A Beginner’s Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet is one of the best health decisions you can make for yourself and there are tons of ethical and environmental benefits too! There are so many different plant-based diets to choose from, but here are some of the main ones:

Flexitarianism/Pescetarianism

Flexitarians and pescatarians both follow a plant-based diet but are not strictly meat-free! That being said, Pescetarianism and flexitarianism are slightly different. Flexitarianism entails cutting out as much meat as possible, whereas Pescetarianism entails cutting out all meat except for fish. Both are valid options if you’re interested in following a plant-based diet and many (myself included!) use pescetarianism as a bridge to vegetarianism and/or veganism. 

Lacto-ovo Vegetarianism

Lacto-ovo vegetarians follow a strictly meat-free diet but still may choose to eat eggs and/or dairy. Lacto-ovo vegetarianism is probably the most popular option out of these three diets and is often used as a step towards veganism! Two variations to lacto-ovo vegetarians are lacto vegetarians (do not eat eggs) and ovo vegetarians (do not consume dairy products). 

Veganism 

Vegans follow a 100% plant-based diet. They do not consume or use animal products of any kind, which includes food, clothing, and skincare products. Veganism is often referred to as a lifestyle, as it involves more effort than the first two diets on this list. A variation of veganism is commonly referred to as “beegan”, which is basically vegans who still eat honey. 

Veggies! Photo by Iñigo De la Maza from Unsplash

These are the three most popular plant-based diets! All three are completely valid, and you may find yourself interested in one, depending on your lifestyle! Before I switched to a plant-based diet, I did lots of research on the benefits that came with it. Here’s are the three most common reasons that people go plant-based (including the ones that convinced me to switch!). 

Ethical Treatment of Animals

This is definitely the most common reason that people are interested in plant-based diets. No one likes thinking about how our meals used to be cute little animals! 

Environment

Another very common reason why people switch to plant-based diets is because of the environmental benefits. Plant-based diets are more sustainable because they promote the reduction of carbon emissions and waste by-products that end up in our landfills and oceans. Livestock production is responsible for up to 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and animal agriculture is a huge contributor to deforestation. Plant-based diets are more sustainable, which is especially important because of the current climate change crisis!

Health

Plant-based diets have been proven to improve your mood and prevent chronic diseases. Many people switch to plant-based diets for the associated health benefits! Because of the high sodium and cholesterol levels in animal products, people who follow plant-based diets have an easier time losing weight. Plant-based diets also put you at a lower risk of developing some types of cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. In fact, vegans are 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer! 

avocado toast Photo by Aigars Peda on Unsplash

Even though there are tons of advantages of going plant-based, there are also some risk factors to consider! Something that some people fail to realize is that when you cut meat out of your diet, you have to supplement it with protein-rich alternatives. Foods like nuts, leafy green vegetables, quinoa, and beans are healthy and yummy options! Flexitarians can get away with less planning when making the switch, but I recommend speaking to your doctor before switching to a vegetarian or a vegan diet. Together, you and your doctor can come up with a balanced diet, so you can be fully satisfied with your new plant-based diet!