Note: this post has been updated in January 2020.
You hear people talk all the time about “plant-based diets.” But do you really know what a plant-based diet is? There are different variations of this type of diet, but for the most part it centers on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The basic description of whole-foods is food that is unprocessed and in its natural state. Plant-based means anything that grows in the soil and does not come from any animal such as meat, eggs, milk, or honey. People following a vegan diet will not buy or use products that come from animals including cosmetics, lotions (lanolin), and clothing (leather).
When it comes to plant-based diets, there are three basic types:
Vegetarian – eats vegetables and fruit, but also consumes eggs and dairy
Vegan – eats vegetables, fruits, beans, grains and no eggs or dairy (may eat soy “meat” or cheese substitutes)
Engine 2 Plant-strong/Whole Food Plant-Based Diet – whole plant foods, no meat or cheese, no dairy, and no processed foods (imitation meat and cheese substitutes)
These definitions may seem a little confusing, as they are to most people. To make it easier, vegetarians eat mostly vegetables or plant-based foods but allow certain foods. Vegans don’t eat any animal products but do substitute with soy-based variations. The Engine 2 plant-strong diet consists of just the plant foods with no allowances and no substitutions.
The biggest benefits of plant-based diets are that they are more nutritious because you are getting the vitamins and nutrients in the vegetables, protein from the grains and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) that the standard American diet is missing. We don’t eat enough of these nutrients per day to be as healthy as we could be.
The whole foods plant-based diet and the plant-strong diet are essentially the same diets as in both camps these diets do not include any meat or dairy. The phrase “Plant-Strong” was coined by Rip Esselstyn. Plant-strong is the term used by Rip Esselstyn and the followers of Engine 2 which include the food products sold and marketed through Whole Foods.
Without all the descriptions and names, the simplest answer is a diet full of plants without the addition of processed foods. This diet eliminates all animal products, including dairy and eggs, and anything that is processed or imitation.
For those who follow a plant-based diet, instead of meals being based on meat with supplementary vegetables, the focus is always on the meals largest concentration being on the plant foods with grains and legumes being supplemental.
Although it doesn’t include any meat, dairy, or eggs it is not the same as a vegan diet, which is defined only by what it eliminates. A WFPB diet is defined also by what it emphasizes: a large variety of whole foods.
Foods that are included in the WFPB diet: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (as much as you want). It also includes, in moderation: nuts, seeds, avocados, natural sweeteners, and certain soy or wheat products that don’t contain added fat (e.g., tofu, seitan).
Foods that are not included in a WFPB diet because they are heavily-processed: white rice, white flour, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and foods containing added fat. Yes, even olive oil.
You are probably thinking, “What kinds of meals can you make on a plant-based diet?” There are many good recipes for this way of eating on the Web. I’ve included references below to websites where you can find recipes, meal plans and nutritional information. Don’t worry, you will not starve eating meals like these.
Some Ideas for Plant-based meals:
- Vegan chili –
- Vegan Enchiladas
- Beans and rice
- Garden Salads
- Falafel Bowl
- Vegetable Paella
- Mushroom Stroganoff
- Grilled Zucchini and Bread Salad
- Homemade Hummus and vegetables
- Creamy Cauliflower Soup
That is it, that is all there is to eating a healthy diet.
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