A New Year marks a new beginning, and the chance to try new things or make changes that had previously seemed daunting. Last Fall, I read the book ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and it changed my whole perspective on health and disease. I wasn’t aware that there was so much research already done supporting a whole foods plant-based diet in reducing one’s risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and in some cases even improving the health outcomes even if a person already has these medical conditions. Apparently, the lower one’s intake of animal proteins is, the lower the risk of these negative health outcomes. Our family of four has since decided to transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. This poses some challenges when you have a 4 year old, a nearly 11 month old, and a freezer packed with meat! But we have already made some (successful) changes to our way of eating and I hope to share what we’ve learned along the way and the experiences of our journey to help those who are also thinking about making similar changes but don’t know where to start.
The main tenet of a whole foods plant-based diet is to consume primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, while minimizing as much as possible animal-based proteins, excess oils as well as refined and processed foods high in fat and sugar. If you can remove all sources of animal proteins from your diet, even better! One reason behind reducing refined and processed high sugar/high fat foods from one’s diet is the tendency for these foods to take the place of more healthful nutrient dense foods that you would otherwise be consuming, so reducing your body’s intake of important nutrients, phytochemicals and minerals necessary for optimal health. A key reason for reducing excess oils in one’s diet, including vegetable oils, is so that a more desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids intake can be achieved for optimal health.
It is best to go slow and make gradual changes to one’s diet. Of course you could go off meat and other animal protein products immediately cold turkey, but our family has found it more successful to make the changes gradually, as small successes empowered us to make further changes. You may find that this approach also helps your family transition more successfully to such a diet, especially if you are a busy household and don’t have much time right away to try or create completely new recipes. This method also helps you use up all that meat in the freezer anyway!
So where should you start? Successful transitioning to a plant-based diet involves five basic steps:
Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!
In upcoming blog posts, I plan to touch on each of these steps in a bit more detail, and hope to also discuss a few tips for feeding children plant-based whole food diets. Stay tuned!