You may have heard about plant-based eating or noticed the variety of meat substitutes hitting the shelves at
your local supermarket. Your first thought might be "rabbit food", but there is a lot more to plant-based eating then lettuce and carrots.
What is a plant-based diet?
Plant-based eating is about featuring more plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes)
and fewer animal foods in your diet.
It also involves a focus on the whole, unrefined (or minimally refined) ingredients like fruits and vegetables
or minimally processed like cooked brown rice, tinned vegetables (without added salt/sugar), roasted nuts, pre-cut
vegetables. It also means avoiding foods that are heavily processed like chips, crackers, deli meats, some breakfast
cereals, packaged sausage rolls, cakes and biscuits (this list could go on for days).
Some animal-derived foods can be included, but; they are not the stars of this way of eating. You can choose to eat
small amounts of lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy (also known as semi-vegetarian, flexitarian or
Why is it beneficial?
There is building evidence that plant foods – especially wholegrain cereals, legumes, nuts, fruits and
vegetables can be protective for our health.
- Emphasis on mostly whole plant-based foods helps to ensure we consume
more nutrient-rich meals.
- These less processed plant foods are full of fibre, high in vitamins and minerals, and low in salt and saturated
fat. This makes them great for filling our bellies, helping to satisfy hunger without an abundance of energy,
making managing our weight easier.
- Diets that are higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal foods have been associated with
a lower risk of cardiovascular disease1.
- Adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables is also linked with a decreased risk of Type 2
diabetes and some cancers.
- There is also building evidence that plant-based eating can be beneficial
environmentally as well2.
Eating plants is trending
There is a growing global interest in embracing a more plant-based way of eating. A recent study identified that the most searched diet information was for plant-based diets
(veganism and vegetarianism)3. Just a quick look on the supermarket shelves will confirm this trend is being
supported by the increasing variety of plant-based meat alternatives and products. And if you're looking for a new
cookbook, it is likely you'll come across several versions dedicated to vegetarian or vegan cooking (making use of
This is an encouraging trend as previous reports have shown that most Australians do not eat enough plant-based
foods, especially fruit and vegetables. In FY17/18, only 5.4% of Australian adults were meeting the recommended 5
and 2 (5 servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day)4.
Tips for eating a more plant-based diet
You may be thinking just adding some more vegetables to your meals will take you to a plant-based diet, and while
adding more vegetables is always a good move, it may not be enough to transform your diet to a truly beneficial
plant-based diet. It may require a more substantial shift to the overall balance of your diet.
While that might sound daunting adopting this way of eating can be done with some simple changes and/or additions;
here are some tips for achieving a more plant-based diet:
- Try some meat-free meals each week – include alternatives such as eggs, beans and tofu
- Replace a proportion of the meat in a recipe with legumes - for example, half the beef mince in a bolognese and
add the equivalent in lentils – or replace the meat entirely
- Plan your meals around plants and make them the star of every meal, like stuffed capsicum, whole roasted
cauliflower or eggplant parmigiana
- Adopt a variety of cooking methods for your vegetables, like roasted, stir-fried or grilled
- Make plant-based foods more exciting by adding herbs and spices to your recipes
- Choose wholegrain cereals more often than white varieties - such as wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice, oats. And introduce some maybe unfamiliar grains like farro, barley, wholemeal couscous, bulgar, buckwheat
A good way to make sure you're getting enough key nutrients in your meals is to eat a variety of colours of fresh vegetables and fruits. Be adventurous and try less familiar produce - go to a farmer's market and ask the growers what is in season and maybe how to cook it.
Remember, it is not just one type of food that will lead to good health, but rather a combination of nutritious foods
eaten over months and years. Aiming for a combination of mostly whole foods predominately coming from plants can
help create a protective dietary pattern.
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As an HBF health member, you get access to a range of support and health programs to get you back
This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation
or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider
whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.
1 Translational Psychiatry - The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review (2019)?
2 The Lancet Planetary Health - Health and nutritional aspects of sustainable diet strategies (2018)
3 Science Direct - Global and local diet popularity rankings (2020)
4 ABS - Dietary behaviour (2018)