Practical Tips to Ease Into Plant-Based Eating
Feb 15, 2022, 16:09 PM
By Tami Ross, RD, LD, CDCES, MLDE, FADCES
2013 ADCES President
Coordinator, Diabetes Education Services & DPP, UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center
Plant-based eating is a popular topic these days! Plant-based eating means eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and soy products. It is rich in the good stuff — fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and healthy fats. And it is low in unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol. Recently I have had more patients/clients asking me about it. They question if a plant-based eating pattern is a healthy option for people with diabetes, and if so, what tips can they try to begin to eat more plant-based.
Top health benefits of plant-based eating
The evidence clearly supports that a variety of eating patterns can be beneficial to help manage type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, including a plant-based approach. (An eating pattern simply means all of the foods and beverages in whole that one consumes.) In terms of plant-based eating, vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are most commonly found in the literature. Vegetarian eating avoids all flesh foods, but may include eggs or dairy products, while the vegan eating pattern avoids all animal products.
Nutrition Therapy for Adults With Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report Diabetes Care 2019;42:731–754 | https://doi.org/10.2337/dci19-0014 addresses potential health benefits for those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes following a vegetarian or vegan eating pattern. Those include:
- Reduced risk of diabetes.
- Reduced A1C.
- Weight loss.
- Lowered LDL-C and non–HDL-C.
While the evidence base supports benefit for those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, no trials met the inclusion criteria for adults with type 1 diabetes.
Embrace a more plant based eating pattern 1 meal, 1 day, 1 week at a time
When working with patients/clients trying to ease their way into a more plant-based eating approach this is one of my favorite tips. Rather than starting off overhauling one’s whole eating pattern, it can seem manageable and do-able to start with one meal, and expand from there.
Small changes and simple swaps!
- Start the day in a simple plant-based way.
Try whole grain cereal topped with a few berries and almond milk. A plant-based milk product such as almond milk, oat milk or soy milk can be an easy swap. Another one of my favorites is toasted multi-seed whole grain bread spread with mashed avocado and a sprinkle of Everything seasoning. (Everything seasoning is found with the spices and is a combination of the seasonings you’d find on top of an “Everything” bagel)
- Begin the week with “meatless Mondays.”
For instance, enjoy black bean soup for lunch and zucchini noodles with spicy marinara for dinner.
- Make beans, lentils or soy products the focus of your meals.
For instance, swap cooked lentils in place of ground beef in tacos, sloppy joes or Shepherd’s pie. Swap black beans in place of pork, chicken or ground beef in burritos or enchiladas. This is a great budget-friendly tip too since these protein sources cost less than meat, poultry and fish.
Try the Plant Power Formula
A simple way I think about pulling together a plant-based meal is by following what I call the “plant power formula.” Using this formula can help pull together a multitude of delicious, wholesome options. Here’s how it works:
- Choose a whole grain
- Add a plant protein (such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts)
- Add a fruit or vegetable
Here are some examples of how anyone can apply this formula for any meal of the day.
Applying the Plant Power Formula at breakfast:
- Choose a whole grain: steel cut oats.
- Add a plant protein: toasted walnuts.
- Add a fruit or vegetable: pomegranate seeds, blueberries.
Applying the Plant Power Formula at lunch:
- Choose a whole grain: quinoa.
- Add a plant protein: chickpeas.
- Add a fruit or vegetable: chopped curly kale, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado; then drizzle with olive oil vinaigrette.
Applying the Plant Power Formula at dinner:
- Choose a whole grain: brown rice.
- Add a plant protein: vegetarian chili over the rice.
- Add a fruit or vegetable: fresh strawberries.
Plant-based eating is trendy in 2022
Not only does the evidence show that a plant-based eating pattern can have health benefits, incorporating more plant-based foods is a key trend in food, nutrition and health in 2022 as was shared in a recent webcast I attended by Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.
Stay ahead of the trends and deliver real, lasting health benefits to your patients by recommending more plants in their diet. I hope these tips are helpful to you and the patients/clients that you work with that are interested in embracing a more plant-based eating style! You can find more practical tips for recommending plant-based eating in Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes & Reducing the Risk of Diabetes in the April 2021 issue of ADCES in Practice, by joining the Plant-Based Nutrition Community of Interest on ADCES Connect, and in the Huddle podcast below.
ADCES Perspectives on Diabetes Care
The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.
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