Hi there, beautiful soul. Today’s blog was inspired by a recent trip I took to Florida with my family. We drove to St. Petersburg, and on the way, we stopped at every vegan/plant-based restaurant we could find. We enjoyed some incredible plant-based food, but we also found quite a bit of not-so-healthy vegan/plant-based food. It got me thinking about all of you, especially those of you who are just beginning your plant-based journey.
Imagine you and your friends are excited to try a new restaurant in town. You’re excited because you’ve been seriously contemplating a shift towards plant-based eating. When you get there, you see they offer vegan options – exciting, right? However, the menu primarily features fried dishes, vegan pizzas, and faux meats. If your first impression was that this represented the essence of plant-based or vegan cuisine, would it inspire you to change your diet? It’s highly unlikely, unless, of course, you’re already committed to a vegan lifestyle, which we’ll get into later.
I don’t want you to feel discouraged or confused on your journey to plant-based living. I want you to know that, yes, there are unhealthy vegan and plant-based options out there, but there are also plenty of healthy ones out there too. You just need to know what to look for, and that’s where this blog can help.
In this blog, I’ll explain the differences between plant-based, vegan, and whole food plant-based diets. We’ll clear up any confusion you might have while shopping or dining out. Plus, I’ll share what kinds of foods to focus on to make sure you’re getting vital nutrients for a healthy plant-based diet. By the end of this blog, you’ll have a helpful resource to turn to if you need support or want to take your plant-based journey to the next level.
If you’re new to plant-based living and want to make a positive change for your health and well-being, this blog post is for you.
Let’s get started!
The more I’ve embraced a plant-based lifestyle, the clearer it becomes that these labels hold different meanings for everyone. Remember, you’re not bound to these labels if they don’t resonate with you. Let’s define them together to bring clarity and greater awareness so you can make choices that best support your journey towards plant-based wellness.
A plant-based diet revolves around embracing whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. It emphasizes eating plant-rich foods while minimizing or completely excluding animal products.
In addition to dietary choices, a plant-based lifestyle may include:
A vegan lifestyle goes beyond diet – it’s an ethical way of living that aims to eliminate the exploitation and suffering of animals.
Avoiding animal products, such as meat (including fish, shellfish, and insects), dairy, eggs, honey, and materials derived from animals.
Additionally, vegans may also:
Prioritize environmentally conscious and sustainable living, which includes reducing waste, conserving resources, and minimizing their carbon footprint.
By embracing a vegan lifestyle, people aim to:
Whole food, plant-based eating is centered around eating primarily whole, unprocessed or minimally processed plant-based foods. The focus is on incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The emphasis is on eating these nutrient-dense, plant-rich foods while excluding animal products, highly processed foods, added sugars, and oils.
In addition to dietary preferences, a whole food plant-based lifestyle may include:
Ultimately, your values and what you’re seeking for your health and lifestyle are what matter. It’s okay if you don’t fall into any of these categories. It’s okay if you’re dipping your toes in the water trying out different things. Stay curious and find the path that works best for you.
Now that you have a good understanding on what these terms mean, let’s shift our focus to plant-based wellness and how to make choices that support your health and well-being.
As more plant-based and vegan food options become available, it’s important to know that just because something is labeled as such, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthy. It’s also important to note that your healthiest option when choosing a healthy plant-based meal is probably one you’ll make at home, in your own kitchen.
Remember the days when grocery shopping was a carefree adventure? It’s not over; we just need to know what to look for. Nowadays, we have to watch out for additives, preservatives, and potentially harmful ingredients in our foods which is why it’s so important to read labels and understand ingredients. Try to make it habit to learn something new every time you go to the grocery store. Pick an ingredient you’ve never seen before and research it when you get home. I know this sounds like a lot but the more you do it, the easier it becomes to choose foods with healthier ingredients.
Choose foods that closely resemble their natural state. This involves selecting items with minimal ingredients, choosing organic when possible, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, along with legumes. It also involves selecting foods with no artificial sweeteners or added sugars, minimally processed foods, herbs and spices, and minimally processed oils – cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil and other minimally processed oils (unless your WFPB of course).
If you’re in the early stages of your vegan/plant-based journey and are seeking alternatives to meat & dairy, that’s perfectly fine! There are plenty of choices available. Just remember the importance of moderation and aim to opt for whole food, plant-based options whenever you can.
A helpful tip for maintaining a healthy plant-based diet while dining out is to check the menu online before you go to the restaurant. This allows you to plan your order in advance and choose options that align with your plant-based goals. Look for dishes that feature plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. If you’re unsure about ingredients or preparation methods, don’t hesitate to ask your server for customization or more information.
Now, let’s shift our focus to the topic of nutrition by exploring the essential nutrients to include in your diet for overall well-being. Please note that I’m not a registered dietitian; I’m simply sharing the research I’ve learned and the strategies that have personally helped me thrive on a plant-based diet.
Learning how to eat on a plant-based diet is KEY. This involves reading labels, planning your meals thoughtfully, cooking more meals at home, and making sure you’re getting specific vital nutrients. These nutrients – vitamin B12, iron, omega-3s, and calcium – are present in animal products. You can also get these nutrients from plant-based sources. To thrive on a plant-based diet, you’ll need to choose a variety of foods that are rich in these nutrients.
Let’s break down some examples:
Iron: Some plant-based sources of iron include lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, quinoa, spinach, fortified cereals, cashew nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Pairing these with vitamin C-rich foods (like citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli) can enhance iron absorption.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Plant-based sources include: flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, brussels sprouts, and algae-based supplements are good sources of omega-3s.
Calcium: Some plant-based sources of calcium include edamame, fortified plant-based milk (like almond, soy, or oat milk), dark leafy greens (such as kale, collard greens, and bok choy), seaweed, tahini, tofu, lentils, beans, almonds, and sesame seeds are sources of calcium.
Supplements can also help you get these essential nutrients. I have an entire section dedicated to supplements in my Amazon storefront if you’re interested. You can find it here.
Understanding the significance of these nutrients and incorporating more of these certain foods into your diet, will not only help you feel amazing but also help you build a strong foundation for your journey towards plant-based wellness.
Should you seek support as you navigate the world of plant-based wellness, I have the perfect resource for you…The Green Upgrade eBook Bundle!
As you step into your plant-based wellness journey, remember the value of having resources and support by your side. That’s why I’ve created the eBook bundle, “The Green Upgrade: How to Take Care of Yourself and Feel Good Inside and Out Using Plant-Based Practices and Holistic Principles.” This comprehensive resource is designed to empower you with the knowledge and tools you need to thrive on a plant-based diet.
Inside this bundle, you’ll find a wealth of information, including practical tips, curated grocery lists, delicious plant-based and vegan recipes, self-care tips, a beginner-friendly yoga practice, a holistic workbook, and more.
What sets this bundle apart is that in addition to all of the above; you also get support from me directly. Having been exactly where you are now, I understand the challenges and questions you might have. My intention is to provide the support I wish I had when I began my journey, empowering you on your journey towards greater alignment and well-being.
As you embrace this lifestyle, keep in mind that your journey is entirely your own – it’s personal and flexible to what YOU want. Don’t feel like you have to fit into specific boxes or stick strictly to things that don’t feel right for you. Whether you’re changing for your health, the environment, or ethics, every little step you take moves you closer to your health and wellness goals. Embrace the learning process, go slow, celebrate your wins, and be kind to yourself on tough days. I’m proud of you for taking control of your health.
If you found this blog helpful, please share it with a friend. If you have any questions, leave a comment below!
xo – Chelsea Backman
~ Are you looking for guidance and empowerment on your journey to better health? Take a look at my latest blog post, ‘Journey within: 6 Questions to Manifest Your Healthiest Life.’ It’s filled with questions, journal prompts, and a reflective exercise that can help bring clarity to your wellness vision & values.
Chelsea Backman is a proud mother of two, an entrepreneur, and a national board certified health & wellness coach who has turned her love for holistic health and wellness into a holistic lifestyle blog and wellness brand, Hyperspective Health. With a deep-rooted passion for holistic wellness, her mission is to guide you towards your own awakening, healing, and personal transformation.
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