Plant Based Diet – How to Guide

What can I eat?

Nutritionally speaking, a plant-based diet includes all the good stuff. Being the main difference from following a vegetarian or vegan diet, a plant-based diet aims to include minimally processed foods. Massive tick as you are automatically removing nutrient lacking, energy dense foods your body doesn’t need.

Due to the wholefood focus, plant-based diets also tend to be lower in saturated fat and higher in fibre and vitamins including magnesium, potassium and vitamin C as well as flavonoids and other phytochemicals.

What does the diet restrict?

The two food groups that miss out on centre stage in the plant-based diet are meat/fish, eggs (occasionally) and dairy.

It is well documented that most Australians eat above recommended meat portions. Excessive red meat consumption has been linked to increased risk of bowel cancer and heart disease. How animals are raised also makes a difference to their fatty acid profile and effect on our health. Being that meat is an excellent source of high quality protein, iron and B12, consuming a palm-sized portion of red meat 2-3 times per week is completely ok.

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy contain several nutrients that our bodies need for overall health and wellness. The good news is that we can certainly get these nutrients from plant based food sources; it just takes a little planning and know how.

The table below summaries the nutrients you may be lacking if following a plant based diet:

    Sources
Protein

Vital for cell maintenance, growth and repair in the body. 

General guidelines 0.8-1g/kg body weight. Varies when aiming for body composition adaptations alongside a training program.

 

Beans and legumesNuts and seeds

Grains incl. quinoa

Tofu

Omega 3 enriched eggs

Rice, pea or soy protein powders

Vitamin B12

Responsible for may functions in the body including the production of red blood cells. 

Aim for 3-5mcg/day from food, 10-100mcg/day from supps.

Fortified productsNutritional yeast
Calcium

Important for bone health, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function. 

1000-1200mg/day for adults depending on age.

Soybeans, navy beans and white beansNuts/seeds and nut butters such as sesame

Dark leafy greens

Fortified non dairy milks

Omega-3 fatty acids

Assists in preventing heart disease, important for eye, nerve and brain development. 

Aim for 2g of ALA daily.

Oils including olive, canola, flaxseed, walnut and soybeanOmega 3 enriched eggs

Ground flaxseed

Chia seeds

Walnuts

Iron

Many functions including transporting oxygen. 

RDI 8mg/day men, 18mg/day women

LegumesDark leafy vegetables

Nuts and seeds

Grains incl. quinoa, brown rice and fortified cereals

Zinc

Growth and healing 

RDI 14mg/day men, 8mg/day women.

Dried beans, peas and lentilsNuts/seeds and their butters

Whole grains and fortified cereals

Summary:

Regardless of your reasons to adopt a plant-based way of eating, aiming to remove most packaged foods from your diet can make you healthier.

  1. Focus on whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts/seeds and healthy fats.
  2. Reduce processed products such as refined carbohydrates and meat substitutes.
  3. Reduce meat, fish, eggs and/or dairy as you wish, HOWEVER make sure you are replacing the nutrients they provide with plant-based sources and or supplements if recommended by a health professional.

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Melanie Olsen

Melanie Olsen

 

Melanie is one of Sydney’s top Sports Dietitian’s. Commencing her career in hospitals, before specialising in Sports Nutrition and Personal Training, gives Mel the unique combination to understand the nutritional demands of exercise. Her approach is simplistic, backed by science and results based. Check out befitdietitian.com for more information or to book a consult.