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A Beginner's Guide To A Wholefood, Plantbased Diet

Whether you're interested in going plantbased for the health benefits, ethical or environmental reasons, this blog post is the beginner's guide to a wholefood plantbased diet. As a Nutritionist who is primarily plantbased herself, I am here to share the basics and empower you with the know-how to make this transition not only effortlessly, but also love the journey. In 2024, it's time to stop holding back, and just go for! This is Part 1 of my four part series and Plantbased & Loving It! series of guided support. If you not already signed up, click here. Let's get in to it!

A Beginner's Guide To A Wholefood, Plantbased Diet | Eat Nourish Glow
A Beginner's Guide To A Wholefood, Plantbased Diet | Eat Nourish Glow

What Is A Plantbased Diet?

Your typical plantbased diet is centred around wholefood foods that are sourced directly from just plants – think freshly picked veggies and fruits, wholesome grains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds. The level of "no animal stuff" can vary person to person with some going all and fully vegan, and others choosing a more relaxed approach by selectively consuming seafood, dairy or eggs. And then there's also "flexi-what?" – the flexitarians. These people choose to be mostly plant-powered but might sneak in some animal products from time to time, like a takeaway burger or the odd steak for example. At the other end of the spectrum is the raw vegans, who are all about keeping it raw and real – no cooking, just fresh, uncooked plant goodness.


So, as you can see, unlike being vegan, the plantbased diet isn't strict or an all or nothing approach to food. It's more of a lifestyle choice, and one that comes with many health perks, and offers lots of flexibility depending on your preferences, health goals, and dietary needs. Going plantbased (even if it's just for something like "meatless Mondays" or a few meals a week) also has environmental consequences, it's kinder to the planet and our farm friends.


What Are The Health Benefits Of Plantbased


A well-planned plantbased diet is like giving your body a wellness shot; it's chockablock full of essential nutrients, dietary fibre and vital macros all in one hit. According to many well documented studies, going more plantbased helps to lower your risk of heart conditions, developing type II diabetes or insulin resistance, and many cancers. A diet made of primarily just plantbased foods has also been shown to keep cholesterol levels in check. Your waistline might also reward you, as plantbased provides lots of dietary fibre, is low in unhealthy fats and can kickstart the natural rebalancing of you your body weight. Weight loss is often a happy side effect of going plantbased.



Plantbased Can Help You Lose Weight


Switching to a plantbased diet can help you efficiently and safely lose weight for a few reasons. First off, plantbased foods are often lower in calories and saturated fats compared to their animal-based counterparts, making it easier to release those extra kilos. Secondly, the high-fibre content of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes is more satiating than processed foods., leaving you feeling fuller for longer, and helps to curb those mid-afternoon snack attacks. Over a short time, this can reduce your overall calorie intake contributing to a more slim waistline.


A key factor in eating more plantbased, is that all this plant-powered goodness tends to be nutrient-dense, supplying your body with essential vitamins and minerals without piling on excessive calories. It's a deliciously healthy way to lose weight – no counting calories, just focusing on wholesome, plant-packed meals that keep you satisfied and on track to becoming a healthier, happier you.


Plantbased Is Easy To Maintain


Compared to most other diets, going fully or evenly partially plantbased diet, its an eating style that is fairly easy to maintain. Unlike a diet, eating plantbased is more of a lifestyle choice. There is no calorie tracking, no strict restrictions, or a specific meal plan you must follow. You can do it partially, or all in, you get to choose. There's a lot of flexibility because there aren't any hard and fast rules either—you can gradually reduce your meat intake, eliminate all animal products altogether, or find a happy balance somewhere in between. You do what works for you!


A Word On Supplementing


One common concern that nearly all the people I coach ask me as Nutritionist, is will they need to supplement while eating plantbased --and the truthful answer is, well, that depends. Nutritional gaps hinge on how you approach this dietary eating style, and what pre-existing health conditions or nutritional absorptions issue you may have before you start. The most common nutrients that can be affected by going plantbased tend to be vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and protein. In most cases, issues with nutrient absorption was pre-exiting in the person, and in such a case, supplementation can be highly beneficial if done with the guidance of a naturopath or an GP who is fully trained in nutrition (most are not). The risk is particularly elevated for vegans due to the stricter nature of their dietary restrictions.


Avoiding vitamin deficiencies while eating plantbased is all about strategic eating. Focus on a well-balanced diet with a large variety of high-fibre fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is the secret to success. Add in good quality, fortified foods or consider adding in a few superfoods and supplements for nutrients that may be challenging for you to obtain solely from plants, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.


As you'll learn from reading more on going plantbased here on the Blog, its all about food combining and being strategic with nutrient, fibre, healthy fats, and protein sources, to meet your protein needs. Diversifying your food choices not only enhances flavour but also safeguards against nutritional gaps, making the plantbased experience an easy, nourishing lifestyle choice.


RELATED:
Free Wholefood Recipe Sampler Download

Try My Mini Wholefood Recipe Collection


Get this FREE recipe collection with healthy and delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes that nourish from the inside out. Each recipe is jam-packed with goodness and created by a qualified Nutritionist, for nutrition you can trust is good for you. Stop eating boring food to be healthy, come see how good healthy tastes – download your free recipes today!






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What Do I Eat On A Plantbased Diet?

What Do I Eat On A Plantbased Diet? | Eat Nourish Glow
What Do I Eat On A Plantbased Diet? | Eat Nourish Glow

To begin eating plantbased, you simply need to shift your focus to consuming a wide array of high-fibre fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Choose minimally processed and nutrient-dense plant sourced food ingredients to make up your plate at each meal or snack time.


The Wholefood Plantbased Food List

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Fresh fruit and vegetables are the staple of a well-balanced plantbased diet and can be used from freshly picked or frozen sources. In fact, being on budget has held you back form going plantbased, you might be super pleased to learn that frozen foods are a great choice. In most cases, frozen produce is picked and packed the same day, meaning its flash frozen literally hours after harvest. This means frozen foods have not spent much time oxidising after picking, when nutrients begin to slowly decline. A punnet of blueberries for example, that has been picked, transported and sits on the grocery shop shelf, has less antioxidants than its frozen counterparts. Freezing locks in the nutrients in many cases, so raid those frozen fruit and veggie section of the freezer aisle to make plantbased work on a budget.


  • Apples, Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado

  • Bananas, Beetroot, Berries (all types), Citrus (all types)

  • Cabbage, Capsicums, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumber

  • Dried fruit (apples, apricots, banana slices, etc.)

  • Grapefruit, Grapes, Kiwifruit, Kumquats

  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach, romaine, etc.)

  • Mangoes, Mushrooms, Onions (red/yellow)

  • Pears, Pineapple, Brown Potatoes, Tomatoes

  • Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Zucchini


What To Shop For: typically you'll find fresh produce on the outer edges of the grocery store, but don't overlook the freezer sections for freshly frozen, cheaper options. Look for organically grown if you can afford it, and choose a variety of brightly colourful fruits and vegetables. Literally think of eating a rainbow to get as many nutrients as possible. Farmer's markets are a fantastic source of ethically and organically grown produce, or try growing your own!


Plantbased Meat Alternatives

The most common concern is where you'll get your protein from while plantabsed. Unlike a Keto diet where you'll eat protein in high quantities from a big slab of meat, plantbased is all about combining protein sources to make up the intake your body needs. Try the following sources:


  • Brown Rice & Peas: combine a 50/50 serving together to create a complete protein

  • Chia Seeds: beyond being high in omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are a protein boost

  • Edamame: young soybeans are not only delicious but also high in protein

  • Green Peas: peas are an excellent plant protein source and also high in fibre

  • Legumes: beans, lentils, and chickpeas are very good sources of protein

  • Lentils: red, green, or brown, lentils are protein and dietary fibre powerhouses

  • Protein Powder: choose hemp, soy, or a brown rice/pea combination for protein

  • Nuts & Seeds: almonds, peanuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are protein-rich choices

  • Quinoa: a complete protein grain, rich in essential amino acids and dietary fibre

  • Seitan: made from wheat gluten, seitan is a concentrated vegan protein source

  • Tofu & Tempeh: non-GMO soy products are vegan, versatile and protein-packed

  • Veggie Burgers or Loaves: made with high protein ingredients like beans and lentils


What To Shop For: these plant-based meat alternatives are typically lower in saturated fat compared to animal proteins, especially red meat. They're also an easy way to get a large dose of protein on a budget compared to meat products. Look for fresh, canned or dry protein options, and avoid those product that claim high protein. More often than not, these vegan products are filled with hidden sugars, additives and flavour enhancers. You're better off making your own veggie patties, nut loaves and protein-based food items.



Legumes

Cue the Beano! Actually don't, you won't really need it. To reduce the natural gas caused by eating lots of beans and lentils, soak canned beans or lentils before eating them, and give them a thorough rinse a few times. When cooking dried beans, be sure to add a quarter cupful of apple cider vinegar to a bowl of water, add the legumes, and soak them in overnight. Rinse them thoroughly before cooking.


  • Beans: black beans, kidney, pinto, white beans, cannellini, chickpeas, adzuki, or lime beans

  • Lentils: green lentils, black, brown, green, or red lentils

  • Peas: green peas, split peas, yellow peas

  • Soybeans and Soy Products: non-GMO soybeans, edamame, tofu, tempeh, or Miso

  • Others: fava bean, lack-eyed peas, mung beans or bean


Legumes are not only rich in protein but also provide essential nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Including a variety of legumes in your diet is an great way to balance your plate with wholefood plant protein.


What To Shop For: most beans and peas are found canned and dry form, with the except of sprouts, fresh peas and green beans. Look for beans and peas that are "low in sodium" or have "no salt added", so be sure to read those nutrition labels. Whether you buy canned or dry are both, remember to soak or rinse them well.



Plantbased Milk Products & Egg Alternatives

Edamame is often found in the frozen section and hummus is refrigerated. When shopping for peanut butter, look for options with just peanuts and salt (optional). Avoid products with added sugar or palm oil.


  • Almond Milk: Made from almonds, it has a slightly nutty flavor

  • Soy Milk: A versatile option with a similar protein content to cow's milk

  • Oat Milk: Creamy and naturally sweet, it's made from oats

  • Coconut Milk: Rich and indulgent, with a distinct coconut flavor

  • Rice Milk: Made from brown rice, it has a mild taste


Plantbased Egg Substitutes:

  • Flaxseed or Chia Seed Eggs: mix one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds with three tablespoons of water to create a thick, egg-like consistency

  • Applesauce: acts as a binder in recipes, providing moisture

  • Banana: mashed ripe banana works well in sweet baked goods as substitute butter or eggs

  • Silken Tofu: blended silken tofu creates a creamy texture, suitable for many recipes

  • Egg Replacers: store-bought egg replacers work well in most recipes


Experimenting with these substitutes can help you discover which ones suit your taste preferences and the specific needs of your recipes. Keep in mind that different substitutes may work better in different types of dishes, so it's often about finding the right match for the culinary task at hand.


Plantbased Healthy Whole-Grains

Whole grains are an essential staple in a well-balanced plant-based diet, providing dietary fibre, core nutrients, and a satisfying base for various dishes. Here's a list of plantbased whole grains to experiment with for your meals. If you are gluten-free, look for the GF if its safe for you.


  • Quinoa (GF): a complete protein, rich in fiber and versatile for various dishes

  • Brown Rice (GF):  staple that works well as a side or base for bowls and stir-fries

  • Oats: great for breakfast as oatmeal or incorporated into baking

  • Barley:  chewy grain that adds texture to soups and salads

  • Buckwheat (GF): despite its name, it's gluten-free; use for pancakes, noodles, or side dish

  • Farro:  nutty and chewy grain often used in salads and stews

  • Millet (GF): small grains with a mild flavour, suitable for porridge or as a side dish

  • Bulgur : precooked and quick to prepare, ideal for salads and pilafs

  • Freekeh: roasted green wheat, offering a smoky flavor for various dishes

  • Wild Rice (GF): nutty and aromatic, perfect in pilafs or mixed with other grains


What Shop For: most whole-grains are found in the cereal aisle or bakery/bread aisle. You may find a few options in the snack aisle and freezer section, or the health food sections of the grocery store. Many lifestyle and health food shops stock a wide variety or grains you can also browse.



Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense additions to a plant-based diet, providing essential fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Here's a list of commonly consumed nuts and seeds:


Nuts:

  • Almonds: a rich in vitamin E, magnesium, and healthy fats, excellent as a snack

  • Walnuts: high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, great for topping desserts

  • Cashews: deliciously creamy nuts that add a buttery texture to dishes

  • Pecans: sweet and crunchy, good fibre source and great in salads and desserts

  • Brazil Nuts: a great source of selenium, an essential mineral; eat in moderation

  • Hazelnuts: nutty and versatile, often used in desserts and spreads

  • Pistachios: lower in calories and high in protein, add to salads, oatmeal and desserts

  • Macadamia Nuts: butter-like nuts with a smooth texture, eat in moderation


Seeds:

  1. Chia Seeds: packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein (see recipes)

  2. Flaxseeds: high in fibre and omega-3s, often ground for better absorption

  3. Sunflower Seeds: nutrient-rich seeds with a mild flavour

  4. Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas): a good source of iron, magnesium, and zinc.

  5. Sesame Seeds: tiny seeds rich in calcium and healthy fats

  6. Hemp Seeds: excellent source of plantbased protein and omega-3s

  7. Poppy Seeds: tiny seeds used in baking and cooking

  8. Sesame Seeds: small seeds with a rich, nutty flavour


Adding a variety of nuts and seeds into your plantbased meals adds texture, flavour, and a nutritional boost to salads, snacks, smoothies, and many main meals.


What To Shop For: When buying whole nuts, choose raw with the skin on or roasted. Avoid those that have been processed in any way to remove the skin, salted or enhanced with flavourings. When choosing a nut butter, be sure to look for simple ingredients —just the nut or seed and salt (optional). Avoid any and all nut or seed butters that contain added sugar, thickeners or palm oil.


RELATED:

Free Wholefood Recipe Sampler Download

Try My Mini Wholefood Recipe Collection


Get this FREE recipe collection with healthy and delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes that nourish from the inside out. Each recipe is jam-packed with goodness and created by a qualified Nutritionist, for nutrition you can trust is good for you. Stop eating boring food to be healthy, come see how good healthy tastes – download your free recipes today!






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One Last Thing, Before You Go...


If you really enjoy these recipes... stick around with a cup of peppermint tea and browse this blog for more clean eating recipes, nutrition and healthy eating guides, and be sure to grab my free Wholefood Recipe Collection, click here. You'll receive my Nutritionist-approved clean eating recipes to sample this week. Learn how to ease into healthy, wholefood eating that won't take you hours in the kitchen to eat clean and healthy. Come grab a copy, click here.


Emma Lisa, Nutritionist & Women's Practitioner

Emma Lisa, Nutritionist at Eat Nourish Glow

Emma Lisa is a Nutritionist & Women's Health Practitioner with over 12+ years experience in wholefood nutrition, meal planning and health coaching. She is a published cookbook author, passionate food recipe creator and lifestyle blogger, and an advocate for women's health and anti-diet culture. When she's not in clinic, Emma is mum to five kids, in her test kitchen and a wellness digital creator. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
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Healthy + happiness,

Emma Lisa xx

HEALTH & NUTRITION PRACTITIONER
IICT Member, International Institute for Complimentary Therapists




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