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The Begginers Guide to Plant Based Diets

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

Whole food plant based diets also known as plant based diets have increased in popularity over the years and most people want to know more. I thought I'd take a moment to answer a few common questions. The most popular questions I'm asked are: what is a plant-based diet, what are the benefits, can I meet all my nutrient needs, do I have to go vegan or vegetarian, and do I have to give up all my favorite foods?

In a nutshell, a plant based diet consists predominately of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and herbs, with few or no animal products. Plant based diets are rich in fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and low in saturated fat. Due to increased intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in plant based whole foods individuals consuming plant based diets have been shown to have improved body mass indexes, lower LDL cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease outcomes, as well as reduced risk of diabetes and certain cancers.

You can easily meet your macronutrient needs but will need to properly plan your diet to ensure you meet your iron, zinc, iodine, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 needs. The best way to ensure that you are meeting your needs is to consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Vegans do not consume any animal products, while vegetarians may consume dairy and/or eggs. If you want to go vegan great, but you won't have to in order to reap the benefits of a plant based diet. The basis of a plant based diet is to choose to consume mostly foods from plant sources. Going vegan or vegetarian does automatically mean you are living a healthier lifestyle. There are plenty of vegan junk food options!

We all have foods that are our guilty pleasures. I love pizza, so occasionally I have pizza. I order it with vegan cheese, spinach, mushrooms, artichokes, broccoli, tofu, basil, onions, and sun dried tomatoes. Most diets fail because of the mentality that you will be depriving yourself of something you love. You won't have to give up your favorite foods! Try modifying your favorite dish into a plant based option or choose to eat them in moderation. Most diets fail because they are too restrictive. Think of choosing to eat plant based as a lifestyle change and not a diet. This is something you can stick to! Start small! Check out three ways to start eating plant based below.

Three ways to start eating plant-based today

1. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

2. Prepare a vegetarian meal at least once a week.

3. Log onto to schedule your initial nutrition consultation today with Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Daria Spratley!


Meet the Author

Patres Spratley, MS, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and plant based lifestyle enthusiast. She graduated from South Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and a Master of Science in nutrition from Winthrop University. She went on to complete her dietetic internship at Winthrop University. She is very passionate about plant based nutrition and has been following a plant based lifestyle for over fifteen years.

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