Okay guys. It is time for a chat. In the past few months this year, I have noticed a food trend. We’ll call it ‘Going Plant-Based.’ Have you heard of it? Are YOU ‘plant-based?’ If you are – what does that mean to you? How have you changed your diet as a result?
I’m curious as to the answers you guys might individually have to these questions. Let’s start with a broad definition of a ‘plant-based diet’ for those who are unsure what exactly that means – and let’s face it, many of us probably ARE unsure at this stage exactly what the terms refers to. A plant-based diet is any diet that focuses around foods derived from plant sources. This can include fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds and may or may not contain small amounts of animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy.
In reality, while this is true for some, for others a plant-based diet (we’ll say PBD for short) is synonymous with a vegan diet in certain cases, and a vegetarian diet in others.
So why is ‘plant-based eating’ now a trend? Well, I think there are a few reasons. Since reading the book ‘One Angry Chef’ by Anthony Warner (highly recommend it!), I’ve become kind of fascinated by the psychology of why we become obsessed with specific diets, in particular those which are based on exclusion of food types or food groups. You know what I mean – dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carb, etc. So this is something I’ve become quite aware of and interested in as a result.
In the past couple of years, Netflix has put out a few documentaries examining vegetarian and vegan diets, and the potential environment and health impacts of high levels of consumption of animal protein. You guys might have watched examples such as Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, Food Choices, and most recently (and the most controversial to date) What The Health. In addition to these documentaries, many prominent social media food/fitness/health bloggers (or influencers, as some are known) as well as celebrities have begun to speak out about adopting plant-based/vegan/vegetarian diets. Or at the very least, that they are reducing their animal protein intake – a concept coined being ‘flexitarian’, or ‘reducitarian.’ We do love our diet labels don’t we?! Areas of concern that have become hot topics are the effects of animal protein consumption on the environment, and on individual health and longevity. It’s no surprise that the spectrum of concerns raised over over-consumption of animal protein ranges from genuine fact-based public health issues to over-generalised and unsupported claims.
That isn’t what I want this post to be about though. No sir. The point that I want to make is two-fold, and I’ve asked a friend of mine, Catherine Downey (aka @the.sporty.dietitian on Instagram), who is a registered dietitian working in Ireland, to help me out with it. So let’s get to my TWO take home points, with some seriously valuable advice from Catherine about simple ways to you can build a healthy ‘plant-based’ plate.
- Being ‘plant-based’ is NOT a new idea.
For years (and I know Catherine and I are not alone in this – heeey other fellow health professionals!) we have been droning on to eat your ‘5 a day’ (more recently, ‘7 a day’, or even ‘10 a day’ in some headlines!), or base your meals on vegetables and natural wholegrains, so the idea of being ‘plant based’ is not a new one.
The government’s healthy eating guidelines (The Eatwell Plate or Food Pyramid) are based on the concept of eating wholesome unprocessed foods high in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, beans, legumes and nuts and seeds. However, we believe one of the reasons why these guidelines aren’t implemented is because they aren’t considered “sexy” or appealing compared to extreme diets or influencers who promise crazy results based on how we look.
As a result limited people actually follow through with the guidelines. As healthcare professionals, it can be difficult to ‘sell’ good quality scientifically backed up advice, as people are often looking for quick fixes or to be told what to eat and what not to eat (i.e. black and white nutrition) But trust us, nutrition is all 50 shades of grey! Therefore, health and nutrition messages need to be simplified (not “sexified”) and accessible for EVERYONE – not just based on our social-media trends or for the ‘elite’.
- This ‘plant-based’ trend is one that can benefit us ALL.
As we’ve said above, while we are not fans of ‘trends’ (because trend implies a popular habit that by nature usually DOESN’T become a regular part of a person’s life), this particular trend, one that inspires and convinces people to eat more veggies and fibre is a very positive thing indeed. There’s no denying that. It has been really exciting to see the shift on social media as well as global media (newspapers, online articles, health sections of national and international papers) towards encouraging people to try recipes based on plant sources of protein, as well as reinforcing changes in thinking around meal structure (i.e. meat does NOT have to be the centre piece, or can be substituted for a plant-based alternative such as beans, legumes, tofu, etc).
What we need, however, is for this ‘trend’ to stay. Not to pass us by like the ‘low-carb’ craze (although thank the lord for that) – because we’ve wanted people to jump on the veggie train for a LONG time. It’s no secret that the population in general doesn’t as a majority meet their recommended vegetable and fruit intake per day, or fibre. So, to help you guys out with that, Catherine has written up (with infographics – love!) a little information to start us off with how to build a healthy plant-based plate, as well as talking a little bit about portion control in that context. Finally, we’ve given you some simple ideas of plant-based meals you can try and hopefully store up as regulars in your recipe repertoire! Some of these recipes are from my blog – so you can try these at your leisure!
Where to start- How to build a healthy plate?
(From Catherine Downey aka @the.sporty.dietitian)
I often get asked about the best way to build a healthy plate. While the truth is that there is no one single “right” or “perfect” way to create a healthy meal, there is, a basic framework you can use to quickly and easily build a healthy plate.
Unfortunately my framework isn’t as “sexy” as extreme diets or influencers that promise even crazier results, but I promise you it is sustainable, plant-based, guilt-free and it works!
- Fill 1/2 of your plate with vegetables and/or fruit
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with a lean good-quality source of protein
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with a wholesome source of carbohydrate and fibre
- Check to make sure the meal also has a healthy fat source (thumb sized)
Remember, this is just a guide meant to be used in a relaxed way. There is absolutely no need to measure your food or insist that every single meal meets these criteria.
In order to eat intuitively (instinctively) all you need is your own hand.
Here’s how it works:
- Your palm determines your protein portions.
- Your fist determines your veggie portions.
- Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
- Your thumb determines your fat portions.
Structuring your diet
A simple and flexible guide for meal planning is outlined below. Again this is flexible and requirements will depend on your age, sex, weight and activity levels.
- 1-2 palms of protein dense foods with each meal
- 2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
- 1-2 cupped hands of carb dense foods with most meals;
- 1 entire thumbs of fat dense foods with most meals.
- 1 palm of protein dense foods with each meal;
- 2 fist of vegetables with each meal;
- 1-2 cupped hand of carb dense foods with most meals;
- 1 entire thumb of fat dense foods with most meals.
Ideas for Simple Meals
(From Ciara + Catherine! Including a few favourites from my blog!)
- Eggs On Toast: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 slice of wholegrain toast with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and a handful of spinach
- Overnight Oats: (Mix 40g oats, 1 apple grated, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, 200g Greek yoghurt, 100ml milk of choice place in a bowl and top with blueberries and 1 tsp flaked almonds – Leave overnight and grab and go in the morning).
- Ciara’s Overnight Chia Oats
- Ciara’s Smoky Baked Beans on a slice of toasted wholemeal bread
- Ciara’s Spicy Bean Chili served with a side of Quinoa or Wholegrain Rice
- Ciara’s Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie with a side of steamed broccoli
- Ciara’s Tikka Masala served with a side of Brown Basmati Rice
Well guys! That’s a wrap. I hope this post resonated with you and made some sense – it’s been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks and I wanted to share some thoughts and useful advice too! Leave a comment, or message/email Catherine or I on Instagram/Twitter! We would love to know your feedback.
Ciara 🙂 x