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Vegetarian and Vegan

Plant based diets are becoming more and more popular. And the great thing is, they’re a simple way to make your diet healthier and more sustainable.
Plant based diets aren’t completely vegetarian or vegan. They’re simply a way of eating that puts a greater emphasis on foods from plants (such as wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts, seeds and oils) complemented with small amounts of animal based foods (including meats, fish, seafoods, eggs and dairy).

Rebalancing your diet to a more plant based approach can help to boost your fibre, wholegrain and fruit and veg content all in one go. Balanced plant based diets tend to also be lower in saturated fat and higher in ‘good’ fats such as unsaturated fats from fish, nuts, seeds and plant oils.

This might be why plant based diets are associated with lower risks of many health conditions (type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity), however what isn’t clear in the research is whether this is down to the diet alone, or the typically associated healthier lifestyle choices that are often followed by those on plant based diets (such as being more active, less sedentary time, not smoking).

Vegetarian and Vegan diets are an approach to plant based way of eating that remove either all or most animal foods and by-products from the diet. Here's the breakdown of the two approaches.

It’s not a low-fat diet, instead saturated fats are swapped for unsaturated fats from plant oils, nuts and fish

Vegetarian

Like most ways of eating there are many variations of a vegetarian diet, but the most common definition used by the International Vegetarian Union and The Vegetarian Society is a diet based on plant based foods, with or without honey, eggs and dairy products, but void of meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
Introducing one or two vegetarian meals each week is often an easier way to rebalance your diet to a more plant based way of eating – without having to go the full way to vegetarian.

Vegetarian foods or diets aren’t healthy by default – a deep fried vegetable samosa or Margherita pizza can be vegetarian but wouldn’t be considered healthy. However, a balanced and colourful vegetarian diet can help to boost your fibre, slow releasing energy sources, rebalance the ‘good’ fats in your diet and boost your fruit and vegetables each day.

A well-planned vegetarian diet can be healthy and nutritious; providing all the nutrients your bodies need. The key is to choose a variety of plant based foods which replace those nutrients usually provided by animal based foods. Whether you are including or avoiding dairy or eggs read on to find out more about plant based alternatives.

Rapeseed, sunflower, flaxseed (linseed) and olive oils are some of the healthiest plant oils with low saturated fat content

Vegan

Going vegan can be too much for some, but a well-planned vegan diet can be healthy and balanced, providing all the nutrients your body needs. Introducing more vegan meals to your day can be an easier introduction to a plant only way of life.

A vegan diet typically involves the exclusion of all animal based products such as meat, fish, seafood, eggs, honey, dairy and animal based additives such as colours or bees wax. Some variations of a vegan diet can go beyond the food we eat to include avoiding use of leather and other animal derived materials.

Careful planning and preparation can help to ensure a vegan diet is balanced and healthy. Click here for the main plant based alternatives to key nutrients often provided by animal sources.

References

  • Willett, W. Rockstrome, J. (2019) EAT Lancet Commission Summary Report. Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems. Available from: www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT.
  • The British Dietetics Association (2018) One Blue Dot. Eating Patterns for Health and Environmental Sustainability: A Reference Guide for Dietitians. Available from: www.bda.uk.com
  • Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network. The Global Burden of Disease Study (2015) Obesity and Overweight Prevalence 1980-2015. Seattle, United States: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 201