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The Vegan Diet vs. The Plant-Based Diet:
Differences, Similarities, and Misconceptions

More and more people are becoming aware of the food they eat, and the impact of those foods on their body. While some people turn to trendy diets to achieve a particular weight goal, many people turn their lifestyle around entirely to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

For some, however, making the change is a little daunting.

Becoming vegan or switching to a whole food plant-based diet can be incredibly rewarding for our bodies and even our minds. However, without the right knowledge or the right tools, it can be easy to make mistakes that distract you from your intended goal. Here we will help you discover the full potential of your dietary choices.

Firstly, it’s important to define what is a vegan diet, as well as what constitutes a plant-based diet.

  • The vegan diet is characterized by a refusal to eat or use animal-based products. Meats, dairy, eggs, and ingredients such as honey are all discarded from the vegan’s diet. The diet can extend itself to a person’s general lifestyle where they avoid using animal products like leather, beeswax, silk, etc.
  • A whole food plant-based diet requires a person to avoid animal-based products as well as processed foods of all kinds, which includes oil, white flour, and refined sugar. Whole grains, unprocessed or minimally processed vegetables, and fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds are all staple foods and ingredients for this particular diet.

Those who follow these diets tend to have similar motivations. For one, they are most likely concerned with animal rights and the ethical treatment of animals. Likewise, they are also attentive to their health and avoid foods that could cause harm to their bodies or have no nutritional value.

It is also worth noting that these two “diets” are not actually diets at all since they do not restrict or count calories, carbs or protein. The vegan diet and the plant-based diet are lifestyle choices.

Many people are afraid of transitioning to these meatless diets because they fear they are too difficult and they fear poor nutrition or lack of variety. But as long as those transitioning do so with care, these lifestyles can help you achieve the weight, energy levels and confidence you want.

If you’d like more information on how approach a vegan or plant-based diet, take a look at our article How to Get Started With Your Vegan Diet

Going Vegan: Your Needs, Habits, and Choices

making-mistakes-plant-basedA change in lifestyle is going to take some time. You’ll need to get your palate accustomed to new flavors and textures. Your body will need to get used to the absence of certain foods (cravings can be tough), and you’ll need to alter some of your habits (no more snacking on those store-bought cookies).

If you know you have a few questionable or problematic habits, write them down and decide on a few ways you can overcome them. If you’re wondering how to go vegan or how to start a plant-based diet – the key to a successful transition is planning. Indeed, you’ll want to gather vegan recipes, as well as plant-based recipes not just for your meals but for your snacking habits as well. You should plan ahead of time to avoid purchasing foods and snacks that claim to be vegan or plant-based but are in fact unhealthy.

The market is full of “fake meat” options that may taste good enough, but these foods are heavily processed, are full of sodium, and could cause your body more harm than good. Different companies are using labels to get the attention of health-conscious consumers, but it’s important for vegans, vegetarians and those on a plant-based diet to continue to read the labels of the foods they intend to purchase. You might be surprised to find that many “vegan” or “vegetarian” food options in the market are not only processed but full of sodium, sugar and artificial ingredients. Again, with some planning, you can make your own meals and snacks at home.

While planning your meals and snacks, it is essential that you make sure all your nutritional needs are being met. For those who are new to the vegan or whole food plant-based diet lifestyle, there are a few common mistakes that should be avoided.

Take a look at our article Color Wheel of Fruits and Vegetables to get lists of different vegetable options. You’ll be able to get some variety in any meal by mixing and matching!

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Starting a Vegan or Plant-Based Diet 

Certain mistakes are definitely harmless, especially as you begin your new lifestyle journey. Other mistakes, however, can cause you to have poor nutrition and suffer from low energy levels. Consider these common mistakes and suggested solutions to start your new dietary lifestyle on the right footing.

  • Snacking on fruits only: Fruits are incredibly good for you! All those vitamins, healthy carbs, fiber, and phytochemicals are essential to health. You will, however, want to snack on foods that contain protein and healthy fats to slow down the digestion process which will satiate your hunger for a more extended period of time. Add a few raw nuts and seeds to your snack.
  • Sticking to the same foods: It is not common for plant foods to have all the amino acids we need in our diet, which is why it is incredibly important to eat a variety of plant-based foods. Consider having lentils one day and quinoa the next.
  • Eating sweet trail mix: Avoid the trail mix that contains a lot of dried fruits and candies. Also be mindful of how much trail mix you eat; a good portion to go by is a little less than a handful.
  • Juices and smoothies as replacements for meals: Whole foods are inevitably going to provide a greater variety of nutrients to your body. Juices and smoothies can give you some much-needed vitamins and phytochemicals, but other nutrients like fiber should not be neglected.
  • Thinking quinoa is high-protein: While quinoa contains all of the amino acids we need – they are not as high in protein as you may think. Lentils, whole grain wheat, and brown rice all contain more protein per half a cup than quinoa (which has about 4 grams).
  • Replacing proteins with fats and carbohydrates: Many new vegans will eat more carbs, but this can lead to weight gain. Getting vegan and plant-based recipes from a nutritionist can help you feel assured that you’re getting all the essential nutrients you need.
  • Not getting enough calories: In the same way juices and smoothies can increase your caloric intake, it is possible that you’re not consuming enough calories throughout the day. Healthy recipes that use a variety of whole foods and good snacking habits can counter this issue.
  • Not eating enough kale: You might think that spinach is equally healthy to kale, but our body absorbs the calcium in Kale 50% more efficiently than we do when we consume spinach.
  • Not staying adequately hydrated: Vegans, vegetarians and those who follow a plant-based diet tend to eat more fiber. To help the digestive system work properly and to avoid problems like gas, bloating or even constipation, drinking enough water throughout the day is crucial.
  • Underestimating the importance of planning: The vegan diet, as well as the whole foods plant-based diet, both require proper planning so you can be confident that your meals contain all the nutrients you need throughout the day.

Following the lead of a nutritionist or health care provider can help you achieve the lifestyle you want in a healthy and attainable way. Having access to support and tools will also make the transition a lot easier!

Staying Healthy with Plant-Based Recipes

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Additional steps can and should be taken to make sure your vegan diet or whole foods plant-based diet goes smoothly. Your nutritionist highly recommends you pay attention to these critical factors to good health while living a vegan or plant-based diet lifestyle:

  • Getting enough vitamin B12: Even a slight deficiency in B12 can lead to inflammation which, if untreated, can cause health issues like weak bones and stoke. A severe B12 deficiency leads to fatigue, poor cognition, and digestion problems. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12. Even though whole foods are always better, getting a fortified cereal or a plant-based supplement can be of great value to your health.
  • Getting enough Iron: It is harder for the body to absorb iron from plant-based foods. Proper planning and vegan or plant-based recipes can help you get your required amount of iron, but in case you need more help you can consider other options. Supplements, a variety of foods and fortified foods can all be useful to this purpose.
  • Getting enough Calcium: You might be surprised that there is calcium in all sorts of foods! The absorption rate of the calcium in tofu is about 30%, while white beans, almonds, oranges and tahini (sesame paste) offers your body much-needed calcium at an absorption rate of 20%. Choose a variety of foods to make sure you get all the calcium you need.
  • Getting enough omega-3: Omega-3 is essential to our health. It is mostly found in fatty fish and other animal-based foods. To respect your vegan-diet or your whole food plant-based diet, you can receive this nutrient through chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seed, flaxseed, and brussels sprouts. A plant-based supplement may be needed to help you meet the needs of your body.
  • Using supplements: Depending on how your diet is going, a supplement regimen can be incredibly helpful in obtaining all the nutrients you need. Consider, for instance, that vitamin D is harder to get during winter, and it is contained in very few plant-based food sources.

Changing the way you eat can be pretty challenging. A lifestyle change can include a few unexpected difficulties but remember these are temporary! If you are desperate to do well by your body and to take a stand against, say, the unethical treatment of animals, you can join a group of people who are going through the same journey you’re going through.

A sense of comradery can help you overcome the challenges, and it can help you discover all the different foods and vegan recipes others are incorporating to meet all their nutritional needs. The additional support and wisdom of a nutritionist can be a valuable asset as well.

Following the advice and information provided here, you can take a confident step in the right direction starting today!

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