Updated: Jan 8, 2020
The pitfalls you have to watch out for when adopting a plant-based diet
The top trend that surfaced before the end of of 2019 has got to be a plant-based diet, much thanks to the movie The Game Changers. I have adopted a whole food plant-based (WFPB for short) diet a few months before the movie was released as a bid to go back to my more vegan ways of living from where I left off two years ago. You can read more in my previous blog post.
Some friends asked me what is the difference between vegan and plant-based diets. Being a vegan means you don't consume animal products in all aspects, and not just limited to food. It also encompasses not buying lifestyle products that are made with animal products or by-products, and things that are tested on animals or caused harm to them in any way. Simply put, I have stopped buying leather products and will make a conscious effort to choose skincare products that are not tested on animals. A plant-based diet is like the name suggests, a diet that comprises of plants and no animal products, but does not include other lifestyle aspects.
As an almost vegan with a diet comprising of 95% WFPB, I am here to share with you how to make this diet as healthful as possible. You don't need to be a nutritionist but you do need to be well-informed and diligent to ensure your WFPB diet is comprehensive enough for you to get the optimum nutrition.
1. Not eating mainly whole foods
You probably have heard the term 'junk food vegan' and it's always used to illustrate an unhealthy vegan diet that comprised of mainly highly processed food that contains no animal products. Think Oreos cookies, french fries, mock meat, vegan cheeses, and Coke, and you get the drift.
The crux of the diet is to ensure you eat whole foods as much as possible and eliminate (if not kept to a minimum) processed food that offer lots of calories but almost no nutritional value. By all means enjoy your occasional Impossible Burger and dairy-free Magnum, but keep your staples to primarily wholesome vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.
2. Not getting enough proteins
You can get protein from plants and NOT just from animals. The biggest misconception that you have to eat meat to get protein is the biggest fallacy of the century, created by the marketing of the big meat industry giants. There are many good online sources to show you what are some of the top plant protein sources, such as quinoa, green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, tofu and a gazillion more.
Being a healthy WFPB adopter means it is your onus to ensure you plan your meals well to obtain a good adequate amount of protein. Besides trying to eat well, I also take Nuzest, a vegan protein powder a few times a week just to be on the safe side that I am meeting my macro nutrient needs. (As an ambassador of the brand, my friends and followers can enjoy a 10% discount for purchase online at nuzest.sg using the code 'mc10').
3. Not supplementing to meet micro nutrient needs
Most of us are not meeting the recommended daily levels for most micronutrients, regardless of the diets we choose to adopt. You could be eating a diet with meat and still be deficient in certain vitamins or minerals. Same goes for a well-planned vegan diet. That is because we cannot be perfect in our daily diets and we do not have a nutritionist and chef on payroll to prep all our daily meals.
Some key essential micronutrients that I am concerned about are B12, D3, iodine, iron, zinc and calcium (don't get me started on milk but I will save it for another post about why dairy is not a good source of calcium). That is the reason why I choose to supplement my WFPB diet with a multi-vitamin and mineral pill on a daily basis. No pills can replace a primarily good diet and supplements should be seen as a secondary aid to achieving optimum results.
4. Not eating a wide variety of whole foods
The key is variety and eating a wide range of whole plant-based food is instrumental to obtaining all the necessary nutrients that our body need. Broccoli and carrot are good for health, but just limiting yourself to a small group of food is not doing your health any favour.
I try my best to eat a wide variety of fresh produce, even though I have my favourite fruits and vegetables that I like to eat frequently. Being adventurous in my choices when out doing grocery shopping also helps to jazz up my home cooking and expand my palate with discovery of new foods that I may like.
5. Not eating enough calories
It is easy to bust the recommended daily calorie intake figure when one is eating processed and junk food (guilty as charged coz I love cookies and pop corn), along with animal products. However, when you are on a true WFPB diet, not consuming enough calories is a real problem. More so if you are an ultra endurance athlete like me, who can easily burn up to 1,000 calories daily on a 2-hour training session.
I used to restrict my carbs intake for fear of putting on weight, which turned out to be a big mistake because carbs is the primary source of my fuel for long training sessions. However, I learnt that not all carbs are created equal and that good carbs are what I should incorporate more in my diet. Some simple changes that I now adopt are to eat more unprocessed carbs such as sweet potatoes and quinoa, and switching to whole wheat versions for pasta and eating them in small quantity.