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123 Key Takeaways on Plant-based

Myths Debunked. Useful Dos and Don’ts – Tested Tips

There are so many opinions about plant-based diets nowadays that it can get quite confusing to understand what’s true and what’s not, what’s healthy and what’s risky for your health, how far you should take it and if it’s even worth trying in the first place.

I’ve been a chef for more than a decade now, showing people the healthy way towards a happier life, and the one thing that still surprises me to this day, in the best way imaginable, is when people send me their feedback after trying some of my products, telling me that before giving plant-based a chance, they would have never believed the massive positive impact this healthy eating lifestyle can have on someone’s life and how much they wished they had tried it earlier.

Every single time that happened, I paused and wondered how could I help more people to give plant-based a chance and how could I address their confusion, fears and misconceptions regarding plant-based diets – that is how this guide came to life.

It is my wish and my purpose to help you understand that there is an easy way for you to feel better, today and forever, and it all starts with your eating habits.

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When it comes to plant-based eating, I’m quite sure I’ve heard it all. Unfortunately, the negative is way more popular and easier to trust, mainly because it involves less effort, whereas change means taking action.

For you to be able to make an informed decision about plant-based eating in this overloaded informational universe we’re living in, or at least offer you a comprehensive starting point, I’ve put together the “Introducing Plant-based: The Definitive Guide”.

I wish this guide to be the missing link you needed to start believing that healthy eating habits, centred around natural plant-based foods, are the foundation of a healthy happy life, without any shadow of a doubt. I wish the information put together in the following pages motivates you to give plant-based a chance so you can experience for yourself how good you’re actually supposed to feel, physically and mentally.

If I did things right, what you’re about to read will plant a very important fertile seed that will motivate you to change your life for the better. This is my hope.

See you on the other side, my friend. 

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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER

Before I continue, I need to make you aware of some very important facts, for your own benefit and for my own peace of mind. 

First of all, please bear in mind that following a plant-based diet does not mean eliminating all sources of meat or dairy from your meals. It is my personal choice not to include meat and dairy products in my products and my recipes. Throughout my 13 years of experience in the food industry, after cooking and serving meals including meat and dairy for the hotels and restaurants I’ve worked with, I have decided to focus my business around better and healthier alternatives that are just as available, but much more beneficial for so many reasons.

Second, plant-based is far from being vegan or vegetarian, which still gets many people confused, since all three diets rely on consuming mainly fruits and vegetables. However, because my purpose is helping people live better lives through healthier eating, I want to make this clear distinction. The growing trend, or better said – industry, of “vegan” junk-food is the main reason why these diets, although with a pure concept at heart, can now cause a person, and our environment, more harm than good.

You are free to take whatever makes sense to you from this guide, whatever respects your own logic and whatever you feel would help you be healthier. 

If you choose to include more plants in your diet and still eat meat and dairy, my friendly recommendation to you is to consume it with moderation and to buy it from verified sustainable sources as much as possible. 

Another very important factor to take into consideration moving forward is that I am not a doctor, nor a qualified nutritionist, I am a chef. The information I have put together in the following pages is gathered and shared from reputable sources like the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/), Centers for Diseases, Control and Prevention  (https://www.cdc.gov/), UK National Health Service (https://www.nhs.uk/), US National Library of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/), National Institutes of Health (https://ods.od.nih.gov/), Harvard Medical School (https://www.health.harvard.edu/), British Journal of Nutrition (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition), Science Daily (https://www.sciencedaily.com/), Healthline (https://www.healthline.com/) and others, and are also my own personal conclusions gathered throughout my 13 years of experience in the food industry. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please, please, please always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your diet and health condition. Some dietary recommendations are healthy for the majority of people, but potentially dangerous to others. Before making any drastic changes to your diet, I kindly advise you to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional, get a thorough health check and make an informed decision about your diet and eating lifestyle. Please never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in the “Introducing Plant-based: A Definitive Guide” or on the www.jayhalford.com website. These tools are intended for informational purposes only, they do not provide medical advice. Always choose wisely when it comes to your health and your life. Thank you!

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Plant-based Myths and Misconceptions Debunked

  • Plant-based diets are not healthy.

Let me rephrase that: Incomplete/Superficial/Bad/Wrong plant-based diets are not healthy, and that goes for any kind of diet or eating habits there are.

When you don’t take responsibility to feed your body with the necessary daily intake of nutrients that it needs to function properly, you are jeopardizing your health, no matter what kind of diet you’re on. 

All you need to do to keep yourself healthy, from a dietary perspective, is to consume enough vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, fats, and plenty of water daily to make sure you stay physically and mentally strong in the long run. And that is perfectly possible when following a plant-based diet. I will go even further and say that people who have made a habit out of including more plant-based foods in their diets pay more attention to their food choices by default. They make a purpose out of getting the right kind of nutrients from their meals every single day – out of prevention and a more conscious approach to their diet.

  • Plant-based diets are restrictive.

This one is actually quite funny when you think about the insane variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, etc. that exists in this world, compared to the meat and dairy products. On the other hand, if your daily meals consist of mainly processed foods, it’s understandable why you might think that following a plant-based diet is restrictive.

Sometimes, when you focus your food choices around chicken, dairy or processed foods, you miss out on all the other available alternatives and end up eating out of a habit that doesn’t really serve you and, quite frankly, limits you big time. When you decide you want to eat healthier, your perspective shifts and you make more conscious choices.  You feel as if a veil has been lifted before your eyes and you end up realising that you actually have a world of healthier options at your fingertips, all you need to do is choose them. The options are endless.

  • Plant-based diets are expensive.

I believe quite the opposite to be true. However, the industry of plant-based foods has taken a nasty turn, I’m afraid (as anything else that becomes an “industry”) because well, competition, consumerism, fight for survival, you name it. So yes, a plant-based diet can get to be expensive if you choose brands that charge more for how their products look and how they’re packaged, rather than for how natural they actually are. The good news is that you don’t need these kinds of products to maintain a proper, nutritious diet.

As a general rule, a plant-based diet relies on minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains which are more affordable than animal foods. You may find it expensive when you first start shifting your cupboard from the way you used to eat to a healthier way of eating, but it’s only an illusion created by all the convenience go-to items you used to rely on. As long as you keep your grocery list simple and choose day-to-day ingredients, stay away as much as you can from “speciality items” and processed “vegan” snacks, a plant-based diet is actually very budget-friendly. 

  • Plant-based diets get boring.

Again, this can be true for almost everything you do. Anything may become boring at a certain point if you don’t do something to make it more exciting. When it comes to food, a plant-based diet can become repetitive and dull if you don’t change things up every now and again, but that goes for absolutely every kind of diet. Being a creature of habit, and most probably with a hectic schedule too, of course it’s more convenient for you to rely on easy meals that you’re familiar with so you don’t have to think about food every single day. The problem with that is: it becomes a problem. You get bored and food gets unexciting, you don’t get the healthy benefits of a diversified diet, and your body will start sending you signals that something is wrong. 

With plant-based diets, all you need to do to keep your food interesting on a daily basis is to think ahead. Look for new meals that you’d like to try, search for plant-based versions of your favourite meals (yes, healthy chocolate cakes do exist!), choose dishes that get you excited, create your shopping list based on these meals, stock up your pantry and your fridge in advance and get ready to be surprised. In this way, you’ll never get bored or run out of ideas when it comes to your plant-based diet.

  • Plant-based means vegan or vegetarian.

Plant-based, vegan and vegetarian are 3 different things that have one thing in common: eating more plant foods.

To keep things simple and clear, a vegan diet includes all plants and eliminates all animal products. A vegetarian diet includes some blend of plants, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based diets don’t necessarily exclude animal products, but focus on eating mostly foods that come from plant sources and natural wholefoods.

  • Plant-based means no meat and no dairy.

As discussed earlier, a lot of people think that “plant-based” means “vegan”, but that is a false assumption. You can eat animal-based foods and still be following a plant-based diet, because that is why it’s called “plant-based” to begin with – it is a diet based on the consumption of plants, but not exclusively. You’ll find that health-conscious plant-based people often refer to themselves as predominantly plant-based, as a way to say that they are not vegan or vegetarian, but they eat mostly plants without being strict on what they exclude – they are just conscious of their diets and eat it in moderation. Diets are different for each person, that’s why I consider it vital for you to take the time and find the one that helps you feel at your best, always.

  • Plant-based diets are too time-consuming.

Eating a healthy plant-based diet may take more time than always microwaving a frozen meal, frying potato chips, boiling some pasta and throwing a jar of pre-made sauce on top, and it definitely takes more time than ordering takeaway every other night.

Still, preparing fresh, healthy whole food meals doesn’t mean you’ll be spending hours in the kitchen every day. There are hundreds of plant-based recipes out there that you can make in under 10, 15, 30 minutes and so on, and not to mention you can eat an abundance of fresh fruits every day, all you need to do is buy them, wash them and remember to eat them before they deteriorate.  For you to make sure you eat more nuts and seeds every day you just need to add them to your shopping list.

Another great thing you can do is batch cook and freeze – this can save you a lot of time and effort. Regardless whether you’re following a plant-based diet or not, cooking from scratch is always the best option for a healthier lifestyle. 

  • Plant-based meals are complicated to prepare.

Plant-based meals are as complicated as you want them to be. To make your life easier, choose to eat simple food combinations on the busy days and keep the complex recipes for when you have more spare time on your hands. For instance, you can choose to have oats, bananas and berries in the morning, roasted veggies and a fresh salad for lunch, and brown rice with stir-fried beans and spinach for dinner. You can even batch cook your side dishes in advance, and mix them up during the week adding various vegetables or fruits at each meal. If it doesn’t sound very exciting, remember the massive variety of quick and easy plant-based recipes available on the world wide web (including my website: https://jayhalford.com/blog/recipes/) that you can prepare in a matter of minutes. 


  • Plant-based meals have no taste.

Plant-based meals don’t taste bland at all, unless that’s how you like your food to taste, of course. A plant-based diet can be extremely rich in flavours and colours, the secret is to experiment with different kinds of plants, herbs, spices and sauces to make sure that you give your taste buds the treat they deserve with every single meal. Actually, understanding flavour combination is not only rewarding for your health, but it’s really eye-opening in terms of how your taste buds work too. After a couple of months of focusing your eating habits around plant-based meals, you’ll be naturally drawn towards healthier foods and you will be amazed realizing you’ve stopped craving the kind of snacks or sweets you couldn’t stay away from before. 

Another key factor in cooking delicious plant-based meals (and not only) is using seasonings – they enhance the flavour of your dishes big time! For more details on that, there is an in-depth article on seasoning on my website: https://jayhalford.com/seasoning-when-where-and-how/ 

  • Plant-based diets mean giving up your favourite foods.

If I tell you there is a healthy alternative for all your favourite foods, will you believe me? No? Good! Because there isn’t. And it’s for your own benefit, no matter how much you hate it. The last thing I want to do is sugarcoat it, so I won’t. 

If junk food is one of your favourite types of foods, you’ll have to let it go. It’s high time you do it. There’s so much information out there about the negative effects of junk food on a person’s health, you need to be consciously choosing to self-sabotage your health to keep eating that kind of food. You’re smarter than that.  

Fortunately, there are enough healthy alternatives for desserts, so don’t lose hope! Dairy-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free desserts are definitely my favourite part about this kind of eating lifestyle. Having quite the sweet tooth myself, being able to recreate chocolate cakes, cheesecakes, pancakes, flapjacks and any dessert that comes to mind using plant-based foods and healthy sugar alternatives it’s the best thing ever! 

Choosing to follow a plant-based diet means, first of all, ditching processed foods and choosing foods that are more natural. Unfortunately, healthy natural food is still very much wrongly considered “boring”, “bland”, “no fun”, simply because it’s easier to make assumptions based on what other people say than to actually take the time and find out the truth for yourself. 

Processed foods create addiction and this is why it’s easy to confuse them with our “favourite” foods or our “comfort” foods, but these kinds of foods don’t do you any kind of favour whatsoever. Fortunately, you can still treat yourself, reward yourself and comfort yourself with food while keeping yourself healthy at the same time. That is the beauty of a plant-based diet and that is why I love it wholeheartedly!

  • Plant-based diets mean no sugar.

As a general rule, the more you stay away from refined sugar, the more you will thank yourself in the long run, no matter what kind of diet you’re on. At the end of the day, however, no one can force you what to eat and what not to eat, the choice is in your hands, so is the responsibility for your health. 

You can consider yourself to be on a plant-based diet, meat and dairy-free, feeding yourself all the right kinds of nutrients, buying your food from sustainable sources and so on – as long as you keep eating them Oreos, that sugar will get the best of you sooner rather than later. 

There are plenty of sugar alternatives you can choose from, so much healthier than white or brown sugars. From raw honey to pure maple syrup, date sugar, brown rice syrup and many others. Try them out, find the one that works for you and never look back. The day you’ll ditch refined sugar from your diet will be the day you’ll start to feel better, look better and be healthier straight away, 1000%! 

To understand more about what healthier sugar alternatives there are, you can read this article on my website: Sugar Bomb. Another very interesting article on the danger of sugar is one from Harvard Medical School: The Sweet Danger of Sugar.

 

  • You don’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet.

This is, by far, the biggest myth around plant-based diets. The fear that a plant-based eating lifestyle is protein-deficient because plant-proteins are just not as good as animal-proteins is what drives most people away from this kind of eating lifestyle. It’s the main reason why people who are not particularly fond of eating meat stick to it – they think eating less meat or ditching it all together will mess up their health. 

You absolutely can get all the protein you need on a plant-based diet, all it takes is a little planning. What you need to do to make sure you get enough protein on a daily basis is to have plant-based proteins with most of your meals and snacks, and avoid all the junk food “vegan” foods. Basically, make sure to get enough real food overall in your daily diet.

Some of the best plant-protein sources you need to include in your everyday meals are: quinoa, pistachios, black beans, lentils, nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, whole grains, but also spinach, kale, and peas – just to name a few. It’s a known fact that there is more protein per gram in green vegetables than in meat. 

For more on plant protein, I recommend reading this comprehensive and important article from the US National Library of Medicine: Nutritional Update for Physicians – Plant-based Diets.

  • You don’t get enough iron on a plant-based diet.

This is another nutrient of concern that is often brought up when discussing plant-based diets. Again, it’s not impossible to obtain enough dietary iron without eating meat, if you choose to go meat-free and plant-based at the same time. As with proteins, it takes a little work, reeducating and understanding which foods contain iron and which foods to consume to complement the absorption of iron in your body. A well-planned plant-based diet can provide sufficient iron to meet your needs, as long as you do your research beforehand and play it smart. 

Be sure to combine Vitamin C, as it enhances your body’s absorption of iron. Consuming iron-rich foods every day will keep your iron levels under control: kiwi fruits, strawberries, broccoli, parsley, Brussels Sprouts, lentils, chickpeas, beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, pecans, dried apricots and prunes, whole grains, dark chocolate, beetroot, just to name a few.

  • You don’t get enough Vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet.

This is one of the nutrients most likely to fall short on a plant-based diet, because it’s predominantly found in animal foods or bacteria. However, vitamin B12 deficiency has become an issue for people who follow an omnivore, vegetarian, vegan or plant-based oriented diet alike. B12 is considered one of the most complicated vitamins to be absorbed by the body from natural sources, especially in these modern times. There is an overwhelming consensus in the mainstream nutrition community that vitamin B12 fortified foods or supplements are necessary for the optimal health of people who follow a plant-based meat-free diet. 

I try to encourage people to get their vitamins and minerals from natural sources as much as possible, but sometimes that isn’t always possible. Unfortunately, the direction in which our food culture is going makes it more and more difficult for us to have access to natural nutrients, so sometimes adding a supplement to our diets becomes necessary.

However, I strongly recommend you to talk to your doctor about this and follow his advice on what’s best for your health.

  • You don’t get enough calcium on a plant-based diet.

Whether people who follow a plant-based diet that excludes dairy are able to get enough calcium in their bodies or not is another big controversy. Calcium is a mineral found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of the plants, so even if the general belief is that calcium gets into our bodies from dairy products, the truth is that the real source of calcium comes from our good old earth. 

Dark green leafy vegetables and legumes are the best plant source of calcium. Make sure to include kale, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, chickpeas, beans, almonds, sesame and flax seeds, oats and of course fresh figs and oranges or dried apricots in your daily meals as often as you can.

Apparently, as much as we need to get calcium in our bodies, we need to keep calcium there too. Nutrition experts recommend avoiding salty snack foods and keep salt use to a minimum to hold onto calcium better. A great article on calcium is this one from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Calcium and Strong Bones.

  • A plant-based diet will affect your bones and your teeth.

The health of our bones and teeth is directly linked to our levels of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, amino-acids and sugar consumption (for teeth), from a dietary perspective. So as long as you keep your plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and low in processed foods and salt, your body should receive the necessary dose of minerals and vitamins beneficial not only for your bones and teeth, but for your overall health. Also, the reduced refined sugar intake is definitely going to be doing your teeth a favour. Fewer sugar hits mean stronger, healthy teeth and gums and less painful trips to the dentist. 

  • Plant-based diets are high in carbohydrates.

Carbs have become the modern super-villain when it comes to food. Regarding plant-based diets being high in carbs, you have all the reasons in the world to be worry…free. Yes, worry-free! First of all, and I cannot stress this enough, always remember that you are in full control of what you eat every single moment of your day and most of us are fortunate enough to have access to endless alternatives to keep ourselves as healthy as possible. Second of all, never forget the 2 main secrets of a healthy diet, no matter what you call it: moderation and diversity. 

That being said, of course a plant-based diet can be high in carbs, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you choose wisely, stay away from processed foods of any kind, change your choice of snacks, mix your meals up so you don’t have pasta for dinner every evening (there are so many healthy comfort-food alternatives out there, you’ll be surprised) and choose a healthier way of cooking overall, you should be able to keep the level of carbs to the amount that your body needs and nothing over.

If you stop and think about it, potatoes aren’t really the problem, it’s how most people cook and eat them, and how often too, that makes them unhealthy for our bodies. Raw carbs from any kind of fruit or veggies are water-based and, therefore, the body reacts differently and doesn’t hold on to them. 

  • You’ll lose muscle mass on a plant-based diet / You shouldn’t eat plant-based if you’re an athlete.

This is more of a stereotype than a myth, to associate people who follow a plant-based diet with a person who looks weak and skinny. It happens because muscle and strength is thought to come from eating mainly animal foods, which is not true. Fortunately enough, this false belief is slowly but surely coming to an end, through the incredible personal examples so many great athletes offer us more and more often. They all agree on one main idea: that muscle growth is stimulated by strength training, not by protein intake, and they are proving it. 

As I am not a passionate muscle builder myself, I cannot offer you my personal experience as an example on this one, so here are a few articles about some of the most incredible athletes who are following a plant-based diet, their motivation and the effects it has had on their lives: 

Now, most of these athletes promote a vegan or vegetarian eating lifestyle. However, I strongly advise you to choose what you and your doctor consider best for you in terms of your own diet. I choose to share these stories only to serve this topic, using them as mere examples that focusing your diet around plant foods shouldn’t affect your muscle mass, as long as you keep your food choices healthy and balanced to meet the needs of your own body.

  • You can’t gain weight on a plant-based diet*.

When it comes to weight, what my experience has taught me and what the feedback of my customers has proved is that a plant-based diet helps you reach your healthy body weight, no matter if you are overweight or underweight, as long as you do it right. While most people experience weight loss when starting a plant-based diet, gaining weight is perfectly possible too.

If you want to gain weight and are worried that following a plant-based diet will keep you from doing that, rest assured that it won’t. Just like with all weight gain, you just need to add more high-carbs, high-proteins, and high-fats to your daily meals. If you eat mainly fruits and vegetables, without adding legumes, nuts and seeds to your diet, it’s normal for the body to lose weight. 

Add more healthy fats (avocado, tahini, nuts, seeds), more plant-proteins (lentils, chickpeas, beans, hummus), and more carbs from rice, pasta, bulgur, potatoes. Don’t skip breakfast, add healthy snacks between your meals and never forget about dessert! Refined sugar-free cheesecakes, pancakes, brownies – the sky’s the limit! So if you want to gain weight, eat more, eat more often and keep your food diverse and balanced!

*When it comes to eating disorders of any kind, suspected or diagnosed, please talk to your doctor before taking any decision regarding your diet. 

  • Plant-based diets aren’t suitable for children.

If diets are well-planned, there is no risk of children being malnourished while following a plant-based diet. In order to make sure that your child is getting all the nutrients they need, it’s crucial to prepare meals using a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. 

Nevertheless, keep in mind that plant-based doesn’t mean giving up meat and/or dairy, it simply means focusing your food choices around minimally processed plant foods. Whether your child follows a 100% plant-based diet or will continue to eat meat and dairy products is a decision that belongs entirely to you and your family. If you are considering feeding your child a vegetarian or vegan diet, I strongly recommend you seek the advice of a paediatric dietitian to help you carefully plan your child’s diet and understand the requirements you need to take into account.

Whichever type of diet you choose for your child, adding more healthy plant-foods to their daily meals and keeping them away from processed foods and drinks can only benefit them, especially in the long run. 

  • A plant-based diet is not good for pregnancy.

A healthy, well-planned, balanced plant-based diet should provide all the nutrients women need during their pregnancy, for a healthy development of both themselves and their future baby. Because nutrition is of utmost importance for women during pregnancy, the level of awareness regarding the dietary choices they make has to be at a maximum. It is strongly advised that pregnant women consult with their physician or registered dietitian regarding their diet before, during and after pregnancy and that together they choose the best option for both the mother and the baby. 

  •  It’s difficult to get children to eat vegetables and fruits.

If your child is not used to eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, it can be hard to get them to do it at first. Among the things you can do to make sure their bodies receive the daily dose of vitamins and minerals is not give up until they do it.

  • You can offer them fruits and veggies as snacks, already cut, ready to eat and in plain sight for them to see.
  • You can serve salads more often, get them involved in helping you prepare them and even let them choose the fruits and vegetables that will go in the salad (go with the weird choices too, it’s how they will learn how to best combine flavours).
  • Introduce new vegetables and fruits with familiar foods, so they don’t feel like they’re missing out, but actually gaining something extra.
  • Try out plant-based recipes for spaghetti, lasagna or tacos to surprise them.
  • And maybe the most important thing that you can do to get your children to eat more fruits and veggies is to practice what you preach – lead by example, eat your fruits and veggies yourself and you will inspire your children to walk in your footsteps. 

A super cool article on this comes from The Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco: Encouraging Your Child to Eat Fruits and Vegetables

  • The only way you can benefit from a plant-based diet is to completely eliminate meat and dairy products.

The only way you can benefit from a plant-based diet is to eat more plant foods. Ideally more minimally processed plant foods. Even more ideally, on a daily basis. The more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs you include in your daily meals, the better off you are. 

Eating meat and dairy shouldn’t affect your plant-based diet, as long as you consume them in moderation and from sustainable sources as much as possible. Also, for those of you who will keep meat and dairy as part of your diet, a recommendation would be to think of them as a garnish, rather than as a main dish and turn your plant-foods in the stars of your meals. 

The dishes that I create are always vegan, but can be easily adapted or go well with an addition of fish or meat if you choose this. It’s how I always aim my dishes, as imposing my views on your life is not what I’m trying to achieve here. However, most of the time, most people agree that my plant-based recipes need no meat addition, which does make me very happy, in all honesty.

A very useful article that can be of help in understanding how to choose what suits you best in terms of plant-based is The Right Plant-based Diet for You from Harvard Medical School. 

  • On a plant-based diet, you feel hungry all the time.

You can definitely feel hungry on a plant-based diet if you don’t feed your body enough proteins and calories. Because plant-foods contain fewer calories, although being more filling and richer in nutrients, you need to make sure you are eating enough food for your daily needs or/and make sure your meals include a large variety of plant foods on a daily basis. So try to make your portions bigger and/or eat more frequently.

You will sometimes find that on a plant-based diet you can actually lose weight by eating twice as much, which can be amazing if that’s your goal. On the other hand, once your body gets used to your new way of eating and you keep doing it, you will start to feel a lot more satisfied and have fewer cravings. Your meals will be a lot more nutritionally dense and you’ll actually be feeding yourself pure nutrients which will leave you feeling full, energized and clear-headed, instead of the alternative – feeling bloated and foggy after a junk-food meal, only to find yourself craving more one hour later because it failed to fuel your body with proper nourishment.

  • You’ll feel tired and low on energy all the time on a plant-based diet.

There are several causes why some people feel tired and low on energy when they follow a plant-based diet. All of these causes are linked to the fact that people are not feeding their body the correct amount of nutrients it needs to function properly, just like in all the other cases we’ve been discussing so far. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t pay proper attention to your diet, your body will experience the side-effects and you will start to feel the consequences. Again, that goes for any kind of diet you’re on, not just plant-based. 

People who feel tired on a plant-based diet are either forgetting about their vitamins and minerals, or their proteins, they’re eating too much “plant-based” or “vegan” junk-food, or they are simply not eating enough. 

You already know the drill – always go with diversity and moderation for all your food choices, to make sure you control your health, not the other way around.

  • Plant-based diets are based mainly on herbs and twigs.

LOL.

  • It’s difficult to eat out when you’re on a plant-based diet.

Not anymore. Almost all restaurants have plant-based options nowadays and if they don’t, you can always ask them to hold whatever ingredients you’re not fond of. If you are feeling creative, you can mix and max different side dishes and get a special and one-of-a-kind item that wasn’t even on the menu in the first place. Two of my go-to plant-based cuisines that I choose when I eat out is Mexican and Asian. You can never get bored or run out of plant-based choices when it comes to Japanese, Thai and Traditional Chinese food. The flavours! 

Bottom line is you can find things that are healthy and plant-based almost everywhere you go, keep yourself open for experiments and try out new places, there is so much to choose from. Almost every place worth-going or worth-ordering from nowadays is up to date with plant-based options and should always be accommodating and willing to create something for you.

  • It’s hard to find what to eat at work when you’re following a plant-based diet.

It doesn’t have to be, as long as you play it smart. When you cook your dinner or your lunch, remember to cook extra so there’s enough for you to take to work the next day. Keep healthy snacks and fruits handy, too for you to nibble on during the day.

Plant-based takeaways are springing up like mushrooms after the rain, but some of them are not what I would call healthy and the ones that rank higher in quality of ingredients can get to be quite pricey. So, even if it’s an extra effort for you, cooking your own work lunch at least 3-4 days a week is the best investment choice for your budget and for your health.

  • Young people are leading the plant-based movement and they don’t know s***.

Hahaha, I love this one! Although young people know a lot of things, and most of them are really smart, no one can actually believe that plant-based is a “movement” or a “trend” born in the recent years. I remember when my grandad used to tell me how when he was a kid, they had meat for dinner only once a week, or whenever his family celebrated something, or how holidays were so special because it was the only time of the year when you got the chance to properly feast on roasts, and barbecues, and cakes and all the goodness that you were dreaming about the rest of the year. They used to eat mostly fruit and vegetables, first of all, because it was friendlier to their pockets and, second of all, because “it kept your body lighter and your mind clearer”, as he puts it. 

Interesting fact: apparently, the UK’s plant-based revolution began in the 18th century, a Scottish physician, having become “melancholic” and “lethargic”, decided to change his diet and eat only “seeds, breads” and “tender roots (as potatoes, turnips, and carrots), with fresh milk and water to replace wine. After experiencing a surprising positive change in his bodily health and mood, he started recommending the “vegetable diet” to his patients. 

You can read more about “The Hidden History of Plant-based Diets” here.

  • Plant-based diets are a stupid trend and it’s not going to last.

Even though I believe that everyone is free to have their own opinion about anything and that the future is the only one that can actually prove who was right and who was wrong, for me things are crystal clear already. Not only I believe plant-based is the future of food, but I think sustainable plant-based will make a massive comeback in the near future and will (re)become humankind’s main food source.

People are becoming more aware of the fact that in this factory farming world we’re living in, meat and dairy are not what they used to be: raw meat and raw dairy. At the same time, the fact that most fruits and vegetables available in supermarkets these days look like they’re made of plastic doesn’t make things any easier for plant-based eaters either. It’s getting more and more difficult to understand where our food comes from and what it is made of. It has become the norm to spend more time choosing what to eat than to actually eat it.

That is why, for healthy plant-based eaters, sustainable vegetables and fruits are like a breath of fresh air and it’s something that becomes more appreciated, more supported and more sought after day by day. And that is why it’s common sense to me that plant-based is here to stay, for the sake of everyone, especially of those who are against it today – I have a feeling that they are the ones who will need it the most in the years to come.

  • Plant-based eaters are the most annoying and preachy kind of people in the whole wide world.

I think that what annoys people about plant-eaters, vegans or vegetarians is how outspoken, opinionated and “loud” they are when it comes to expressing their beliefs. The problem is that people who are annoyed by this kind of attitude forget that they do the exact same thing when they feel the need to protect something they believe in or something that threatens the quality of their lives. We all stand up for our beliefs and for what we think it’s right – or we should. 

The funny thing is that most plant-eaters simply eat their dinner in silence, not affecting anyone at all, sharing their views on the matter if asked, if not just going about their lives without having any concern what other people think of them and their food choices. I bet you too know at least a handful of people who eat 2 or more apples a day without you knowing anything about it, unless they share one with you and it makes you wonder. Those are plant-eaters too.

  • People who crave fruits instead of burgers don’t exist.

First of all, if you think that cravings are the body’s way to tell you what it needs, you’re in for a shock because they are not! Cravings are simply a conditional response, a habit that people develop and that makes them seek out unhealthy food. It’s all in the brain! If you’ve been feeding your body chocolate, icecream, burgers or pastry whenever it craves something sweet or salty, you’ve created a habit, a go-to solution that satisfies your craving and makes you feel better right there and then. But you see what you did? You conditioned your brain to think that only chocolate or burgers can fix your craving because that’s what you always ate when you wanted something sweet or something comforting. 

Again, what I’ve learned from my experience and the feedback of my customers is that the best way, although not the easiest, to reduce cravings is giving in to them less often. If you crave something sweet, go for fruits or refined-sugar-free desserts or snacks. If you crave something comforting, go for the healthiest version of a falafel burger you can find. Over time your memories associated with your old cravings will fade because you have made the conscious effort to choose healthier and thus have successfully managed to recondition your brain. It can be hard work, but it’s totally possible and it’s incredibly rewarding.

You can read a very very good article on Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Food Cravings here.

  • Plant-based diets are suitable for everyone.

Plant-based diets are certainly a healthy dietary pattern, especially when you make it a purpose to always go for moderation, diversity and sustainable natural sources.

However, as I’ve said it before, before making any drastic changes in your diet, I strongly recommend discussing it with your doctor and based on the conclusions adjust your diet accordingly.

Healthy diets are suitable for everyone, so do everything you can to make sure you choose the right one for you, take note of how it makes you feel and how it’s working for you and adjust as you go until you find the one that makes you feel at your best.

  • All plant-based foods are healthy.

Not in the least, unfortunately. “Plant-based” or “vegan” junk-food is still junk-food. The best strategy to make sure you keep your plant-foods as healthy as possible is to stay away from processed foods of any kind and go with whole foods. Read all the labels, if you see an ingredient you wouldn’t or couldn’t use in your own kitchen, then it’s not healthy. The more you try to eliminate chemicals, refined sugars and flours, artificial additives and preservatives – the most healthful your food will be.

A healthy plant-based diet is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and by choice minimally processed meat and dairy in moderation and from sustainable sources only.

When veganism started to come out in mainstream media, a lot of people made the mistake of thinking that being vegan automatically means being healthy. However, this isn’t the case – you still have to be conscious of your food choices as a vegan in order to keep yourself healthy. Oreos are vegan, and so is Pepsi. So take your time, do your research and choose wisely.

  •  A plant-based diet is automatically healthy.

As we’ve discussed earlier, a plant-based diet is as healthy as you make it. Focusing on feeding your body the right kind of nutrients in the correct amount your body needs to function properly, as well as monitoring your health to make any required changes to your diet based on your body’s condition, is what will keep yourself healthy in the long run.

Dos and Don’ts when following a plant-based diet

DOs

  • DO include more vegetables in your daily diet.
  • DO eat more fresh fruits on a daily basis.
  • DO choose legumes as your main dishes more.
  • DO eat more nuts daily.
  • DO eat more seeds daily.
  • DO eat the right kind of plant-based proteins (lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, quinoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, mushrooms, brown and wild rice, etc).
  • DO eat enough high-iron foods (lentils, beans, peas, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, cashews, pine nuts, spinach, kale, leeks, parsley, unpeeled sweet potatoes, mushrooms, beetroot, olives, whole grains, quinoa, dark chocolate, thyme, no added sugar dried apricots, figs, raisins, etc).
  • DO eat enough foods high in vitamin C (guavas, kiwi, grapefruit, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, kale, berries, chilli peppers, papaya, mango, etc.).
  • DO include vitamin C foods into your daily diet.
  • DO eat plenty of foods high in calcium (beans, peas, lentils, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, chia and flax seeds, seaweed, spinach, turnip, kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raw figs, berries, etc.).
  • DO eat plant-foods high in amino-acids (quinoa, buckwheat).
  • DO eat more whole grains (whole wheat, whole-grain rye, bulgur wheat, spelt) and if you are on a gluten-free diet, DO include whole oats, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice in your daily meals.
  • DO choose fruits, nuts and seeds as healthy snacks.
  • DO experiment with spices and herbs to keep your meals savoury.
  • DO choose to eat beans more often than vegetarian patties.
  • DO choose to eat whole grains (quinoa, brown rice) more often than processed grains (bread or pasta).
  • DO take your fats from whole foods like avocado or oils and try not to overuse oil when you cook.
  • DO swap out dairy for non-dairy unprocessed products as much as you can 
  • DO shop for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • DO buy plant-foods with no added sugar – dried fruits, cereals and dairy-free milks often contain added sugar so read the labels before buying them; most brands have versions with no added sugar too, you just need to pay attention and choose wisely.
  • DO choose unprocessed or minimally processed plant-foods instead of processed plant-foods.
  • DO have breakfast every day.
  • DO make half of your plate vegetables for lunch and/or dinner.
  • DO drink plenty of water every day.
  • DO verify where the food you buy comes from.
  • DO read labels on food packages.
  • DO try and buy local, seasonal and sustainable food to make sure it’s as natural and nutritious as possible.
  • DO try and cook more often for yourself and for your dear ones.
  • DO look for healthier versions of your favourite meals and give them a chance.
  • DO experiment with new ingredients and allow yourself to be surprised.
  • DO discover the delicious universe of plant-based sugar-free desserts.
  • DO commit to eating healthier for your sake and for the sake of the ones who matter to you.
  • DO your research and always verify your sources to make sure the information is accurate
  • DO take it step by step.
  • DO tell the people whom you care about that you’re trying to eat healthier so they can support you and even hold you accountable if you ask them to (or see number 17 from the DON’Ts list).
  • DO believe it’s easier than you think.
  • DO believe that eating healthier will change your whole life for the better.
  • and DO get an annual health assessment, no matter what diet you’re on.

DON’Ts

  • DON’T forget to balance your diet with the right amount of nutrients your body needs on a daily basis to function properly in the short term and long term.
  • DON’T forget to eat enough proteins, vitamins and minerals every day.
  • DON’T be concerned about a loss of essential nutrients on a plant-based diet.
  • DON’T confuse “meat-free” or “dairy-free” with healthy – if you swap meat and dairy with “plant-based” processed foods, and fail to include the right amount of healthy plant-based foods in your diet, you’re downright self-sabotaging your health.
  • DON’T eat foods with added sugar.
  • DON’T eat foods with artificial sweeteners.
  • DON’T eat foods with refined grains.
  • DON’T make packaged convenience foods part of your daily diet.
  • DON’T eat processed meat.
  • DON’T eat processed dairy.
  • DON’T eat processed plant-based foods.
  • DON’T drink soda and fizzy drinks.
  • DON’T expect to like every single plant-based meal you’ll eat from the very beginning. Some plant foods taste delicious on their own, some need a little bit of help to be enjoyed at their best. The secret is to test as many plant-based variations as you can so you can find the ones that you like best and that are still healthy for you. Also, when it comes to plant-based cooking, it takes time and practice to learn how to create mouth-watering dishes, but you’ll get there, trust me.
  • DON’T be hard on yourself if you order burgers or pizza from time to time, but DON’T let it happen every time you’re hungry, crave something comforting and feel too tired to cook a healthy meal. 
  • DON’T give in to your impulses, think before you act, remember why you chose to eat healthier in the first place.
  • DON’T forget that it takes commitment and consistency to change your cravings into healthier ones.
  •  DON’T give a single f*** about what anyone thinks of your eating choices – what matters at the end of the day is what YOU think of your eating choices, how good they make YOU feel and how much they help YOU be the best version of yourself.
  •  DON’T forget to indulge, but choose the healthier way to do it.
  •  DON’T forget about sugar-free plant-based desserts and snacks! EVER!
  •  DON’T make it a habit to choose carbs, like bread or pasta, over protein, like legumes or whole grains.
  • DON’T fall into the refined carb trap – stay away from bagels, chips, pretzels when you feel hungry or craving for a snack.
  • DON’T think that your movie nights will never be fun again. I dare you to plan a movie night and have only healthy snacks at hand. You’ll notice what you eat only if the movie is bad, otherwise by the time it finishes, you’ll be surprised to see all of the snacks are gone without you even noticing. 
  •  DON’T overcomplicate things – keep your meals simple at first, and start experimenting with new ingredients when you feel that your food is getting a bit repetitive.
  • DON’T be a smartass and think you or whatever article you read online knows better than your doctor! Your physician is the only one who has access to your tests and is qualified to know what’s best for you and what’s not based on those results. 
  • DON’T forget to have fun!
  • DON’T give up! It might be harder in the beginning to give up some of your old eating habits, but your endurance and persistence will be rewarded when you will start to see the benefits of your new healthier eating habits in the way you look and the way you feel.

Tested tips about plant-based diets

  • Start slow. If you’re not used to eating a lot of plant-foods, don’t make drastic changes to your diet overnight, otherwise you won’t enjoy it, you’ll give your body an unnecessary shock and you will give up sooner than you’d want. 
  • Try not to skip breakfast. Because it uses so much energy during the night to grow and to repair itself, the body needs to refuel as soon as it wakes up. Breakfast doesn’t have to be the most filling meal of your day, you just need to make some room for it in your daily routine, keep it simple and you’ll notice your energy levels grow throughout the day.
  • Include whole-grains for your first meal of the day. You can start with oatmeal, quinoa, or buckwheat, combined with plant-based milks or yoghurts, nuts and seeds, and fresh fruits to keep your breakfasts easy and delicious. 
  • Add more green foods. Start with adding more salads to your daily meals, and when you get used to having fresh greens for lunch, maybe swap your mid-day sandwich with a veggie-packed salad full of legumes, crunchy vegetables, leafy greens, seeds, fresh herbs and a dollop of hummus.
  • Make your plates more colourful. It all starts with your shopping list – make it a purpose to buy plant-foods of all colours so you have where to choose from when you prep your meals. Then, pay attention not to overcook your vegetables, as they will lose both colour and nutrients. When in doubt, fruit bowls, salads and roasted veggies are the perfect go-to for colourful, tasty and nutritious dishes.
  • Keep healthy snacks near-at-hand. Have a bowl/casserole of your favourite fresh or dried fruits, nuts and seeds close to you, on your desk, in your car or in your backpack so you can nibble on in-between meals.
  • Swap the proportions on your plate. If you’re not ready to give up meat or dairy, but want to start adding more plant-foods to your diet, try having “vegetables with meat”, instead of “meat with vegetables”.
  • Pair your meals with plant-based sauces. They can add incredible flavours to your food. Basil, tomato, tahini, cashew, garlic, avocado are all amazing bases for healthy nutritious sauces you can use to create endless meal options.
  • Remember to eat plant-foods rich in proteins. Never forget that fruits and veggies are not enough to keep you healthy when you’re on a plant-based diet. You have to pair them with protein-rich foods to sustain your energy levels.
  •  Choose good fats over bad fats. Nuts, seeds, avocados and olives are usually healthier choices when it comes to the fat sources you should include in your diet.
  • Eat fruits or nuts if you have cravings in-between meals. A slice of juicy watermelon, a crunchy sweet apple, a delicious ripe mango, soft cashews are such a gift to our taste buds and should satisfy your cravings for a sweet bite after or before a main meal.
  • Build a meal around a salad. Always include a fresh green salad to your main meals, it’s the easiest way to get yourself to eat more greens.

  • Eat at least one plant-based meal every day. If you’re new at this plant-based game, make it a purpose to eat at least one meal each day based around beans, whole grains, fruits or vegetables.
  • Power-up your rice or pasta. Add more veggies and legumes to your rice and to your pasta dishes, and go with brown rice or whole-grain pasta to keep your carb sources healthy.
  • Choose fruits for dessert. Fruit salads are bright, beautiful and bursting with flavours. If you’re using fruits more on the sour side and want to add some extra sweetness to your bowl, a raw honey-lime dressing will work wonders!
  • Prepare your meals in advance. To make your life easier and keep your eating habits under control, set yourself up in advance. Choose what you want to eat for several upcoming days and create your main shopping list based on the ingredients used in those recipes. And don’t forget about buying healthy snacks too.
  • Make weekends about your favourite meals. There are healthier versions to almost all your favourite dishes, just as tasty as the ones you’re maybe more familiar with, but way more nutritious and safer for your health. Not to mention the plant-based desserts that I keep raving about. So try to include these in your weekly plant-based diet too, and maybe keep them for the weekend when you have more time for cooking or experimenting in the kitchen. 
  • Stay away from processed foods. They’re bad for you and you know it. They only generate addiction, that’s why the more you eat them, the more you’ll crave them. Make it a purpose to limit them as much as you can, until you’ll simply stop wanting them altogether. 
  • Listen to your body. Mindful eating is a really powerful practice you can look into. Apart from being really good for digestion because you eat slower and appreciate the flavours of your food, it also helps you understand your body when it asks you for food. You stop eating on an impulse and start assessing whether you are truly hungry, thirsty, or bored, stressed or upset over something.
  • Take your time while eating. We are so used to eating in a rush these days, we forgot it used to be a very cherished ritual. Make it a purpose to put away screens during your meals, and you’ll increase your chances to actually feel satisfied after you’ve eaten, rather than struggling to remember what you had for lunch half an hour later.
  • Drink fresh juices in between your meals. It’s the easiest way to add more vitamins and minerals to your daily diet. Try and make your own as much as possible, or pay extra attention to the labels on the ones you buy from the supermarket, as they tend to be loaded with sugars, artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
  • Remember to drink plenty of water every day.
  • Keep in mind why you started adding more plants to your diet in the first place. If things get challenging, remember what made you want to add more plants to your diet, how you felt before and what was your motivation behind your initial commitment. If it helps, you can always write down these first thoughts and keep them somewhere safe so you can come back to them whenever you feel adrift. Developing a new habit takes time, practice and determination – but the only one who gets to lose or win based on your lifestyle choices is you. So choose to be good to yourself. 

***

This is it, my friends! An in-depth view on the most popular plant-based myths, a sensible list of dos and don’ts, and some tips that I’ve learned through many personal trials and errors when experimenting with plant-based over the years, for my business and for me, personally. 

I hope this guide helps you get some clarity on what a plant-based diet is really about and it motivates you to make healthier choices when it comes to your eating habits. 

For any questions you might have, you can always find me at info@jayhalford.com.

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Author Jay Halford

I am a health-conscious chef specializing in plant-based cuisine that incorporates juice programmes, food programmes, online cooking courses, recipes and educational resources that inspire the pursuit of a healthier way of living. I believe that your diet is supposed to be your greatest ally, supporting you to feel strong, look good, think clearly and achieve your goals, nothing less. A consistent healthy plant-based diet does that 100% - and I am committed to helping you experience its real healing power so that once you discover it, you'll never want to look back.

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