The biggest plant-based eating myths this dietitian wants you to know

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Fill up on fruits and veg. Image: iStock


Would you consider a plant-based diet? We speak to a dietitian about how to do it best. 

#1 Plant-based eating is the same as vegan or vegetarianism

Despite what you may have heard, a plant-based diet is inherently different to a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Vegan diets exclude animal products in their entirety, vegetarian diets are plant-centric with allowance for animal products such as milk, eggs and cheese (the amount and type depend on the preference of the individual), whereas a plant-based diet is a style of eating where plants form the basis of the diet yet animal products in all of their forms aren’t omitted.

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The words vegan, vegetarian and plant-based tend to be used interchangeably because the plant-based definition is a little vague and subjective. As a dietitian, I am a huge advocate for a plant-based style of eating!

After all, some of the most well researched and advantageous diets in the world are constructed around plants i.e The Mediterranean Diet. Most of us do need to prioritise including more plants in our diets but animal products do not have to be completely removed to lead a healthy lifestyle.

#2 Plant-based automatically means nutritious

Plant foods are some of the most nutritious foods; think fruits, vegetables, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. Most plant foods contain an abundance of fibre to support our digestive health, prebiotics to fuel our healthy gut bugs and an array of various vitamins and minerals that aid in all of our bodily processes.

Plant foods will also contain either a combination of our three macronutrients or a single macronutrient in isolation. Nuts as an example contain carbohydrates for sustained energy, heart-healthy fats and plant protein to increase satiety and help with blood sugar regulation. Opposingly, many foods that lack nutritional value can also be classified as plant-based.

These might include hot chips, lollies and highly processed ‘fake meats’ that contain large quantities of salt, saturated fat and/or sugar.

Additionally, substituting an animal-based ingredient for a plant-based ingredient in a cake, donut, baked good, chocolate product, ice-cream or another confectionary item does not automatically make it healthy. This isn’t about creating shame around those foods (in their traditional or vegan form) because there is room for all foods in our diet, this is more-so about educating you on the power of clever marketing.

#3 It is difficult to meet your protein requirements on a plant-based diet

There is a common misconception that it is challenging to meet your protein requirements on a plant-based diet. Depending on whether you have removed animal products in their entirety or not, it can be really simple to meet your daily protein needs with some careful consideration.

Plant foods such as lentils, legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, plant-based milks such as Inside-Out’s Milkish range, and wholegrains such as oats, quinoa and buckwheat are all plant sources of protein. The idea that plant proteins are inferior to animal proteins because they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids is false and misleading.

A carefully planned diet that contains a variety of plant proteins at different times throughout the day is more than enough for you to adequately consume the protein your body needs.

Most of the time, protein requirements can be met through food alone, however if you find that difficult protein powders are an option if necessary.

#4 Plants aren’t filling or satisfying enough

Nutritious plant-foods contain nutrients that are scientifically-proven to satiate you. Generally speaking, plant-based diets that are well balanced and contain a variety of foods and nutrients are perceived to keep you more satisfied in comparison to traditional animal-based diets.

This is because plant foods (as mentioned before) are a rich source of dietary fibre, slow-release carbohydrates and either plant protein or healthy fats.

Fibre slows down our gastric emptying which keeps us fuller for longer, slow-burning carbohydrates release glucose into the blood-stream at a slow and steady rate for sustained energy and appetite, plant-proteins and healthy fats are digested at a relatively slow rate which also increase satiety too.

My advice, try your best to include a source of slow-release carbohydrates, plant-protein, healthy fats and fibre at most main meals. You won’t get it perfect every time (nobody does) but it’s vital to give some thought to the different nutrients that make up meals and snacks to make them more filling and satisfying.

#5 Plant-based diets are too restrictive

As you can see, so many of the foods that make up (or should make-up) the majority of our diets are derived from plants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes and wholegrains).

Given that vegan diets exclude animal products, food choices may be somewhat limited, but not so much that it feels restrictive and unsustainable. Our food system is ever-changing and is so adaptable to the different dietary patterns emerging in society, there are now more options for plant-based eaters than ever before.

For example, if you choose not to consume dairy, opting for a plant-based milk alternative such as Inside Out’s Almond and Oat Milks which are fortified with calcium will still provide you some of the macro and micronutrients you would find in dairy based milks.

Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration and creativity.

#6 Plant-based foods are too expensive

If your plant-based diet predominantly consists of organic fake-meats, pre-packaged meals, vegan chocolate, cashew-based ice-creams, dairy-free cheese and products a-like, then sure – it will become expensive.

On the other hand, if your plant-based diet is centred around fresh fruits and vegetables, tinned lentils and legumes, nuts and seeds, long-life milk alternatives and wholegrains such as rolled oats, rice and pasta (to name a few), you can keep the costs low. Try to purchase grains, cereals and nuts/seeds in bulk to diminish expenses where you can, and do keep in mind that ‘health-halo’ foods are not always everything they claim to be.

My advice, keep it simple!

#7 Plant-based diets are unsustainable

A carefully thought-out plant-based diet that contains a variety of delicious foods is sustainable. A diet that restricts calories and feel-good foods regardless of whether it is plant-based or not is unsustainable.

As you can see, plant-based diets allow for so many different foods and food groups, all of which contribute to a maintainable and enjoyable diet.

If you deprive yourself of your favourite foods (yes, that includes hot chips and chocolate), then you will be left feeling deflated, sad and hungry – not ideal!

To make a diet sustainable, it has to be enjoyable – don’t forget that!

#8 You can’t get enough Iron & B12 on a plant-based diet

Given that Iron and B12 are commonly found in animal products, it is believed that following a plant-based diet (entirely or predominantly) can make it difficult to consume enough of these essential nutrients.

Many plant-based foods are rich in Iron, examples include lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu and fortified cereals and products. Including these foods regularly will help you to reach your Iron requirements.

B12 on the other hand is a little more difficult to obtain. You can however find B12 fortified products such as Inside Out’s Milkish Range. 1 glass of their oat or almond milk will give you 50% of your required B12!

If you do suspect an Iron or B12 deficiency, please seek professional guidance from a doctor/dietitian to have your bloods monitored and a suitable supplement regime prescribed if needed.



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