With so many diets out there, navigating it all can be overwhelming. Should we be Paleo? Vegan? On an all carb diet? (whatever Regina George says, goes…right?) But today we wanted to discuss a diet that’s whose intention is not to necessarily lose weight or to even focus on what you should be eliminating — the plant-based diet.
Whether it’s plants in our apartment or plants in our body, it’s safe to say that here at TSB we are big fans of plants! They make us happy when we look at them and even happier when we eat them. We’re firm believers of food as medicine, and there’s no better medicine for your body than plants. They have endless benefits with a variety of essential nutrients your body craves. Don’t get us wrong…we love cheese and we may or may not eat gluten sometimes (hint: it’s may) but eating those things doesn’t always feel so good afterwards. But you know what does feel good after? PLANTS!
If you feel your energy levels aren’t so great or you could be eating better than you are right now, you might want to consider a plant-based diet. It might sound intimidating, but thankfully we asked plant babe extraordinaire Jessica Murnane (author of the One Part Plant cookbook and host of One Part Podcast) to help break it down for us. It’s more approachable than you might think! What we love about Jessica is that she’s not trying to shame you for eating pizza or bacon or any of the foods that are not part of a plant-based diet. She just wants to encourage you to try to incorporate more plant-based meals into your life. Now that doesn’t sound so scary, right?
Let’s start with the basics…
What is plant-based? And is it different from vegan?
According to Jessica, “plant-based eating is really focused on eating whole foods that are minimally processed (veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes) and does not include animal products (meat, dairy, eggs).” What we love about the idea of a plant-based diet is that although it eliminates certain food categories, it’s really more about what to incorporate more of. It can be difficult to stick with something if you feel like you’re depriving yourself (we will get to that later). So when you focus on all of the delicious foods you can and should be eating, it will make it all a little easier…and your body a lot happier.
Jessica tells us, “if you’re vegan, you also don’t eat animal products, but veganism is more focused on the environmental, ethical, and cruelty issues involved with animal consumption. This might also extend to clothing and beauty product choices.” While being plant-based is focused mostly on diet, being vegan is more of a lifestyle. So it just depends on what your reasons are for wanting to make a lifestyle change and how far you want to take it.
Although there are many wonderful benefits to being vegan, it does tend to have a bit of a stigma. Because plant-based is less strict and more inclusive, it doesn’t feel so intimidating (even though many of the principles are the same). Jessica clarifies, “So you can eat a plant-based diet, but not identify as a vegan. And you can be vegan, but not necessarily care about whole foods (Oreos are vegan, for example).” She says the easiest thing to do is skip the labels all together and do what works best for you with regards to your personal health and ethical choices. This way you have more flexibility and freedom to figure out what’s right for you.
Why go plant-based?
There are so many reasons! I think we all know by now that eating refined sugars and carbohydrates, processed meats, etc. are just not good for us. They don’t sound like they’d be good for us and they definitely aren’t doing wonders to our bodies both internally and externally. For Jessica, she ended up switching her diet due to struggles with Endometriosis for many years. Up until more recently, doctors have historically treated symptoms with medication and not taken the time to figure out the root cause of those symptoms. Now with more research and better education, as well as an increase in popularity of alternative medicine, we finally understand how much our diet affects so many aspects of our life (mood, weight, skin, etc.)
People change their diets for various reasons. Whether it’s to lose weight or try to get the root cause of a symptom or disease, you might be surprised how effective switching up your diet can be. There are a number of benefits to going plant based such as better heart health, lower blood pressure, decreased inflammation (especially important for skin issues), as well as having less of a negative impact on the environment. Incorporating more plants (not just produce but also nuts, seeds, grains and legumes like Jessica mentioned) makes your body happy therefore it will run more optimally.
Certainly everybody and every body (see what we did there?) is different therefore there’s no one size fits all when it comes to diet. We’re not doctors so we can’t legally give medical advice (even though we frequent WebMD more than we’d like to admit) but if you’re thinking your body could use a little tune up, try incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet. It doesn’t have to be every meal everyday but even shooting for one plant-based meal a week is a step in a healthier direction (hence Jessica’s words to live by — one part plant).
Want to go plant-based? Here’s where to start…
If you’re curious about incorporating more plant-based meals into your routine but aren’t sure where to start…don’t worry, we got you. Having simple ingredients on hand makes it less overwhelming to make your own plant-based recipes. Jessica tells us “My cabinet/fridge is stocked with these [below] at all time. If I have my 10 (plus fruits and veggies), I know I can always throw a meal together and avoid the “what the heck am I having for dinner!?” panic.”
- Plant-based milk (almond, oat, rice)
- Nuts + Seeds (cashews, almonds, walnuts)
- Natural Sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, dates)
- Nut/Seed Butter (almond, sunflower, cashew)
- Whole Grains
- Beans + Lentils (dry or canned)
- Coconut (milk, butter, shreds)
- Gluten-free Flours (brown rice, chickpea, oat)
- Veggie Broth
So now that you know what to stock up on, what do you do with all of this stuff? It’s important to find recipes that you are excited about filled with ingredients you love so you don’t feel deprived. Jessica’s cookbook has tons of delicious tips, tricks and recipes that will leave you feeling satisfied and your body happy (both inside and out!)
If you feel like you’re “too busy” to go plant-based, read this:
As much as we’d love to cook a super healthy meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, most of us don’t have a schedule that will allow that. Unless you’re VIP on Postmates / Grubhub / DoorDash (we won’t judge!) it takes some planning to make sure you’re eating decent meals throughout the week (regardless of your diet). Jessica suggests starting with easy recipes with 10 ingredients or less. Other ideas she shares — “Make a soup for the week on Sunday (I like cooking while listening to podcasts or watching Netflix). Make your lunch the night before to take to work. If you have access to a fridge at work, stock it with meal components for the week (bring a tub of hummus, some tortillas, and veggies– and make wraps all week).”
When you’re not cooking and you’re either getting takeout or going out for a meal, Jessica recommends Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican cuisines as they usually have some good plant-based options.
What are some go-to satisfying ingredients that won’t make you miss meat or dairy?
Like we’ve already mentioned (and it’s important so we don’t mind saying it again) you don’t have to feel deprived on a plant-based diet. But if you still don’t believe us, Jessica suggests Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and mushrooms (either together or separate!). She also loves nutritional yeast (which gives a sort-of cheesy flavor) and making cashew cream (soaked cashews and veggie broth blended together). Together they create these “dairy/cheese vibes” (which we are all about!) Jessica uses all of these ingredients in her Creamy Mushroom Lasagna recipe, which she says is “a great starter plant-based recipe…no one ever guesses this lasagna is plant-based!”
Pro tip from Jessica: You can find Tamari next to the soy sauce at the grocery store and nutritional yeast can be found in bulk or the vitamin section of grocery stores. You can also order both online!
Is it expensive to go plant-based?
Just as we don’t have all the time in the world to dedicate to what we eat, we don’t have unlimited cash either. Healthy food can be expensive…but it doesn’t have to be! Did you know that a pound of lentils is way less expensive than a pound of ground beef or a block of good brie? Honestly we had no idea until Jessica enlightened us. She says, “soups, tacos, curries, chilis, pastas are super affordable ways to get lots of veggies and nutrients in without breaking bank!” Plus you can make a big batch to last you for several meals.
Will you get enough protein going plant-based?
With Paleo and Keto diets becoming more and more popular, it seems like everything being advertised to us right now has PROTEIN (even pancakes and cookie dough!) Although protein is part of a healthy and balanced diet, Americans are actually consuming twice the amount of protein they need. So just because you’re eliminating meat doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on your daily dose of protein. There are so many ways to get protein from plants! Some examples include lentils, chickpeas, almonds, quinoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds and soy products like tempeh, tofu and edamame (just make sure they’re non-GMO). However, most of these protein options need some sort of cooking or preparation ahead of time. So if you’re looking for some protein on-the-go, look for a high quality plant-based protein. We personally love Mele shakes!
Thank you Jessica Murnane for helping us out and showing us the super cool magical powers of plants. If you have any favorite plant-based recipes, feel free to share in the comments!