Here are four of the most common questions I get from clients who are on the road to healthier, plant-based living:
1. Do I have to go vegan?
One of the most common misconceptions about plant-based nutrition is that you have to completely forego all animal products or animal derivatives. Goodbye, eggs and cheese. Hello, kale and beans! What will shock you most is knowing that plant-based nutrition simply prioritizes whole and unprocessed plant foods, while minimizing the consumption of meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and processed foods to just 10 percent of daily caloric intake.
As a nutritionist, I advise clients on how to integrate vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits, seeds, and nuts into their diets, while avoiding processed and refined foods. My clients will be eating healthier and working toward lowering the risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and so many other preventable diseases—without giving up that veggie-loaded morning omelet.
2. Where’s the protein? Won’t I be hungry all the time?
It’s a common misconception that plant-based diets are completely devoid of protein, because we’re hardwired to identify with traditional protein sources like meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and milk. As the building block of life, protein is made up of amino acids that our bodies need for practically everything. The difference between animal protein and plant-based protein is that our bodies more readily know how to process the former, so when it comes to the plant-based protein, you have to eat intentionally to make sure you’re getting enough. This might seem like an overwhelming change but this is where meal planning makes a difference.
The truth is, there are plenty of plant-based foods that are chock-full of protein, not to mention the countless other nutritional benefits that you don’t get from traditional protein sources. Some plant-based foods with the highest levels of protein include tempeh, pumpkin seeds, nuts, black beans, lentils, green peas, broccoli, and ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth.
3. How will I get calcium? What about iron?
Dairy doesn’t have to be your only—or even primary—source of calcium. There are endless plant-based foods rich in calcium, such as sesame seeds, molasses, chia seeds, beans, bok choy, and figs. For example, a one-cup serving of cooked greens like kale or collard greens contains 10 percent of your recommended daily value of calcium. These foods are not only loaded with calcium, but they’re also much easier to digest and absorb than dairy products.
4. How quickly will I lose weight on a plant-based diet?
I get this question a lot. Weight-loss goals are good to have, but they should never be the primary motivator. The focus is on getting my clients to prioritize the larger nutritional picture. All too often, especially online, plant-based diet gurus will claim that you can eat as much whole food as you want, as often as you want. As long as you’re eating plant-based foods found close to nature, there’s no reason to consider portions, right?
Wrong! Eating more whole, plant foods is going to change how you feel and look almost instantly, but knowing how much to eat, when to eat it, and how the body absorbs those foods is also vital at every step in the journey toward healthier living.