The goal of a plant-based diet is to focus on filling your diet with whole plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean vegan; a plant-based diet may contain occasional meat or dairy. The pushed towards whole, real foods instead of processed ones with artificial ingredients is also great for the planet. 

Transitioning to a plant-based diet is more than just simple swaps or eating ready-made vegan products you find at the store. It begins with a solid foundation of nutritional knowledge. This means starting with a diet focused on mostly well-rounded meals of whole foods before cutting right to eliminating meat and just replacing animal-based proteins with plant-based alternatives.

While a plant-based diet can be incredibly healthy and can help improve health markers and weight loss, there are some important things to remember: 

1 || As with any diet, it’s still all about a calorie deficit

If you lose weight after switching to a plant-based diet, it is not just because you’re not eating meat. By cutting out meat and dairy, you could be eliminating additional calories to create a calorie deficit (or eating fewer calories than you’re burning on average).

2 || Protein intake is still important

Protein is important for maintaining and building lean body mass regardless of your diet or goals. This doesn’t mean consuming mass amounts of protein in order to bulk up like a bodybuilder; this refers to eating enough protein so your body maintains muscle and bone mass—integral parts of health as you move and age. Even if you’re not eating animal products, still make an effort to consume adequate protein.

Examples of plant-based protein sources Beans Lentils Chickpeas

Protein pastas
Plant-based protein powder
Powdered nut butters
High fiber tortillas and wraps
Nutritional yeast
Leafy green vegetables

3 || Whole foods are always preferable.

With the rise of plant-based products, it’s important to remember that the main goal is to stick to whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods. An Impossible burger or chickenless tacos may be a great option occasionally when out to eat, but these processed meat-free alternatives should not become the staple of a plant-based diet.

Transitioning to a plant-based diet can be great for your health and wellness, but first be sure to take a look at your current diet and see if there is room for small improvements before making any big, dramatic changes.

By Kate Lyman