You’ve likely heard the term “plant-based diet,” but you may not understand its benefits. Can reducing your animal product consumption really improve your life? Answered simply: yes.
Swapping plant protein for animal protein has the power to positively impact both your health and your pocketbook. Below are some of the benefits of a plant-based diet and a few practical tips for incorporating it into your life.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based eaters experience a plethora of health benefits, including improved body composition, reduced risk of cancer, and better heart health. This is likely because plants are low in saturated fats and rich in antioxidants. Research shows that reducing saturated fat decreases your risk of obesity and related diseases. Partner these benefits with the cell-protecting powers of antioxidants, and you’ve got a diet designed to help you feel your best.
Increasing your intake of plant-based protein isn’t just great for your health. It also helps reduce your grocery bill. For instance, animal protein like steak can easily cost $20 per pound. On the flip side, plant alternatives like chickpeas are about a dollar per can. This isn’t surprising if you take the time to consider the resources it takes to raise, butcher, and deliver meat.
Curious how you can start eating in a way that’s easy on your budget and amazing for your well-being? Outlined below are five tips to help you transition to a plant-based diet.
1. Have a Strong Why
Dietary changes are hard to make, and old eating habits will try to sneak back into your life occasionally. When this happens, having a strong “why” can help keep your new lifestyle on the rails.
Your why shouldn’t just be “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save money.” These goals alone aren’t likely to be sufficiently motivating. Instead, think about the core reason you want to lose weight or save money.
Maybe you think losing weight will give you more confidence so you can feel happier. Or you want to save more money to eliminate financial stressors and reduce arguments in your relationship. These are examples of strong motivators that can help you stick to a new goal when life challenges you.
2. Start Slow
If you’re used to eating animal products at each meal, transitioning to plant-based eating may be daunting. To make the change easier, start slowly. This will increase your likelihood of sticking with this eating style.
Many families begin incorporating more plant-based meals into their week by going meatless on Mondays. Meatless Monday is a global movement that encourages people to consume fewer animal products. While eating plant-based once a week doesn’t sound significant, it’s a small step toward building a habit you can sustain long-term.
3. Mindfully Consume Meat
Some people may not want to eliminate meat entirely but hope to reap the benefits of plant-based eating. This dietary approach is called flexitarianism. The flexitarian diet encourages followers to eat primarily plants while allowing for the occasional cheeseburger.
The flexible nature of this diet helps people focus on adding more plants to their plates rather than subtracting all meat. This positive approach can make it easier for many people to stick with this eating style.
If you’re new to eating plant-based, the flexitarian diet suggests starting with two meat-free days per week. Once you’ve mastered that, you can add additional meatless days until you work up to five meat-free days per week. This leaves you with two days you can enjoy a backyard barbeque with your family or meet friends out for a sushi dinner.
4. Eat Whole Foods
Did you know that Nutter Butters, Fritos, and Oreos are all vegan? While these snack foods may be delicious, they aren’t healthy just because they’re plant-based. In fact, overconsuming processed foods can undo many of the health benefits of a veggie-packed diet. That’s why it’s important to focus on eating mostly whole foods.
Whole foods are minimally processed foods that are close to their natural state. Examples include fresh fruit, veggies, grains, and legumes. If you choose to consume something processed, read the label first. This will let you know if the food contains added sugars, excessive sodium, or other unhealthy ingredients.
5. Supplement Your Diet
As hard as you may try, getting the nutrients you need from food alone can be a struggle. This is especially true for vegan eaters. To help fill in the gaps, experts recommend a few daily supplements.
Vegans are at higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency than their meat-eating counterparts. This can lead to anemia, bone disease, and damage to the nervous system.
To keep their bodies functioning properly, plant-based eaters are advised to take a daily B12 supplement. Some vegans may also struggle with iron deficiency. Eating cruciferous vegetables along with taking a daily iron supplement can help.
A Final Word
Whether you’re looking to save money or want to live a healthier life, plant-based eating can be the solution. However, diving headfirst into a new diet may set you up for failure. Follow the advice above to reduce your animal protein consumption and begin eating more plants. Your waistline and your pocketbook will thank you.