Plant Forward Diet: What is it and how to start

Plant Forward Diet

Plant Forward Diet

Have you heard all of the amazing benefits of following a vegetarian or vegan diet, but you enjoy some meat and are afraid to give it up completely?

Or maybe you want to lose weight or improve your heart health but are tired of restrictive diets?

If this sounds like you, you may want to consider a plant forward diet.  Keep reading to find out what this means and how you can benefit from it.

What is a Plant Forward Diet?

According to a 2018 poll, approximately 5% of the US population identifies as a vegetarian.  And about 84% of vegans and vegetarians will not stick to their diet – they will return to eating meat and animal products.

A plant forward diet emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains, while putting less emphasis on meats and animal products.  Sometimes the terms plant-forward and flexitarian may be used interchangeably.  A flexitarian is defined as someone that follows mostly a vegetarian diet, but will occasionally indulge in meat.

Generally when people have an all or nothing mentality, it is not sustainable in the long term.  Following a plant forward eating pattern can provide all the positive health benefits, while still including some animal based products.  Allowing these foods can help promote long term compliance with the meal pattern.  

Health Benefits of a Plant Forward Diet

Following a plant forward diet has so many positive effects on your health.  In general it has been found that reduced intake of animal products and processed foods with an increased intake of plant-based foods reduces your risk of chronic disease.

One reason people may want to start a plant-forward or flexitarian diet is to lose weight.  Research shows this can be a great way to achieve sustainable weight loss.  Generally it is found that people that follow some form of vegetarianism have a lower BMI than non-vegetarians (1).  

Other health benefits of a plant forward diet include reduced blood pressure, reduced risk for cancer and type 2 diabetes, and an overall improvement in cardiovascular health (2). 

What to Focus on When Starting a Plant Forward Diet

When first starting out on a plant forward diet, it is important to keep an open and non-restrictive mindset.  

Focus on the veggies!  When first learning about a new diet plan it is important to make small changes instead of a whole diet overhaul. So, when creating your meals, be sure to include at least half of your plate filled with vegetables.   

Another aspect of a flexitarian and plant forward diet is to reduce the amount of highly processed foods.  It’s less about avoiding meat, and more about eating more whole, plant-based foods.

When planning a meal, people tend to start by choosing a meat and planning the sides around it.  In a plant-forward method, we have the vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains as the center of the plate.  Flexitarians will still choose to include meat at times but it is no longer the focus or priority.

All Foods Still Fit

A recent study showed that 84% of people that were on a vegetarian or vegan diet will not stick with it. It is possible that flexitarian diets will have a higher compliance rate because people do not feel like they are “breaking the rules” if they consume animal products or meat from time to time.

In a flexitarian diet, there are truly no foods that are off limits.  Instead of focusing on what should be removed from the diet, it focuses on what to eat more of– plants!

In conclusion, a plant forward diet can provide many health benefits including weight loss.  It provides some more flexibility than other plant-based eating patterns which may help people stick to it, while still reaping the benefits!

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