What exactly is plant-based eating?

Confusion abounds about what plant-based eating really means. If you’re opting for this style of eating, perhaps you’re a vegan or a vegetarian. Or just maybe you’re neither and include animal products in your diet.

Since the new food guide recommendations have come out, there has been a lot of discussion about what this term means. Some believe that Health Canada is suddenly now recommending a vegetarian diet or that nutrition recommendations have gone in a completely different direction.

In fact, not that much has changed in terms of what we should be eating.

Plant-based eating means filling your plate with an abundance of plant foods. The half-your-plate recommendation ( half the amount of food on your plate being fruits and vegetables) has been around for quite some time. Another quarter would be filled with whole grains and the last one, a protein-rich option.

Eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and pulses, like lentils and chickpeas, is not a new concept in the nutrition world.

Eating a plant-based diet does not mean you have to banish foods such as meat, dairy products, eggs and fish. One does not preclude the other. But here’s where it’s different than what we were eating decades ago. Instead of a slab of beef being the centrepiece of a meal, plant-based eating would mean that if you’re having beef, it would be a small portion – almost a garnish of sorts. Having some meatless meals also makes sense.

But somehow we’ve gotten the idea that plant-based eating is all about veganism and vegetarianism. If that’s your choice of eating style, then go for it! If you want to include animal products on your plate, then that can also fit in with a plant-based diet.

While food choices are personal, consider making them with good health in mind for both yourself and the planet. But you don’t need to go to extremes to do so.


This photo is an example of plant-based eating. It’s a black bean-based chili with tomatoes, yellow peppers, onions and garlic simmering on my stove. It could be served as is with chopped cilantro on top (mmm…) or with shredded dairy or plant-based cheese along with the cilantro. It could also have been cooked with a small amount of ground meat (I say small when comparing the amount of meat to the quantity of beans and vegetables).

Whatever you choose, the dish would be considered as being plant-based.

But it’s your choice how you go about making your plate plant-based.


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Categories: Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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