What Does “Plant-Based” Mean?

By Senior Nutrition Manager, Erin Pellegrin RD

So, what is “plant-based?”

By now, most of us have heard the term “plant-based.” Or what we also sometimes use, “plant-centered.” But what exactly does that mean when we talk about how a person eats? This question comes up a lot during our Wellness Day Conferences. While this term can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, to us it means eating in a way that focuses on including and consuming more plant foods, and a little less animal food. 

Basically, just eat more plants.  

Some of you may think that to be plant-based you have to be strictly vegan or vegetarian. And while we absolutely support that decision if it’s your choice, considering oneself plant-based doesn’t have to come with all the boundaries or restrictions. In fact, I love the flexitarian approach to food! The Cleveland Clinic defines a flexitarian diet as a flexible alternative to being a vegetarian. The focus is on consuming fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds, with the occasional consumption of meat.  

The beauty of this is we can all do it! Each one of us can take this flexible approach and implement it in a way that works for us and our families. Some may take a more vegetarian style, while others may focus on simply reducing portion size of their animal foods creating more space for plants on their dinner plates. And you know what? Both are wonderful examples of a person being plant-based.  

Don’t know where to start? I’ll share what I usually say is my favorite first step: consume one additional serving of a vegetable every day. However, this month, I’m changing it up! Since we’ve deemed January as Plantuary, start by adding an extra serving of any plant food to your day. It could be adding a spoonful of seeds to your oatmeal, substituting some ground turkey in your chili for an extra can of beans, or finally trying that delicious Middle Eastern Chickpea Burger recipe from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen Cookbook one night for dinner (I promise you will love it).  

The point is – one step at a time. No one needs to change it all at once.  

So this Plantuary, we hope you will follow along as we all try to eat more plants! Each week we will be sharing delicious recipes on the blog and plenty of food photos and videos on social. You’ll also see how the Unite for HER staff likes to include plants in their lives and learn why moving in this plant-based direction is so important for our health. And, of course, don’t forget to share your own gorgeous food photos and what being plant-based looks like in your house.  

Happy Planting! 

Erin Pellegrin RD, LDN 

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