Is a plant-based diet restrictive?
Some may say yes. But, this greatly depends on how you perceive it. It truly is a mindset. It’s about remodeling your thoughts surrounding food.
For example, if you were told you can never eat a certain food again, you would most likely have a hard time pushing thoughts of that food out of your mind. However, if you were introduced to 5 new foods that you end up enjoying, you would most likely spend your time thinking of those foods and incorporating them into your diet more often. Why is this? Because our attention is being directed on the positive. “Oh wow, look at all these delicious foods!” versus “Ugh I’m not ‘allowed’ to eat this food ☹” These thoughts are similar to if a child’s favorite toy is broken. If you replace the toy with a couple of new toys, the child will be distracted with those.
Similarly, we are easily distracted when the distraction benefits us. Most people fear a plant-based diet because of what they’ll be missing. Hence the memes of “I was going to go vegan but that would be a huge ‘missed steak.’” 😉
Restriction to me is defined by 2 things:
1. Restriction of favorite foods
2. Macronutrient (carbs/protein/fat) restriction
Below I will address each:
1. Farewell favorite foods?!?
Restriction to me is cutting a food out of your diet and not being able to focus your energy on anything BUT the fact that you ‘can’t have’ that food. I enjoy using the term “plant based” because it encompasses many different levels—it’s a spectrum. You can be 100% plant-based or partially plant-based. As long as you're striving for more plants and fewer animal products, you can be considered to be on the plant-based spectrum. The aim is for the majority of your plate to consist of plants most of the time. This doesn't necessarily mean you can NEVER have a piece of meat or cheese again. Instead, it’s about enjoying the right (plant-based) foods, and limiting the foods that promote illness and disease (animal products). Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Moderation is something our society struggles to define. If we take a look back to how our ancestors ate, we would find they ate animal products VERY rarely—like once-a-month rare, if at all. Because of the abundance of [highly processed, addictive] food in our current society, it is difficult to make that change. But with the right mindset, it is achievable to reprogram our definitions of moderation!
2. Cut the carbs?!?
My biggest pet peeve has got to be the paleo/keto diet. I mean, come on, a life without carbs is not a life for me—and it should not be that way for ANYONE for that matter. Our bodies and brains THRIVE ON CARBOHYDRATES! The issue here is not the carbs themselves, but the types of carbs we are consuming. Our society consumes excessive amounts of refined, sugary carbohydrates because these foods are found in abundance everywhere we look! Yet, fruits, whole grains, starchy vegetables and legumes—which are all packed with fiber and nutrients—are being placed in the same category as those refined, sugary carbs which are void of nutrients and fiber. Because this distinction is unknown to so many, people think completely cutting out all sources of carbs from the diet is beneficial. Will weight loss result from cutting out/severely restricting carbohydrate intake? Yes, but that does not mean it is the healthy way to achieve a weight loss goal.
Once again, this brings us back to moderation; we can’t rely on just one macronutrient to do all the work—our body needs them all! Does a plant-based diet include carbohydrates—yes, in fact the majority of a plant-based diet consists of complex carbohydrates like fruits, starchy vegetables and legumes. What about protein? We’ve got that taken care of with legumes such as lentils and beans, as well as whole soy foods like edamame and tempeh, and even nuts and seeds! Fat, too? Of course! Although a plant-based diet is lower in fat than the typical American diet, it still includes a variety of healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocados! The more whole foods we include in our diet, the easier it is to achieve moderation. This is because with a wide variety of food comes a wide variety of nutrients and this, in turn, leads to proper nourishment and satisfaction! The better we feel, the more often we will crave these nutrient dense foods, and vice versa.
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