The current movement towards more plant-based diets has been fuelled both by health, animal welfare & environmental concerns

How to eat plant-based

A plant-based diet is the diet for people who are looking to eat more healthily.

A plant-based diet is based on foods from plants with few or no ingredients from animals. It includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, pulses, and wholegrains. Meat and dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurt) are eaten less often or in smaller amounts or replaced with plant-based alternatives. Often, highly processed foods are minimised, which can help with weight loss. However, weight loss isn’t the main goal of the diet.

There are no strict diet rules to follow as plant-based eating principles can be adapted to meet an individual’s nutritional needs and food preferences. The plant-based diet is wide ranging, from vegan (eat no animal products at all), lacto-vegetarian (vegetarians who eat dairy), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs), pescatarian (vegetarians who eat fish), and flexitarian (who eat some meat) to diets in-line with our current healthy eating guidelines. People don’t tend to equate going plant-based with such a flexible approach or with so many diverse protein sources.

Research view of plant-based

A plant-based diet is considered a healthy choice because it’s backed up by the UK government’s healthy eating model, the Eatwell Guide, in which only roughly two-thirds of the foods illustrated are derived from plants.

Reassuringly, this approach is nutritionally balanced and can be followed at any age or life stage. Health-wise, plant-based eating is known to help reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers and can help manage a healthy weight. There's also growing scientific evidence to back its health and environmental credentials.

Are supplements necessary?

Plant-based diets are naturally rich in fibre but there can be potential nutrient shortfalls. It’s important to plan the diet carefully and include a wide variety of foods. There are a few nutrients to pay particular attention to including vitamin D, vitamin B12 (as it occurs naturally only in animal products), iron and zinc (as they’re better absorbed from meat), calcium (because it’s rich in dairy foods), iodine and omega 3 fats because they’re largely obtained from oil-rich fish. A supplement can be considered to prevent any potential inadequacy.