The plant-based diet is a great way for women to lose weight – but what the heck is it?
Is it Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto-ovo vegetarian? How do you keep it straight?
I’m here to help.
What Is the Plant-Based Diet?
Plant-based is different than a traditional vegetarian diet. It grew in popularity after the release of the Forks over Knives documentary and Beyonce’s famous reference to her plant-based diet.
When following a plant-based diet, the majority of food intake comes from plant products and not animal products. Unlike a vegetarian diet, some animal products can be consumed per dieter preference. Think of it as a semi-vegetarian, flexitarian, and vegetarian diet all rolled into one. That’s plant-based.
The theory remains that the elimination or reduced intake of animal products assists in weight loss, improves diabetes, decreases cancer risks, decreases inflammation in the body, and is good for the world in terms of resources in general. And there are definitely studies to support it.
The diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and healthy oils. It eliminates (or reduces intake of) meat, dairy, and eggs. Which sounds great – unless you really like meat. Or cheese.
Doctor Mom E’s Diet Scale
What I LOVE About the Plant-Based Diet
- No calorie or carb counting involved – No counting here. Just increasing plant-based products and decreasing/eliminating animal products.
- LOTS of fiber and healthy vitamins are included – Leafy green vegetables are fiber rockstars and the fruits and vegetables pack so many nutrients. Good all around.
- You can transition at your own speed – It seemed like vegetarian was so black and white back in the day. I had friends who would try it for a week, realize they didn’t want to give up everything and then either refine their name (flexitarian, etc.) or quit completely. Plant-based allows for the transition that you are comfortable with. See tips below for more…
- You WILL get that coveted 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily – ALMOST everything in the dietary world seems to be disputable but no one seems to deny the fact that 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day is just good for you. And this diet definitely allows for that. In fact, most research supports it is that component that makes it so good for you, not necessarily the lack of animal products.
What I DON’T LOVE About the Plant-Based Diet
- It’s possible to not lose weight – I have seen many a patient go to vegetarian, or now plant-based, and not lose the weight. That is typically due to the “fattening side” diet. They just start eating side dishes that are higher calorie and fat than their previous meat-based alternatives. And that will not lead to weight loss.
- You may need to supplement Vitamin B12 and D – When eliminating main food groups from the diet, you have to be very attentive to the vitamins you may be lacking. Vitamin B12 is typically in meat products. Vitamin D is in milk. Consider a daily multivitamin through the transition and then determine your needs.
- You will need to watch your protein intake – Make sure to add lots of beans, legumes, and maybe even tofu to your diet. Eliminating animal products can cause protein deficiency if you are not watching your diet closely.
- Be ready for meal prep – Many grocery stores now have precut veggies but they tend to be more expensive. Prep work is in your future with the plant-based diet.
What the Experts Say About the Plant-Based Diet
Harvard Nutrition Source: “The focus should be on eating more of the right plants, avoiding the wrong kind, eliminating unhealthy foods, and moderating your intake of healthier animal products.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you)
Mayo Clinic: “Eating a plant/based diet doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Small changes can have a big impact.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-plant-based-food-helps-fight-cancer/art-20457590)
Who Shouldn’t Choose the Plant-Based Diet
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding and have not previously embraced a vegetarian or plant-based diet, it is not the right time to start. There is a risk of vitamin and protein deficiencies for those not accustomed to a plant-based lifestyle.
Tips for Making the Plant-Based Diet Work
Don’t Make This the “Side Dish” Diet
It may be difficult when you go out to eat or are at a family gathering to avoid just eating side dishes but try not to make that a daily thing. Many side dishes are actually high calorie and low nutrient. Garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and creamed corn as a regular diet just don’t add up to weight loss.
Eat the Fruit and Not the Juice
Fruit juices have less fiber than the fruit itself making them less filling. Many studies have shown that adding juice before or during a meal has no impact on fullness and does not decrease food intake with meals. This causes you to end up taking in more calories in the end.
Minimize Processed Foods and Refined Grains
Yes, pizza without meat can be considered plant-based. But, do you really want to go to the effort of becoming plant-based and become the pizza for dinner every night girl? It will not improve your health nor your weight. The sneakier options of breads, pastas, rice, and potatoes (chips, fries, etc.) should also be minimized.
Go Whole Grain
Whole grain breads and pastas and brown rices are healthier than their white counterparts. You will definitely want to go whole grain.
Consider Starting with the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is essentially plant-based in many ways. And is such a healthy diet itself. For those who are transitioning from a meat heavy diet to plant-based, a Mediterranean style transition is healthy and will help you lose weight. For more on the Mediterranean Diet, check out my post.
Prioritize 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Daily and Then Worry About the Rest
The benefits of a plant-based diet come mainly from the increased fruits and vegetables so you will want to make sure you are getting enough.
Start with Breakfast
Many experts recommend switching one meal at a time. Breakfast seems to be the least stressful and is typically meat, egg, or milk heavy meal anyway. With the growing popularity of avocado toast and yummy granolas, your plant-based breakfast options are becoming easier and easier.
Make Your Favorite Recipes Plant-Based
This is especially easy with Mexican, Indian, or Asian dishes but can be done with any. Swap the meat for beans or tofu and you will be basically plant-based. Especially if you substitute cauliflower rice alongside.
Plant-Based Diet Meal Favorites
5 Plant-Based Breakfast Favorites
Avocado Toast (mashed with salt and pepper) on Whole Grain Bread
Natural Peanut Butter on Whole Grain Toast
Banana with Natural Peanut Butter
5 Plant-Based Lunch Favorites
Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread
5 Plant-Based Dinner Favorites
The Website Forks over Knives has TONS of great recipes as well!
Eating Out Plant-Based
Going with the House Salad without Cheese is always a safe choice
Impossible Burgers have been introduced at fast food chains with White Castle and Carls Jr. reportedly tasting the best
Panera – everything from breakfast sandwiches to bowls and salads
Subway – Veggie Delite sandwich
Chipotle – Vegan Bowl
Simple Solution: The plant-based diet supports improved health and great weight loss. The benefits come from the fruits and vegetables – the rest is up to you. Make the transition per your preference.