Instead of going on a drastic restrictive diet this January, I would encourage you instead to focus on adopting healthy habits that can be maintained long-term. A great way to do this is eating more plants. Now I’m not saying you have to go vegan (but if you’re doing Veganuary please check out my post on that), instead why not simply make some small changes or additions that fulfil that resolution long-term.
As an evidence-based nutritionist, my job is to be objective and present ideas and tips that are scientifically accurate and backed up with evidence. If you’d like to find out more I’ve included a reference list below.
We know that adding more plants to your diet, and therefore increasing fibre content, is associated with numerous health benefits: Dietary fibre helps prevent or relieve constipation, feeds your gut microbiome, and stimulates fermentation production of short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids help stabilise blood glucose levels, provide food for intestinal cells, suppress cholesterol synthesis by the liver, reduce blood levels of cholesterol, increase absorption of minerals, and stimulate production of various immune cells and components . On top of that, dietary fibre is linked to reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease , all types of cancer , infectious diseases and respiratory diseases . It’s also linked to reduced risk of developing diabetes . It’s amazing stuff!
Research also shows that making sure that the overall fat content of your diet is more unsaturated than saturated also has benefits  – and unsaturated fats are usually found in plants (with the exception of coconut).
- Experiment! Buy a vegetable you’ve never tried before every week and try different ways of cooking it to see what you enjoy. Or simply try a brand new recipe every week to keep things interesting.
- Simple swaps. These are easy switches you can make occasionally, most of the time, or all of the time, depending on your preference.
- Swap meat in a stew of curry for beans or tofu. That way you’ll still be getting a great source of protein in your meal with the addition of extra fibre
- Switch your butter for plant-based spreads and margarine. You might not be able to taste the difference!
- If you normally use eggs in baking, you can try aquafaba instead, also known as chickpea water. It’s the liquid you normally drain from a can of chickpeas, and it works amazingly well in baked goods! Plus, you’re reducing waste by using a by-product, so win-win!
- Think addition, not subtraction.
- Simply add a portion of fruit or vegetables to your meal. Whether it’s a handful of blueberries in your porridge or a side of roasted butternut squash with your dinner.
- Snack on fruit or carrot sticks with hummus to get an extra 1 of your 5 a day
- Be prepared when you’re short on time. Processed foods often get a bad rep, but staples such as canned tomatoes, dairy-free pesto, hummus, and read-cooked lentils can be a lifesaver when you need to rush out and only have half an hour to make and eat dinner. Make sure to have these kinds of foods available when you need them.
- If you’re in a rush in the morning why not try making overnight oats for breakfast? Just mix together oats, flaxseed, milk (or plant milks), and flavourings/sweeteners into a jar and store in the fridge overnight.
- Another great way to save time is making double the quantity of stews, curries, or roasted veg. Then you can have leftovers for lunch the next day, or a frozen meal ready in just a few minutes.
Remember you don’t have to go from 0 to 100. Even just having one meat-free day a week could be a great option for you, and far more sustainable in the long-term than going 100% plants 7 days a week.
I’d also recommend not looking at this as a weight-loss tactic. If your motivation is animal rights or environmental then wonderful, focus on that aspect. If health is your goal, then place healthy habits at the forefront; think nutrition not weight. Eating more fibre and more plants in general (but not necessarily only plants) can do great things for your health and risk of chronic diseases completely independent of your weight. In fact, research shows that choosing to focus on health-promoting behaviours rather than focusing on weight loss has more beneficial effects on your overall physical and mental health .
 Wong, J., de Souza, R., Kendall, C., Emam, A. and Jenkins, D. (2006). Colonic Health: Fermentation and Short Chain Fatty Acids. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 40(3), pp.235-243.
 Kim, Y. and Je, Y. (2016). Dietary fibre intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease and all cancers: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Archives of Cardiovascular Diseases, 109(1), pp.39-54.
 Park, Y., Subar, A., Hollenbeck, A. and Schatzkin, A. (2011). Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(12).
 Dietary fibre and incidence of type 2 diabetes in eight European countries: the EPIC-InterAct Study and a meta-analysis of prospective studies. (2015). Diabetologia, 58(7), pp.1394-1408.
 Hooper, L., Martin, N., Abdelhamid, A. and Davey Smith, G. (2015). Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. The Cochrane Library.
 Bacon, L. and Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutrition Journal, 10(9).