A Plant-based diet, what does this really mean? Plant-based commonly gets mixed in or mixed up with straight veganism, but they aren't the same. Yes, people on a plant-based diet consume fewer animal products, but it isn't as strict as a vegan or vegetarian diet. It can still seem daunting and confusing for people who have never tried it or don't really understand what it entails.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about what a plant-based diet really is, how beneficial it is and some easy ways to help you try it out and sustain a plant-based lifestyle.
What is a plant-based diet?
There is no definitive definition for the plant-based diet, which is also referred to as the whole food diet. It is seen as more of a lifestyle choice as opposed to a diet due to the extent people choose to include animal products.
The main idea of a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle is to minimize processed foods and to focus on whole foods in their most natural form. This leads to plant products such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It does limit animal products and excludes refined food with added sugars and processed oils.
Another big part is the quality of food you are eating - it favors locally sourced whole foods and organic when possible.
So you can see it has similarities to vegetarian and vegan diets, but it has more flexibility. It allows you to meet your nutritional requirements by focusing on natural, minimally processed whole plant foods.
What are the benefits?
In most parts of the world, particularly the western world, animal protein makes up a large proportion of our meals, from eggs and bacon for breakfast to cold cuts for lunch and beef or chicken for dinner. So why are people changing? Well because going plant-based offers so many benefits to your health, waistline, and the environment.
Many doctors are now recommending plant-based diets due to research showing that limiting animal products as well as refined or processed foods from your diet may reduce your risk of gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer. In a study of over 77,000 people, it was found that the people who followed a vegetarian diet had a 22% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer in comparison to the control group of non-vegetarians. Pescatarians were shown to have the lowest risk at 43%.
Heart disease is a leading cause of deaths for males and females across the US, with 1 in every 4 deaths due to cardiovascular disease. A plant-based diet has way fewer saturated fats, which makes it a good fit for people who are at risk for or have heart disease.
Another epidemic in the US is obesity - over 69% of adults in the US are overweight or obese - and people are constantly searching for new ways to lose weight and change their lifestyles. A plant-based diet has become a front-runner for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. The high fiber content and exclusion of processed food is a winning combination for weight loss.
Along with this, the plant-based diet has also been shown to be an effective tool for managing and reducing your risk of developing diabetes. A study of over 200,000 people found that the group that adhered to a healthy plant-based diet had a 34% lower risk of developing diabetes than those on the unhealthy, non-plant-based diets. A plant-based diet has also been shown to improve blood sugar control in diabetics.
And lastly, many people are switching to the plant-based lifestyle because of the positive effect it has on the planet and the environment. A sustainable eating pattern of reducing animal products along with buying local produce reduces greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and land used for factory farming. People who follow a plant-based diet tend to have a smaller environmental footprint. Which is what we should all be striving for, right?
Biggest Hurdle- Where am I going to get my protein?
The biggest scare of going plant-based is also about protein. But there are so many high protein plants out there that offer nutritional protein along with many vitamins and minerals but without all the fat that comes with animal protein.
From Tofu, tempeh, and edamame to chickpeas, lentils, and nuts to even many vegetables such as potatoes, there is so much plant protein to choose from. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a minimum daily protein intake of 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram of body weight. This is easier to achieve with animal protein but with a varied intake of plant protein is very achievable.
Easy ways to try a Plant-based Diet
Even with all these benefits, many people can be reluctant to try a plant-based diet. And it can be scary, it's not just as simple as removing all meat, poultry, and dairy from your diet. You need to add new substitutes which requires a lot of planning. And this is where people stumble upon and give up, sometimes before even trying.
But it doesn't mean we have to turn our backs on the idea of adopting a plant-based diet. There are so many options out there to help us achieve our healthy whole food plant-based lifestyles. Green Chef, Sakara Life, and Splendid Spoon are definitely the top contenders in the market. They're making the plant-based diet fit into your lifestyle, no need to compromise or change, they provide you with everything you need to transition your diet.
But what do these three meal delivery companies really offer and which one is the best for you?
GreenChef - Completely dedicated to their name, they're highly focused on being environmentally friendly. All the packaging they use to send you all your ingredients is all recyclable or compostable, and they also partner with Plastic Bank and are part of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
And yes you read that right, they send you ingredients, not prepared meals. They are a subscription meal-delivery kit that offers a plant-powered meal plan. Each week you choose what meals you want from their menu, then they deliver you the exact ingredients prepped and in the exact quantities needed for each recipe. This eliminates having to think of plant-based recipes, going to the grocery store and prepping all those vegetables. But it does require you to cook the food.
Some of their meals take only 30 minutes and the food is always fresh and the ingredients are of the highest quality- adhering to the plant-based lifestyle. The plant-powered meals start at less than $10. And their meals sound just as good as what you would get in a restaurant, Miso Mushroom and Veggie Stir-fry, Bavarian Power Bowl or Butternut Squash Chilli, anyone?
They do only provide dinner though, so you must find options if you want to be plant-based for breakfast and lunch too.
Sakara Life - If you are looking for all your plant-based meals to be delivered right to your door ready to eat then Skara Life might be what you are looking for. They have you covered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Forbes appropriately described it as "a Blue Apron-like meal delivery program for aspiring Gwyneth Paltrows." Their very Instagram-able colorful meals will satisfy your eyes along with your stomach. All their meals are crafted with "a whole-food, plant-rich diet that includes fresh, nutrient-dense, and delicious ingredients," i.e. they are full of all the nutrients your body needs, while adhering to the plant-based lifestyle.
Their subscription works like most other meal kits, you choose the plan you want and the day you want to receive it. It does offer a 3 a-day or 5-a-day option to include breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with teas. They have a set menu every week, so unlike other meal kits where you can choose which ones you want Sakara don't.
Sakara's organic plant-based plans cost between $56 and $80 a day. Pricier than other meal kits but they believe the time and effort they have put into the science and preparation of these meals is worth it. And it is for some people who are really busy and in an unhealthy rut with their meals. They also offer add-ons such as detox teas, probiotics and metabolism powders for anyone who really wants to get on that health buzz. So if that's what you are looking to do then Sakara Life could be the plant-based way for you.
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Splendid Spoon - The crowd-pleaser, with soups, smoothies and grain bowls they have something for everyone and the easiest way to try and transition into a more plant-based lifestyle. They pack all their smoothies, soups and bowls with fresh high-quality fruit and vegetables to deliver high-level nutrition. The smoothies have low sugar content and the soups and bowls have low sodium content, while still feeling like the comfort food we all crave.
People are loving Splendid Spoon for its convenience, all the meals arrive ready to eat and are easy to have on the go. The variety is crazy, every week you can choose which one you want from the 40+ available flavors they offer. So if you are feeling like berries choose the blueberry coconut or the strawberry goji smoothie or if you might be feeling the cacao almond or carrot ginger chai smoothie for a nuttier veggie taste. They also have something for everyone even with their bowls, from the Sweet Potato Quinoa bowl to the Moroccan spiced buckwheat bowl. Anyone feeling hungry?
They show how going plant-based still can mean taste and variety. Their meals are also gluten-free and GMO-free. Choose between just Lunch for $65 a week, Breakfast+Lunch for $95 a week and their most popular plan of Breakfast+Lunch+Reset, which includes a 1 full day reset soups for $135 a week.
If you are looking for the easiest way to try plant-based, it has to be Splendid Spoon. Be surprised how full you will feel along with how healthy your lifestyle will be with these tasty soups and bowls.
Plant-based diets don't need to be daunting, scary or cause you stress. There is something out there for even the busiest of people to try, and with all the amazing benefits of the whole food plant-based diet to your health and the environment why wouldn't you try the one that suits you the most.
Update: The folks at Splendid Spoon are extending an exclusive offer to our readers! For a limited time, get $15 OFF the most popular plans!