Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores) – Part 2

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Plant-based diet - Part 2

We’d prefer to cook the pumpkin first, but we know how this guy feels

Ed: This is the second installment in our five-part series on eating a plant-based diet. Be sure to check out parts onethreefour and five as well.

More and more of our readers have been asking us what eating a plant-based diet entails. While we try our best not to be militant when talking about our food choices, we love it when people express an interest in moving away from meat, eggs and dairy. So, it gives us a ridiculous amount of pleasure to present: Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores). Enjoy! 🙂

Couple of notes before we dive in. When I set out to tackle the topic I had no idea it would unravel into something in excess of 4000 words (in blogosphere terms that’s like the extended version of War and Peace).  I’ve therefore decided to break it up into installments (probably four five) to avoid the risk of information overwhelm. Plus, it’ll give you guys the opportunity to weigh in with questions and observations along the way. (Because, collaboration.)

Is a Plant-Based Diet Healthy?

Plant-Based Diet - Is it healthy

It depends. (Don’t you just love it when people say that?) It’s true though. You can avoid animal products and still indulge in processed junk food that has almost zero nutritional value, ergo your diet is not healthy.

Note how I used the word ‘ergo’ to drive home the point.

However, if you follow a plant-based whole food diet, where you’re eating as much of your food as close to source as possible, then yes, it is healthy.

What does that mean? Well, it’s pretty simple really. All you have to do is eat food in its original form, which means you’ll be hanging out in the fresh produce section of the supermarket when you go shopping.

It used to be the fresh produce aisles were frequented largely by hairy-armpitted lesbians, doddering old ladies and the occasional soccer mom, but you only have to check out these two Irish hotties to realise that’s no longer the case.

But I digress. Another way to approach this is by avoiding anything that’s packaged or pre-made, as that’s where the nasty ingredients usually creep in. This is why preparing your own food is always the better option. It’s better for your wallet and your health. Win/win.

What About You Guys, Are You Healthy?

Plant-based diet - Are you guys healthy

Ang and Sporty looking all glowy and healthy outside the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

I’m 49 and Sporty is turning 52 in a couple of weeks and according to our annual Vitality Health check-up, we’re both super healthy. Our numbers (blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, etc.) are all well within the acceptable range.  

We recently started a fun fitness programme* that has us rolling around on the floor, doing forwards and backwards rolls and leopard crawling around the gym studio. We’re pretty strong and supple in spite of our sedentary day jobs and we’re even training for our first marathon.

*We signed up for two of the GMB Fitness programmes: Focussed Flexibility and Vitamin. The one I’m referring to here is Vitamin.

We’re not pale or emaciated, we’re not deficient in iron or other vitamins and neither are we lacking any vital minerals or nutrients. On the whole I’d say we look pretty healthy, glowy even.

Will I Lose Weight on a Plant-based Diet?

Plant-Based Diet - Will I lose weight

It’s counter-intuitve we know, but just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it won’t make you fat

There’s a saying: Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan. While it’s great that there are so many compassionate alternatives out there, just because they’re vegan doesn’t mean they won’t make you fat. A lot of that stuff is still very processed and therefore high in calories and low in nutrients.

If you follow the plant-based whole food guidelines I mentioned earlier, you’ll be far more likely to shed those extra kilograms. Like anything, it comes down to common sense.

Up your fruit and veg intake and opt for more of the nutrient dense choices* (i.e. what your body needs), rather than what your taste buds or head would prefer** and the weight will come off.

*I’m talking about a superfood smoothie or a bowl of bircher oats for breakfast, instead of a muffin or a slice of toast smothered in jam.

**Interestingly, as you progress with your new way of eating, you’ll find your tastes become more aligned with your body’s needs. Suddenly a green smoothie will seem way more appealing than a toasted cheese sandwich. It’s true, I swear.

Where Do You Get Your Protein From?

Plant-Based Diet - Protein

Cow’s get their protein from plants so it makes sense to follow their lead and go straight to the source

Sporty and I were as protein-obsessed as the best of them before switching to a plant-based diet. When we first met Rawlicious duo, Beryn and Peter Daniel, we even asked them the one question guaranteed to annoy vegans everywhere: “Where do you get your protein from?” #PTF

Nowadays, a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbs is touted as healthy. Somehow, protein has been elevated to good guy status, while carbs are viewed in the same light as that shifty character from the wrong side of the tracks. (Interestingly, nobody seems all that concerned about fiber.)

To answer your question, we get our protein from things like hemp powder, hemp seeds, quinoa, rice and beans, dark leafy greens, the list goes on. But we don’t obsess about it. Our main focus on a daily basis is to eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in nutrients and fiber and high in colour. Easy peasy. Fresh is best is our motto.

Don’t Humans Need Meat to Survive?

Plant-based diet - Don't humans need meat

Um. no, we don’t think humans need meat to survive

We don’t think so. Sporty and I haven’t eaten meat in about five years and so far we’re showing no adverse side-effects due to the lack of animal protein in our diet. We’re not the only ones though, there are plenty of other people out there busting the protein myth and they’re way more ripped and healthy looking than we are.

There’s also plenty of research been done on the subject, which movies like Forks Over Knives and What the Health (more on both of those later) delve into on a way more in-depth scale that I’d ever be able to.

*We’re keen to earn passive income to fund our coffee habit, but we’re definitely not going to be shifty about it. This means we’ll only ever link to something if we’ve personally used it, eaten it, read it, or whatever, and are 100% impressed. Also, it won’t cost you anything extra if you purchase something via our link. The vendor has to cough up our commission fee, not you. 😉

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6 thoughts on “Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores) – Part 2

  1. These posts are great ! Would love to know what you guys do about B12 !

    • Hi Nicole. Yay, glad you’re enjoying the posts (there are another three in the pipeline). For B12 we take chlorella tablets and we use a lot of nutritional yeast, as in A LOT! Because we love it so much. You might also find this video by our fave Irish twins interesting. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Stopped eating processed foods several years ago and meat many years ago. BEST decision ever! If it’s a “ready made meal” for the microwave or some boiling water, it’s awful tasting and actually bad for the body. I like making my own meals with real food these days as they are tasty and REAL food – not chemicals. I struggle with the B12 thing though. Will research what you guys do about that to see if it will work for me. Thanks for sharing this series!

    • Hey RJR…thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.

      I’m chuffed to hear you’re enjoying the series, it’s been one of my favourites to write. I’ve had a lot of fun putting it together. Sporty and I are so with you with regards to making your own food instead of buying readymade meals! It tastes waaaay better and it’s invariably more cost-effective.

      We both feel super healthy and fit, so I can only imagine we’re not lacking in B12 or anything else. Let us know what you think of the chlorella tabs. Cheers, Ang 🙂

  3. This has been such a great read for me. Six months ago I underwent double bypass surgery at the age of 42. Switching to a plant based diet is what I am currently working on and reading about you and Sporty’s experience has been very helpful.

    • Hello Amanda,

      Wow, a double bypass!? That’s hectic. I hope you’re on the road to the recovery. There are so many stories out there of people reversing all kinds of diseases simply by switching to a plant-based diet.

      We’ve included a bunch of resources in Part 5 of the series, but if you have any questions or there’s any way at all we can help please don’t hesitate to reach out! Sending you love and good health from Cape Town! 🙂

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