8 Mistakes to Avoid on a Plant-Based Diet

February 19, 2019

There are a lot of benefits of plant-based eating including the ability to maintain a healthier weight, a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, and improved heart health.  You can gain these benefits from adding more plants (fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts) into your diet.  If you are like most Utahns, eating plant-based also means cutting out (at least mostly) animal products like meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. Any time you cut out entire food groups, it’s important to be smart when planning your meals and snacks. Be a savvy plant-based eater and skip over these common pitfalls. 

1. Forgetting about protein.

Plant-based eating means lots of fruits and vegetables (woo!), but to enjoy a well-balanced diet, it’s important to seek out a protein source for every meal and snack. Proteins are tasty and they help add satisfaction and heft.  Plant-based protein sources include legumes like lentils, black beans, and garbanzo beans, nuts, nut butter, seeds, soymilk, pea milk, tofu and some grains like wheat, quinoa, and oats. 

2. Getting stuck in a rut.

This is a big one.  Especially if you are focusing on only eating plant-based proteins, be sure to eat a variety of different types to get all the nutrients you need.  For example, if you eat almonds for your morning snack one week, try pecans the following week.  If you have a spinach salad for lunch, choose a different green for dinner.  Keeping your food choices varied will help you cover all your nutrition bases.

3. Relying on vegan “meat” and “cheese.”

Choosing foods marketed as “vegan” may not be doing you any favors.  Vegan food can be very processed and high in sodium, especially those that try to replicate meat.  “Chik’n” and “cheez” can help you enjoy foods you miss, but they shouldn’t be a regular staple of your plant-based diet.  Limit convenience foods and fill your cart with whole, minimally processed foods. Enjoy delicious, simple recipes like this beautiful forbidden rice salad or this hearty chickpea stew.   Ask your Harmons dietitian if you need more ideas.

4. Skipping legumes. Or nuts. Or vegetables.

If you are regularly relying on plants to provide you with enough nutrients, you really need to embrace them all.  If you won’t eat any beans or can’t eat nuts, you should probably include some fish and/or dairy in your diet to make sure you’re getting what you need.

5. Picking “any ol’ nut milk.”

Non-dairy milks are a great opportunity to fill in some nutrition gaps but some are not mukch more than watery and offer little nutrition.  Make sure the one you pick includes vitamins D and B12, calcium, and protein.  To do this, check the label and choose one fortified with calcium and vitamin D.  Ssoy milk and pea-protein-based milks will be the best source of protein.  Even though almonds have protein, often almond milk does not.

6. Being careless with omega-3 sources.

Omega 3 fatty acids found in plants are not as easily used by your body, so it’s important to take them seriously.  Eat at least one serving (about a tablespoon) of chia seeds, ground flax seeds or oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, or canola oil every day.  If this is difficult, consider an algae based supplement.

7. Choosing sea salt all the time.

Iodine is a necessary nutrient and is not found in plants in high amounts.  Easy fix: cook with iodized salt sometimes. You can also try seaweed snacks, though the iodine content of them varies.

8. Forgetting about B12.

If you consume any animal products at all, you can easily fall into this pitfall. If you are vegan, know that B12 is found only in animal products. To get enough B12 be sure to look at the label and choose fortified versions of non-dairy milks, meat substitutes, breakfast cereal, and nutritional yeast.

Check out our plant-based collections on eshop for more ideas!