a few examples of the many diet approaches – a plant-based diet can be as flexible as suits you.
Why follow a plant-based diet?
There are many reasons that someone may choose to follow a plant-based diet (or lifestyle).
- Diets with more plant-based foods and less animal products have found to reduce risk or serious illness and disease including heart diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes (4).
- Diets with more plant-based foods and less animal products are often lower in saturated fats and added salt and sugar; this can aid in weight loss which can also reduce disease risk (5,6)
- The basis of plant-based diets are generally fruits, vegetables and legumes; these foods provide a range of vitamins, minerals and fibre which all support overall health and wellbeing (1,5)
- Some people choose to eliminate animal products from their diet and/or lifestyle in support of animal welfare (7,8).
- The agriculture industry massively contributes to the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Producing animal products uses large quantities of fossil fuels and other resources, and can create waste that pollutes the environment (7).
- Production of plant-based food products can use far less resources and create less non-biodegradable waste. For this reason, reducing animal products and increasing plant foods may be the right choice for those who are trying to reduce their impact on the environment (7).
- Factors such as taste and texture may contribute to the decision to reduce or remove animal products from the diet.
- Allergies to egg and dairy are common. Some plant-based diets eliminate these products which makes it suitable for those who have food sensitivities or allergies (8)
- Personal preference
10 ways to add more plant-based foods into your diet:
Start small with snacks:
- Swap your regular afternoon tea of cheese and crackers for a plant-based equivalent like the Made With Plants cheese slices and rice crackers.
- Instead of a packet of flavoured chips, find dried chickpeas and fava beans in the health food aisle of your local supermarket.
- The Happy Snack Company smoky barbecue flavour roasted fava beans are a delicious substitute to barbecue flavoured chips.
- A piece of fruit is an easy snack to take on the go that creates little waste, is economic and contains no animal products.
Create a colourful plate:
- Aiming to include a range of colours on your plate when making a meal encourages you to choose lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes; all of these products are plant-based and contain both macro and micronutrients that support overall health and wellbeing.
- A bag of frozen chopped vegetables can become a freezer staple
- Add them to a range of meals like curry in the slow cooker, stir-fry on the stove or even a traditional roast dinner with an untraditional vegetarian nut-roast instead of animal based protein.
- If you are feeling adventurous, you can add herbs and spices that add even more colour to your plate like turmeric, curry powder, and cumin.
Swap your protein:
- One part of a plant-based diet that may seem especially overwhelming at first is finding a good source of protein to replace meat and/or dairy products.
- A simple way to incorporate plant-based protein into your meal is to do a direct swap.
- Instead of choosing beef sausages, try a vegetarian/plant-based sausage option like Sanitarium Vegie Delights Sausages.
- Legumes like beans, tofu and lentils are the basis of many plant-based meat alternatives so why not bypass the packaging by going straight for the whole source
- Tins of beans are an inexpensive source of protein that are full of minerals like zinc and iron, which are also found in animal proteins.
- Be mindful that some plant-based protein sources do not contain all of or as many amino acids and minerals as animal protein sources.
- The PNW Clinic’s article “The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources” provides more in-depth detail on plant-based protein sources including options and nutrition information.
Try something new:
- Challenge yourself to try an ingredient or product that you have never eaten before.
- This may look like choosing a packet of plant based biscuits from the health food aisle instead of your regular Arnott’s go-to’s or picking up some dried fruits at your local wholefoods store that you wouldn’t usually choose.
- Try choosing a vegetable you have never cooked with before when you do your next grocery shop. This might mean searching the internet for a new recipe as well!
Find plant based cafes/restaurants near you
- Next time you are planning a weekend brunch with your friends or dinner date with that special person in your life, try eating somewhere that is plant based.
- A quick search on the website “HappyCow” will bring up vegan and vegetarian eateries in your local area.
… or branch out from your regular:
- Most menus have plant based options nowadays, so why not explore the menu of your favourite cafe.
- Instead of ordering your usual big breakfast with eggs, bacon and sausages, try the granola with coconut yoghurt, chia and fruit or vegan nourish bowl topped with tempeh and avocado.
Do it with a friend:
- Some people like to joke that you can’t go vegan and keep your friends… this is simply not true!
- Finding a friend to eat plant based with can make the swap less overwhelming by keeping you accountable and opening up more recipe, snack and cafe ideas.
Take a trip around the world (with your taste buds):
- Many Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes can easily become plant based (whether that be vegetarian or completely free from animal products).
- Chickpeas are an easy and delicious addition to your favourite curry recipe.
- Black beans, kidney beans and refried beans are a delicious and easy plant based protein option for your next burrito (not to mention, tins of legumes are inexpensive and easy to cook).
- Swap the mince in your spaghetti with lentils to make a vegetarian version of everyone’s favourite pasta dish.
- See the PNW Clinic’s previous blog article on tofu for some inspiration on how to use the Asian staple in more than just a stir-fry.
Make a Pinterest board:
- A quick search of “plant-based lunch ideas” brings up thousands of pins and ideas to inspire you on your plant-based journey. Save these to a board for the next time you are struggling to write your grocery list or need to bring a plate to a friend’s dinner party.
- Pinterest and blogs on the internet are great places to find meal prepping inspirations and plant-based recipes for baked goods.
- Other social media platforms can also provide inspiration and ideas.
- Scope out the most delicious looking menu items of local plant-based eateries by scrolling through a cafe’s Instagram profile.
- Searching “vegan”, “plant-based” or “meal prep” in the Explore Page of most platforms will bring up profiles, posts and infographics to give you a new lunchbox idea.
Seek advice from a dietitian:
- Did you know that the online dietitians at the PNW Clinic specialise in plant-based/vegan nutrition and offer free 15 minute discovery calls? These can be booked on the PNW Clinic website HERE.
- A dietitian can give advice on specific nutrients to be aware of when choosing plant-based foods and provide resources like meal plans, snack ideas and further reading.
Nutrition on a plant-based diet
Some nutrients are found in smaller quantities or are not as available for the body in plant-based sources.
It is therefore important to be aware of nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, omega-3 and vitamin B12 when reducing or eliminating animal products from the diet.
Working with a dietitian, especially one who specialises in plant-based/vegan nutrition like the online dietitians at the PNW Clinic, can help make sure you are meeting nutritional requirements when eating a plant-based diet.
There are many reasons you may want to add more plant-based foods to your diet – these include health benefits, environmental concerns and personal preferences and others.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet or reducing animal products may sound hard or complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
Keeping your dietary changes simple to start with and setting small goals are easy ways to add more plant-based foods to your diet.
Making one change at a time, like swapping one animal protein for the plant-based equivalent is a great way to start.
Inspiration and ideas for plant-based meals and snacks can come from friends, the internet, social media, cafes and restaurants, and professionals like dietitians.
Author: Lilee Lunney
Reviewer: PNW Clinic dietitian Jade Wrigley