When it comes to beginning a plant-based diet, there are a lot of options available so you find the foods that fit your lifestyle. No two plant-based diets are the same, and there’s more flexibility in these diets than you might initially realize as vegetarian and vegan aren’t your only options.
Each of these diets have plants at the center, but that doesn’t mean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, honey, and other animal-based foods are out of the question entirely. Check out what you need to know before getting started on a new plant-based diet
Vegetarianism is a broad category that takes many forms. Most vegetarians omit meat, fish, and seafood from their diets. Many vegetarians eat eggs (ovo) and milk (lacto), opting to call themselves lacto-ovo vegetarians. Others only eat eggs but not milk or other dairy products.
Simply put, being a vegetarian means different things to different people, and you can choose the form that works best for your body.
There’s no rule that you have to be a vegetarian full-time, and many flexitarians include a limited amount of meat in their diets. They might eat meat once per week, only during special occasions, or only from sources that emphasize animal welfare as a priority.
For seafood lovers, being a pescatarian can be a great choice. This diet doesn’t include any meat, but does include fish and/or seafood. This is also a great, healthy alternative as fish, such as salmon, is rich in heart-healthy nutrients that will keep you fuller longer.
If you’re interested in choosing a vegan diet, it can be a bit more restrictive, but isn’t entirely impossible. At the core, veganism doesn’t allow for the consumption of any animal products whatsoever. This includes eggs, dairy, and honey. A vegan diet also tends to influence the person’s lifestyle, and vegans don’t wear fur, leather, silk, or any other material that would be derived from an animal or animal byproduct.
Animal products are often hidden in plain sight, so becoming a vegan requires learning about the foods and products that contain animal by-products. For example, gelatin is made by boiling skin, cartilage, bones, and other “leftovers” from animals, so it’s a no-go in a vegan diet.
Another plant-based diet option is a raw food diet, where you eat uncooked plants, vegetables, and grains. Blenders, food processors, and dehydrators replace the oven and microwave. It’s an admittedly restrictive diet, and you’ll have to work hard to ensure you’re eating a nutritionally balanced diet that fuels the body properly, but it can be done.
Diet is a personal choice and one that you should consult with your physician prior to beginning. Some that suffer from heart disease or high cholesterol may need to work toward a heavier plant-based diet, while others needing more protein should lean toward the pescatarian diet. It’s always best to discuss options with your provider so you are successful with the choice you’ve made.
Additionally, keeping a food journal helps you understand how the foods you eat affect your body and brain, and from there you can make an informed decision.