• As long as I have been a dietitian, I have promoted a plant-based diet. Most of my colleagues do.

    But that means exactly that: plant BASED.

    Not necessarily plant only, plant exclusive, plant superiority, I-am-better-than-you-because-I-only-eat-plants… In the nutrition world we call that being vegan.

    Plant-based foods should be the foundation of the diet.

    Plant-based, or what can be called plant-slanted, really means that plants are the foundation of the diet, but not the only thing in the diet. Not excluding animal-based foods, but not making it the primary focus of the diet.  

    I’ve been asked if I promote a plant based whole foods diet. My standard response is, “Yes, I promote a plant-based diet, but it doesn’t really matter to me where you buy your food.”

    Sometimes people get it; sometimes they don’t. Not my problem.

    I do promote a plant-based diet, but I also personally include animal foods and if you want to include them too, go for it. That is still plant-based.

    And, yes, I have read that book. If you don’t know which book, I am not going to promote it here since I felt read more like a horror novel and animal-based foods was going to be the death of us. But lots of diet books are like that: they take a bit of information and make it a bigger issue than it really is.

    Despite so many advances in medicine and health, we will all eventually reach an end-point.

    But here is breaking news: we are all going to die. Sucks to be us.

    But this is part of what I see in the nutrition trends: extremism.

    If you want to exclude animal foods – go ahead. You may be healthier for it. Or not. There is no guarantee. Just because people choose to shun animal products doesn’t guarantee one will be free of disease.

    Just like when people eat animal foods does not guarantee a miserable disease-filled existence. It just doesn’t. No matter what people think, it doesn’t make it true.

    You see, while many people will see in black and white, disease or free of disease, these things occur on a spectrum.

    Lean beef, lean pork, chicken, turkey and seafood all work and can be part of a healthy diet. They can. Beef and pork aren’t the issue. The high amount of fat that can be associated with it is more of the issue.

    And I am not promoting highly processed animal-based foods either. Hot dogs and sausages aren’t health foods or even healthy. But then neither are vegan hot dogs. They aren’t.

    And don’t even get me started on nut “milk” – talk about processed food.

    And, then there is the science.

    The body can absorb the certain nutrients better from animal sources. The bioavailability is higher.

    The minerals iron, zinc, and calcium for example are much more bioavailable or absorbable from animal sources. That is science.

    While people will state that a cup broccoli and a cup of milk have the same amount of calcium, that just isn’t true. For one, it just doesn’t. Two, there is a difference between the calcium in cooked vs raw broccoli. Three, the more important thing to consider is not just numbers on paper, or the computer screen, but actual absorbable calcium. That is a HUGE difference.

    Animal sources of iron and zinc are far more absorbable than from plant sources.

    The vitamin B12 is only found in foods of animal origin or in fortified grains.

    Some people even have challenges in getting enough protein from plant sources alone. It is totally possible, but I have a lot of people tell me that they have a hard time with it.

    People can eat a plant only diet and be totally, or relatively, healthy.

    Just like omnivores can also be totally, or relatively, healthy.

    Healthier choices are completely possible whether you choose plant-only/vegan or choose to include animal products along with those plant-based foods.

    If you are finding it challenging to eat a plant-only diet, don’t beat yourself up. You can start with shifting your meals, plates, and choices to eat less of animal products if you want to go this route.

    Changing habits takes time, and far more than the 21 days people think it takes.

    Habits take time. Start with small steps and be persistent.

    Small steps, small shifts are just fine.

    Are you following a plant-based diet? Are you vegan or striving to be vegan? Make sure you are planning so you don’t miss on significant nutrients that you need. Ask for help to make sure you are not missing out on important nutrients. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help. And a good one will help you without having to take a significant number of supplements.