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How to start a plant-based diet

How to start a plant-based diet
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Plant-based diets are a very promising healthy food trend: Research suggests people who mostly eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet could reduce their risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Most people could generally benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables. Although transitioning your diet might seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to start eating a plant-based diet, according to experts.

Start slow

Start slow
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Just jumping into any new eating habit can be tricky. If you’re currently a heavy meat-eater, you don’t have to go cold turkey, says Andrea Nordby, head chef of plant-based meal kit company. Instead, Nordby says to swap out two meals per week with a plant-based recipe. “Slow and steady wins the race, and you are more likely to enjoy the process of going plant-based if you don’t rush right into it,” she says.

Discover 10 things that happen to your body if you stop eating red meat.

Change the proportions on your plate

Change the proportions on your plate
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Instead of having meat with vegetables, have vegetables with meat, says Elizabeth Klodas, MD, a cardiologist and chief medical officer of Step One Foods, a company dedicated to helping patients minimise their dependence on medications through strategic dietary changes. “This can not only move your closer to a plant-based diet but also reduce your [kilojoule] intake,” says Dr. Klodas. “The best part? You’re still eating the foods you love but you’re just adjusting the amounts,” she adds.

These are the 8 clear signs you’re not eating enough vegetables.

Add more greens

Add more greens
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Adding a large salad to your day is another tip from Nordby. “It’s easy to avoid meat products when you add in one huge salad to your day,” she says. After all, greens are among the healthiest vegetables. “Instead of packing or buying a sandwich for lunch, try a super veggie-packed salad chocked full of leafy greens, legumes, crunchy vegetables and a dollop of hummus to keep you full and help nourish your body.” Consider a salad mid-day. “Try a salad for lunch each day, and I promise you won’t even miss your go-to turkey sandwich. Pretty soon you’ll be naturally eliminating meat without even knowing it,” Nordby continues.

Follow these tips for making salads.

Make breakfast shine

Make breakfast shine
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“Changing breakfast into a concentrated, high-quality plant-based food occasion is a great strategy,” says Dr Klodas. “Think oatmeal with walnuts, cinnamon and blueberries, or a smoothie with not only fruit and yogurt but also chia, flax, almonds and oat bran thrown in.” This will help ensure that you get enough whole food fibre, antioxidants and those vital omega-3 fatty acids into your diet – even if the rest of the day is less plant-based, according to Dr Klodas.

Check out this recipe for blueberry and oat breakfast muffins.

Make your diet more colourful

Make your diet more colourful
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In can be easier to get more plants into your diet by adding different colours at every meal – and those food colours signal different nutritional benefits. “The colours often reflect different phytochemicals which occur naturally only in plants and may provide health benefits beyond those that essential nutrients provide,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian and author of the book, Body Kindness. “For example, yellow fruits and vegetables have vitamin C, which helps support a healthy immune system. The yellow SunGold kiwifruit has three times more vitamin C than oranges.” Furthermore, other benefits of a colourful and bountiful plant-based diet include lycopene, the predominant pigment in reddish fruits like tomatoes and red peppers; blue and purple foods like blueberries and eggplant get their hue from their anthocyanin content, which may help support healthy blood pressure, Scritchfield says.

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Power up your pasta

Power up your pasta
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While pasta can be easy and delicious, it lacks veggies, says Scritchfield. “Take a potato peeler and make ribbons with zucchini and carrots. Instead of replacing pasta altogether, add in the veggie ‘noodles’ and toss with diced tomato and fresh parsley. Finish with a squeeze of 1/4 lemon and a bit of salt and pepper to taste preferences,” she advises.

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Remember protein

Remember protein
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Help your veggies go the distance by pairing them with protein-rich foods to sustain your energy and balance your blood sugar between meals, says Julie Brown, RD, National Nutrition Program Coordinator and a dietitian at Life Time Fitness Tempe.

Here are the best 15 sources of plant-based protein.

Keep fruits in check

Keep fruits in check
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Keep your fruit servings balanced. “Fruit is packed with nutrients, but it also nature’s candy and is sweetened with fructose,” explains Brown. “Ensure your veggies outnumber your fruits 3:1, or for ease limit to two fist-sized servings of fruit per day,” she clarifies.

Mind your starches

Mind your starches
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Although potatoes are veggies, they warrant more portion control than broccoli, says Brown. “Keep your starches to a fist-sized serving and place them in your post-exercise meal with a great protein source whenever possible to optimise your recovery,” she says.

These are the 10 best vegetables for weight loss.

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