Plant-Based Diet Benefits for You and Your FamilyMay 02, 2022
A Way of Eating That Benefits All
Did you know? Adopting a whole food, plant-based eating pattern can benefit not only you, but ALL in your family too. Read on to find out why!
A whole food, plant-based diet is healthful, nutritious and appropriate for all ages and every stage of the life cycle. These include infants, children, adolescents, athletes, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and older adults. With appropriate planning, plant-based diets can bring optimal health and wellness to each age group and life stage. There are a myriad of health benefits to those who adopt a plant-based eating pattern, such as improved cholesterol levels, healthier weights, improved heart conditions, lowered blood pressure and better glucose control for those with diabetes.*
The Position Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Vegetarian Diets provides a good overall summary of the advantages of this eating approach:*
"Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to the reduction of chronic disease."
Children Benefit Too
What about children? In addition to the health benefits listed above, are there specific advantages to such an eating approach for children? According to the same Position Paper, there are many additional benefits to being on a balanced vegetarian diet early in life in childhood and adolescence. These include the following:
- The establishment of healthful lifelong habits
- Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Less consumption of sweets and salty snacks
- Lower intakes of total and saturated fat
- Lower risk than non-vegetarian peers for overweight and obesity
- More probability of maintaining Body Mass Index (BMI) values in the normal range as adults, leading to less risk for future chronic disease
In all cases, well-planned vegan or whole food, plant-based diets are important to optimize one’s nutrition in this way of eating. This can be especially important for children who have certain needs that are different from adults. A plant-based Registered Dietitian knowledgeable in plant-based nutrition can be helpful in this area.
What if My Family Is Not on Board?
Many have a desire for change but feel that they need to wait till their whole family is supportive of plant-based eating before beginning a plant-based diet. But you can actually begin this new way of eating even before the rest of your family embraces and adopts the same lifestyle change. In fact, I recommend you get started first!
Here’s why. If you’re the one making most of the meals at home, you already have an especially powerful role as an influencer and changemaker in the family. Just by bringing more plant-based ingredients into the home (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes), providing exposure and opportunities to try out the dishes you make, and introducing new flavors and textures, you will already begin to shift and change your loved one’s perceptions around plant-based eating. They will gradually be influenced by your actions and views, and not to mention also the positive changes they see in you. Remember, this is a journey not just for you, but also for your loved ones, though the pace and progress for your family will likely be slower. So you might as well start them on their journey around the same time as you start yours!
I have worked with many clients who have reported such positive changes in their family members by making the change FIRST, and often this can translate to improved blood work results for their spouses too. This can be especially important if you have a spouse who already has health challenges such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or a previous stroke or heart attack. As shared above, helping them integrate more plant-nourishing foods into their meals will only benefit them and their health.
So the most important decision you must make today is whether you want to get started plant-based eating, and begin reaping the potentially powerful health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet!
Melina, V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980. Link to article. Accessed March 20, 2022.
Austin G, Ferguson JJA, Garg ML. Effects of Plant-Based Diets on Weight Status in Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 16;13(11):4099. Accessed March 20, 2022.
Kahleova H, Levin S, Barnard N. Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 9;9(8):848. Link to Article)
Before You Go, Grab this FREE Resource
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