New Plant-Based Eating Insights on How Much, What, and How


By Dr. Robert Curtis

(Last updated: 11/17/18)


There has been a long time focus of attention on how much one eats and drinks – the “calories in, calories out” notion – and though important, newer information has been coming to light expanding on this view with other factors.

What you eat and drink, along with how you're eating and drinking, are demonstrating an impact as well.

Relating to a whole-food, plant-based diet there are new insights on all of these – the how much, the what, and the how.

To the details...


How much you eat and drink

Vegan cafe sign.  Image by Tim Mossholder.


Firstly, concerning wanting to lose weight (or maintain weight)...

Reducing your caloric intake can play a role in a plan to lose weight, or to keep from gaining, however there are other factors in play regarding losing weight over the short and long term and also in supplying you with sufficient energy.  

Additionally, caloric restriction can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

With a whole-food, plant-based diet, a number of foods tend to be greater in volume relative to the calorie load each food contains and thus fill you up sooner than you could over consume calories.  A concept known as caloric density.

This appeared to be in play in a 2017 study out of New Zealand, known as the Broad study, that showed that a group put on a whole-food, plant-based diet was able to eat all they wanted and still lose weight. [1] 

In the instance where you might lose more than you prefer, I have found usually simply upping the more starchy vegetables is often sufficient, followed by adding more nuts and seeds if necessary.

This was my experience when I first went plant-based, as eventually I began losing too much weight, but that was turned around and stabilized by upping my carbohydrate intake (I got the calories I was missing) – in short, I just added things like more potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain breads, corn and rice.

And I did not feel like I had to force it – it was all easy and comfortably filling – and I did not noticeably gain body fat.

I credit Dr. John McDougall's The Starch Solution as having been my key guide on this – though his emphasis pertains to helping you to lose weight, as that is the need for most, it's ultimately about finding your optimal weight.

All in all, quite a tasty and satisfying remedy : )

Secondly, concerning wanting to gain weight...

Consuming much greater amounts of calories is key, and may well cover your nutrient needs in the process, though may leave you fatter, too – unless your added calories are directed towards muscle building activities such as strength training for example.

Accordingly, the weight gain can be in the form of muscle – preferred, of course.


Regarding the What...

Various plant-based foods.  Image by  Stokpic.

Maybe you noted that the “what you eat” in the Broad study just mentioned were whole-foods and plant-based, not processed food items that are often lower in volume and higher in calories.

Ultimately your body is seeking enough calories for energy, and nutrients, for overall function and health, but beyond a certain amount fat begins to be stored and often is left unutilized (unless compensated for as noted above).  Something many of us can attest to : )

Fat storage was helpful in the days of periodic famine but in industrialized culture is pretty much no longer necessary.

Overall, with caloric density in play with a whole-food, plant-based diet, you tend to get enough food but not too much.

So, a good daily aim for optimal nutrition, and caloric balance would include:

  • Fruits and vegetables in a wide variety (including more starchy ones, like sweet potatoes and corn) - with meals and at snack-time.  This, to provide needed fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, other phytonutrients, and that volume factor we just talked about is primarily found with these types of foods.  And the more starchy ones serving greatly to assure you get enough of what you need for energy and weight maintenance (or gain if desired) - calories.  Whole grains apply in that sense, too.
  • Enough protein.  Wherein the essential amino acids are covered.  Good plant sources include beans, nuts, and seeds, with beans in particular really covering the amino acid bases well.  This also provides a metabolism boost akin to protein.
  • Healthy fats.  Some fatty acids are termed “essential” in that they're needed in the assembly of hormones and neural tissue, like the brain, along with working as soon as they arrive in your intestinal system in the roll of helping you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins – from greens in your salad for example.  Olives, avocados, nuts and seeds work well here.

And for the How...

How to eat and drink plant-based foods.  Image by Flickr.

It's additionally important to be mindful of how you're eating and drinking.

Studies have begun to show this is more significant than what had been believed.

Consider...

Are you consuming your meals quickly with perhaps little chewing?

And maybe hurriedly gulping down an accompanying drink?

Accordingly...

Let’s take a look at “mindful eating”.

The practice of mindful eating entails concentrating on what you're doing and not rushing.

More specifically, it involves taking small bites, with thorough chewing, savoring each bite, and doing so at a comfortable pace (slow) as you go.

Coupled with having an awareness and appreciation of the smell, the taste, and the texture of the food.

And eating slowly has been shown to prevent weight gain as demonstrated in a study out of Japan earlier this year. [2]

Further, when your food is well chewed your digestive system has an easier time processing it and important nutrients are more readily available for absorption.

And in regard to liquidized food...

A nice tall, cool smoothie offers a great and easy opportunity to get a good supply of fruits and vegetables (especially leafy greens).  Though be mindful of their calories as some approach meal size as opposed to a snack.

And they're best consumed slowly.

When it comes to liquid foods, like smoothies, consuming them too fast can lead to blood sugar spikes and subsequent drops that can leave you drained and over time are not good for blood sugar regulation, but there’s an easy and tasty fix that blunts this problem – adding berries.

In a 2012 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, it was noted that combining berries could erase the spiking and dropping of insulin – in this study, by the addition of blackcurrants or lingonberries. [3] 

A similar effect was noted, too, in a 2010 study, that appeared in the British Medical Journal, using blueberries. [4]

So the message on smoothies – go slow, and add berries for extra insurance on blood sugar control.

Want it to be more filling?  Just add something like ground-up chia or flax seeds.

Summary

It's good to consider the amount, the what, and the how, of your food and drink consumption.



Related Recipe

Blueberry Green Smoothie

Feel free to print out the recipe by clicking on the More Options... tab – on the recipe below – (then choose the Print option).  The More Options... tab is a bit below the picture and to the right of the Add To My Cookbook button.

Also, if you want to save this recipe for yourself online, click here to join me and sign up for a free account on Meal Garden (the home of my online resources) where you'll get to not only save recipes, but edit them, and even do your own meal planning - all for free!

As part of your account I'll be your Certified Meal Garden Professional host – where you'll be in the loop to get informed about, and ready access to, all of my online resources.

But no pressure or obligation, ever – more in-depth tools, items or offers are there just in case you want to go deeper and or in a different direction : )

So, leave your card in your pocket : )

Quick side-note...

If you're looking to try out transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet, then for starters please check out my free, ease-into-it, Starter Plant-Based Meal Plan by clicking here.

It includes recipes (meals and snacks - with photos), nutritional information, preparation instructions, a shopping list, and a schedule.

You can view it in full, download it, or even print it - and if you want to edit it then just sign up for a free account by clicking Start Using This Meal Plan at the bottom of the plan's page.

By the way, if you do want to print it, note in full it's fifty-four pages but you're given options to reduce the page count by eliminating sections or not printing pictures for example. 

It does look pretty sharp and more enticing with full colored pictures though : )

Oh yeah, and as I just noted above, if you do sign up, I'll become your Certified Meal Garden Professional host – but again; no pressure, no obligation, no credit card – just sharing of my other resources that you can pursue if and when you want : )

Thanks : ), now back to the recipe...




Article References:

1.  The BROAD study: A randomized controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischemic heart disease or diabetes; N Wright, L Wilson, M Smith, B Duncan & P McHugh.  Nutrition & Diabetes (2017) 7, e256 (20 March 2017) doi:10.1038/nutd.2017.3

2.  BMJ Open. 2018 Feb 12;8(1):e019589. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019589.
Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data.  Hurst Y1, Fukuda H1.

3.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):527-33. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.042184. Epub 2012 Aug 1.
Postprandial glucose, insulin, and free fatty acid responses to sucrose consumed with blackcurrants and lingonberries in healthy women.  Törrönen R1, Kolehmainen M, Sarkkinen E, Mykkänen H, Niskanen L.

4.  J Nutr. 2010 Oct;140(10):1764-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.125336. Epub 2010 Aug 19.
Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women.  Stull AJ1, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT.



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