Make a plant-based diet easy and enjoyable with these 9 simple tips!
What does thriving look like to you?
How about maintaining a high level of health with ease? An ever-improving body composition? Increasing strength and energy? Having low stress and high enjoyment in daily life?
Thriving will look a little different for everyone, but for most people, thriving is having the ability and motivation to reach our goals. It's a feeling of growth, fulfilment and purpose.
People who are thriving have a great sense of community, freedom and connection. It's so much more than just being in great physical shape.
Some people say they've tried a plant-based diet, only to find that they were not thriving. What were they doing wrong? Are there any keys to making it work?
Yes! Here are 9 keys to thrive on a plant-based diet - long term! Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or have animal-based products in your diet, there’s always benefit with turning your diet to focus more on plants!
1. Focus on whole foods
Although there are vegan alternatives to any processed junk food your heart may desire, building your diet around fast food and packaged products is not the way to thrive long-term on a plant-based diet.
Focus your diet around whole foods like fruits, vegetables and activated nuts and seeds, and reserve things like mock meats, biscuits and pies as strictly ‘sometimes foods.'
Eating highly processed foods more than once or twice a week, whether they are plant-based or not, will limit our ability to thrive and experience our best level of health and fitness.
2. Enjoy occasional vegan indulgences
While it's important to focus our diet around whole foods, this doesn't mean plant-based pizzas, burgers, chocolates and desserts don't have their place in a healthy lifestyle.
Avoiding these tasty ‘sometimes foods' altogether can lead to feelings of isolation and deprivation, as well as an unhealthy relationship with food.
Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical health, and the two are closely linked.
Enjoying indulgent plant-based desserts and meals at very special social occasions, rather than on a daily basis, is the key takeaway here.
3. Get your leafy greens in
Whether you steam, sauté or blend them into your Ultimate Green Smoothie, don't hold back - get as many leafy greens in as you can!
Not only are leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and rocket bursting with vitamins and minerals, but they also help detoxify the body, reduce inflammation, and fight disease.
High in Vitamins E, K, C and A, leafy greens pack more nutritional punch than any multivitamin. These vitamins are essential for healthy immune function, cellular repair, heart health, bone health, iron absorption, healthy skin and so much more!
Leafy greens are also packed with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese, in addition to providing a big serve of dietary fibre. Here are 5 powerful greens to start eating today.
4. Buy organic where possible
Organic produce is free from pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilisers, and is also non-GMO.
Buying organic fruit and vegetables may cost a little more, but what we get in return is more nutritionally rich foods that are lower in heavy metals, but much higher in flavonoids and antioxidants.
In short, eating organic helps to reduce the toxic burden on our bodies, while providing us with more of what we need to thrive. The benefits don't end there though - organic farming is also better for the planet!
In addition to supporting your health and wellbeing, eating organic produce means you're supporting the farmers who grow and maintain their crops responsibly.
5. Lower lectins
Lectins are a kind of protein that can bind to sugar. They are found in both plant-based and animal-derived foods and can play an important role in immune function and cell function when eaten in minimal quantities.
Lectins are sometimes referred to as ‘anti-nutrients,' as they can reduce our ability to absorb nutrients, and a diet high in lectins can lead to gut wall damage, systemic inflammation, and even an autoimmune response.
Beans, peas, unfermented soybeans and soy products, lentils, and other legumes such as peanuts and cashew, all have a very high lectin content. As tasty as it is, we may as well called peanut butter ‘lectin butter'… but fortunately, there are many delicious alternatives, such as almond butter and tahini.
Grains such as quinoa, and nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes are also high in lectins.
While it's true that these foods can also be very nutritious stables of a plant-based diet, it's important that we are mindful of our lectin intake, and do what we can to lower it. For example, we can dramatically reduce the lectin content of beans and legumes by pressure-cooking them, while potatoes, tomatoes and other nightshades are better without their skins and seeds.
We can also try to eat more of the lower-lectin vegetables, such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli.
6. Get an annual blood test
Everyone should get their blood nutrient levels tested annually, not just vegans and vegetarians! This is probably the best way to check whether you're on the right track with your diet, or need to make some adjustments.
In addition to our blood nutrient levels, a blood test can also reveal the state of our hormonal health. Our hormones are greatly influenced by our diet and lifestyle and are another good indicator of whether or not we're managing stress, sleeping well, and eating right.
A small hormonal imbalance can have a significant impact on our wellbeing, but fortunately, a plant-based lifestyle gives our endocrine system a much better chance to function at its best.
7. Balance your macros
There are many extreme versions of the plant-based diet. Whether it's High Carb Low Fat or a Vegan Ketogenic diet, avoiding any one of the three macronutrients is not a sustainable diet option for the vast majority of people.
Although certain diet strategies can be helpful to achieve a short-term goal, finding balance is best when it comes to thriving in the long-term, as this is the most sustainable option for the vast majority of people long term.
8. Listen to your body
Tweaking your plant-based diet to help you look, feel and perform at your best is a matter of listening to the signs your own body is giving you. No two people have the same gut microbiome, the same health history, or the same metabolic makeup - everyone is different.
This is why it's important to take any nutritional advice and put it in the right context. Instead, do your own experimentation, food journaling and research.
You may discover that your body doesn't respond well to wheat-based products, gluten or soy, for example. In this case, you should look for alternatives without worrying about what anyone else thinks!
Listening to our bodies can also let us know whether we're eating too much or too little. It's so important to eat in a way that supports our training, lifestyle and goals.
These number should only be used as a starting guide, which must be reassessed and adjusted according to how you feel, how you're performing, and whether you're on track to your goals.
9. Keep it simple
What's the real secret to long-term thriving on a healthy plant-based lifestyle? Keeping it simple! There's just no need to overcomplicate something as pure and simple as nourishing our bodies.
Eating plant-based certainly doesn't have to be a financial burden, a social barrier, or a form of restriction. Too often, people go back to eating a lot of animal-based products because they feel they are not thriving.
They have simply failed to see how simple, easy and affordable a plant-based diet can be. Approaching this lifestyle from an extremist perspective is a surefire way to fall off the wagon and miss out on the long-term benefits!
The number of athletes (and regular people) who are thriving on a plant-based diet is growing all the time, but this doesn't mean anyone has all the answers.
Figuring out which foods work best for you can take a bit of time and a lot of introspection, but it's well worth the commitment. We hope you find these 9 key insights to be helpful on your journey!