Maybe you watched the documentary Game Changers. Maybe you went to lunch with your friend who’s “lost five pounds in three days”. Maybe you saw a commercial for chickpea pasta.
Whatever it was, you’re interested in a plant based diet.
Now is an important time to say that I admit to using a clickbait-y title because I don’t think plant based diets suck at all. I just think your’s might.
Anytime someone changes their diet there is a risk for nutrient deficiency. The good news about plant based diets is that it’s not necessarily as restrictive as other diets, like going vegan.
However, there’s still a big chance that in your well-intentioned quest to eat more plants you end up eating way too little protein (especially if you strength train), don’t get enough iron or B12 and end up drastically increasing your sugar intake.
So here are my top recommendations if you decide that you want to eat more plants this year:
Don’t cut out ALL animal products.
I think most of us can agree that overall eating less animal products is a good thing for both our bodies and the environment. However, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Maybe you decide that you’ll keep greek yogurt, eggs and pasture-raised meats as a part of your diet. Having a few animal sources (ideally ones with calcium and iron) can really help you keep a balanced diet.
Protein is so important for those of us that are active, for anyone trying to lose body fat and anyone who wants to stay full longer.
If you do decide that you need to cut out all animal products for whatever reason, take advantage of it being 2020 and all the protein-rich non-animal foods out there. Chickpea pasta, brown rice/pea protein powder, tofu, impossible meats, etc. Consciously include these higher protein foods in your diet so you can still reach your goals.
Watch out for deficiencies.
Just like someone living in Seattle should watch out for vitamin D deficiency, if you begin restricting your diet you need to watch out for dips in certain nutrients.
For plant based diets, especially if you restrict all animal products, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D and zinc might be things to keep an eye on. An easy solution is to eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables (not just the same ones every day) or to look up foods with those nutrients and make sure to include them once a week.
Of course, you could also talk to your doctor about having your blood drawn occasionally or work with a dietitian to make sure you’re getting the proper amount of nutrients.
Don’t replace animal products with empty calories.
When I was a vegetarian (3 short, short months as a freshman in college #cliche) I basically subbed my meat calories for carbs like bagels, chips and other sugar things.
A much better idea is to sub those calories for higher fiber carbs and healthy fats. Not only is this “healthier”, but it will keep you much more full and satisfied.
You also might end up eating too few calories by removing a food group so tracking a few days of your nutrition and noting your total calories and grams of protein could be a good plan.
TLDR: Eating more plants in 2020 is a great idea. That doesn’t mean you need to give up all animal products. But if you do give up all animal products, be smart and know that you’ll have to plan a little extra to make sure you’re giving your body all the nutrition it needs!