How to Eat Plant-Based

What is Plant-Based?
A Plant-based diet falls into the category of eating vegan/vegetarian. To eat plant-based means to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your everyday diet and not consume animal-based products. Plant-based meals have increased in popularity over the past few years, whether people are choosing to not eat animal products for health reasons, to help the environment, or to save the animals.

There’s a common myth that when a person is plant-based, they do not receive adequate amounts of nutrients such as protein. This is entirely untrue. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables can give you the proper amount of nutrients. As for protein, there are ample types of plant-based options. The key to consuming adequate amounts of protein is in the types of grains, legumes, and vegetables you consume, as well as how you pair them together. This will make a complete protein. What is a complete protein you may ask? A complete protein is a protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids (building blocks for protein) necessary in the human diet.

Below you will find a list of plant proteins and combinations to make a complete protein.

How to build a complete meal
For optimal protein absorption, plant-based meals should incorporate all amino acids (building blocks of a protein). Combinations such as nut butter and whole grains, pita bread and hummus, rice and beans, or lentils with rice provide necessary amino acids and make complete proteins. Options like tempeh, seitan, tofu, amaranth, and quinoa are complete proteins and great plant-based options.

Plant-Based My Plate

credit: vrg.org

Plant Protein Sources

  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Nut butter
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Whole grain bread
  • Hummus
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan
  • Amaranth
  • Farro
  • Quorn

Plant Iron Sources

  • Spinach,
  • Kidney beans,
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Lentils
  • Turnip greens
  • Molasses
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Peas
  • Some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins)

Plant Calcium Sources

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Fortified non-dairy milk
  • Dark leafy greens

Incorporating these protein, iron, and calcium-rich sources help provide necessary nutrients in a plant-based diet. These nutrients are commonly found in animal sources and important in plant-based diets that omit those sources. Adding in these plant-based options is also a great way to get in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your diet, even for those who are not vegan or vegetarian. Try having a “meatless Monday”  using some of the suggested foods above.


Written by Nutrition Interns: Destiny Gresham and Adrianne Lewis

References:

  1. Caspero, A. (n.d.). Building a Healthy Vegetarian Meal Myths and Facts. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/vegetarian-and-special-diets/building-a-healthy-vegetarian-meal-myths-and-facts
  2. 13 Nearly Complete Protein Sources for Vegetarians and Vegans. Accessed July 26, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/complete-protein-for-vegans#The-bottom-line
  3. The 17 Best Protein Sources For Vegans and Vegetarians. Healthline. Published August 16, 2016. Accessed July 26, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians
  4. The Complete Protein Foods List And Facts | Piedmont Healthcare. Accessed July 26, 2020. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/what-is-a-complete-protein