Brooks B. Gump is the Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health in the Falk College. Kevin Heffernan is the Dean’s Associate Professor in the School of Education and director of Syracuse University’s Human Performance Lab. In an opinion piece…
Five Strategies for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet
As more consumers turn to a meatless diet due to meat shortages and concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Sudha Raj, teaching professor of nutrition and food studies in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, has suggestions on how to go about it with minimal health impact.
Raj says a well-planned, plant-based diet rich in all of the health-promoting components can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, as well as meet the nutritional needs of all age groups.
She cautions, though, that a potential shortfall of certain critical nutrients that can occur. The more restrictive the plant-based diet is, the higher the concern. For example, an over-reliance on fruits and vegetables, as seen in fruitarian diets, can result in severe nutrient deficiencies. Plant-based vegan diets that avoid all animal products and are not well planned can increase the risk for deficiency of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein and micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
For those considering a change, Raj’s first piece of advice is to transition slowly—like anything else, it is hard to quit cold turkey. In keeping with the adage “slow and steady wins the race,” transition slowly. There are several credible media and Internet resources available.
Raj offers five simple strategies for making the transition:
- Make breakfast completely plant-based–it is often the easiest meal to change.
- Plan one or two plant-based meals during the week; go meatless at lunch or dinnertime.
- Make small changes to favorite recipes by substituting plant-based ingredients in recipes that contain meat, such as tofu or meat substitutes.
- Experiment with egg-based dishes. If you wish to avoid eggs, find substitutes.
- Explore plant sources of calcium, such as greens including kale and bok choy.