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Firstly, what is plant based eating?

Importantly, it’s not strictly a vegetarian diet. Plant based eating is most closely aligned with the Mediterranean diet. It consists of plenty of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and pulses with small amounts of fish, lean meat and dairy. It’s the one diet that actually helps you reach the majority of healthy eating goals – including 5 a day, 2 portions a week of fish (1 oily), 30g fibre, more wholegrains, lower sat fat, sugar and salt. It’s not low fat either; instead the quality of fat is the focus - saturated fats are replaced with healthier unsaturated fats from plant oils, fish and nuts.

Are Plant Oils Healthier?

Many are but not all. Palm and coconut still have a high content of saturated fats but rapeseed, linseed, walnut, sunflower and olive oils have a positive fatty acid profile being naturally higher in mono and poly unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats. However ultimately any oils, plant or animal derived are 99% fat so whether good or bad they are energy dense (providing many calories per gram) so balancing quantity is still important.

Are vegetarians and vegans thinner than meat eaters?

The Adventist Health Study is frequently quoted when comparing meat eating and non meat eating diets. It found the average Body Mass Index (BMI) was lowest amongst vegans rising progressively for lacto-oco vegetarians (vegetarians who include milk and eggs), pesco-vegetarians (vegetarians who include fish) and highest amongst non-vegetarians. However, this data wasn’t quite a true comparison as the vegans and vegetarians in this study had healthier diets overall and healthier lifestyles watching less TV, sleeping more and were more active so a healthier weight cannot be attributed to diet alone.

What about meat?

The role of meat in the diet has continued to be questioned particularly in relation to sustainability, health and certain cancers. As a rich source of high biological value protein (which means it provides all the amino acids your body needs) and nutrients often at low intakes in the UK diet (such as iron, zinc and B vitamins) it’s a valuable contribution to the nutritional quality of our diets however quantity and cut of meat is key. Plant based eating is an effective approach to helping to rebalance the diet to include more plant based nutrient powerhouses such as wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds whilst still including small amounts of lean meat (and fish!).

In reality…

Our customers' approach to healthy eating has gradually shifted over the years – gone are the days of restricting and control, healthy eating is about balance and enjoying more of the good stuff. Plant based eating resonates with this approach focusing on what you can include more of in your diet than what you shouldn’t and nothing is excluded. The well recognised message of everything in moderation rings true for this approach.