Navigating the Snack Aisle: Choosing Plant-Based Food Options
Written by Registered Dietitian, Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RDN
Lots of people are interested in following a healthy diet but don’t know which is best for them. Thankfully, a whole-foods, plant-based diet may be the right solution. A plant-based diet consists of mainly whole foods that are minimally processed. In fact, this type of eating pattern is particularly full of nutrient dense foods, coming from an array of real food sources, like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. It contains minimally processed foods, removes refined foods and processed oils, and contains a chock full of nutrients and antioxidant-rich foods. This way of eating is not only beneficial for the environment due to the increase of intake of plant-based foods, but it’s also considered a heart-healthy diet thanks to the abundance of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, antioxidants, and flavonoids coming from the whole foods. The nutritional benefits of plants are seemingly endless!
Are Plant-Based Diets and Vegan Diets the Same?
A plant-based diet and a vegan diet are quite different. That’s because you can eat animal products in a whole food, plant-based diet while a vegan diet forbids them. While the majority of focus in a plant-based diet is to eat more whole foods, it does allow flexibility in consuming foods like eggs, cheese, milk, butter, fish, poultry, and beef. A vegan friendly diet does not allow for those types of foods.
Can You Only Eat Vegetables on a Plant-Based Diet?
One of the biggest misconceptions about a plant-based diet is that it’s an all-or-nothing approach. Most people are intimidated by the concept because they feel it isn’t sustainable. In fact, the easiest way to start a plant-based diet is to adopt it for one or two days a week and monitor how you feel. With more whole grain foods, fruit and vegetables consumption and plant-based snacks, you can assess for yourself and see if this approach works for you.
Also, people believe that a plant-based diet is mainly a vegetable-based diet and that isn’t necessarily true for all. You do tend to consume lots of vegetables in a whole foods, plant-based diet but food choices also include whole grains, lentils, beans, fruit, nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc. Rest assured, following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself from occasionally eating beef, poultry, eggs, and dairy. You can provide your body with a balanced diet, mostly from plants and a little from animal products as part of a healthy lifestyle.
What Are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant based diet is a healthy and fantastic way to provide your body with heart-healthy vitamins, like vitamin E and unsaturated fat, immune protecting vitamin C, and regulating and filling fiber. The benefits of a plant-based diet can be seen across the board when it comes to metabolic health as it’s been linked to lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, staving off diseases and obesity, and providing protective properties to our bodies. Because you are getting dietary fiber sources from a wide arrangement of foods, like beans, lentils, vegetables and fruit, not only will you be more regular but a plant-based diet is also associated with weight loss. These natural fiber sources take longer to digest, which may lead to less energy consumption throughout the day.
Plant-based diets can be extremely healthy, especially when you arm yourself with core ingredients that not only benefit your health but keep you full and satisfied too. A plant-based diet can look different for everyone but it’s critical to find protein in plant-based foods like beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, veggies, whole grains, and oats because you are limiting animal-sources of protein, like eggs, dairy, butter, poultry, and fish. With enough protein coming from sources like green peas, green leafy vegetables, quinoa, black beans, soybeans, tofu, you could support your body with plenty of protein.
How to Get Started with a Plant-Based Diet
You want to be able to see real ingredients in a plant-based diet, eat them somewhat directly from the source. Stocking up on ingredients you’ll enjoy will help you along this health journey. Consider keeping a variety of seeds, spices, and seasoning to help jazz up grains like oats or quinoa, colorful mixtures of fruits and vegetables, as well as wholesome olive oil and vinegar mixtures to create sauces and marinades.
Sometimes people only think of breakfast, lunch, and dinner when they move to a new diet or lifestyle and don’t account for snacks or last minute nibbles. It’s important to feel supported in that category of snacking too, especially when you are looking to eat a certain way for the entire day. Keep plenty of snacks around the house so you feel prepared for a travel day, an afternoon snack, or just a quick bite! Plant-based snacks could be challenging to find, especially if you are looking for unprocessed, whole food based bars with real ingredients that actually taste good!
When you are looking for healthy and reliable plant-based snacks, it’s great for the base to contain whole grains, like oats, quinoa or rice or be nut-based like almond, peanut or cashews. This will ensure you are getting the most nutrition bang for your buck. Thankfully, Kate’s Real Food snack bars contain these healthy, whole foods ingredients in their bars. You’d be getting B vitamins coming from the oats that help keep metabolism going strong and vitamin E coming from almonds that have protective effects against disease and illness. Just be sure the bar contains real ingredients as you want to soak in as many nutrients as possible in your snacks.
Kate’s Real Food satisfies all of the quotas in a plant-based lifestyle because they only contain real ingredients, with real flavors, and with real nutrition. Plus, you can sample so many adoring flavors, like Lemon Coconut or Dark Chocolate & Cherry Almond, that you can keep in your hiking backpack, your car, or even at your desk at work. You never know when hunger will strike! Be sure to also stock up on nuts like pistachios, walnuts, almonds, dried fruits like figs and apricots, and roasted seeds like pumpkin and sunflower so you can either munch on them as a snack or add them to your salads, smoothies, or morning parfaits.
A plant based diet is a diet consisting of more plants - plain and simple! It doesn’t have to be intimidating or difficult to start. It can look different for everyone but always focus on the basics - think whole foods! Whether it’s whole grains like oats, legumes, beans, nuts, dried or fresh fruits and veggies, you can soak up vitamins and minerals from these nutrient dense sources. In addition to plants, it’s key to give your kitchen a makeover with unprocessed foods, natural food sources, real ingredients and protein-rich plant forward snacks, like nuts, seeds, dried fruit and nutrient dense bars like Kate’s Real Food. That way, you know you can feel supported in times of need when a craving hits!