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Live Well: Plant-Forward Eating Styles

April 12, 2024


Plant-forward eating styles and plant-based diets focus more on foods that come from plants and less on foods of animal origin. In general, plant-forward meal patterns typically include larger amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes (beans).

Plant-forward eating “emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them.” Unlike vegan diets, which exclude all animal foods, plant-forward diets often include small portions of meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy.

A number of health benefits have been tied to eating more plants. For one, plants contain a wide variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients that support healthy immune function and protect against illness. In addition, research suggests that plant-forward eating styles may promote weight loss and help maintain those losses. Eating less meat has been linked to lower risks of developing conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Examples of plant-forward diets include:

  • Lacto-Vegetarian: includes milk
  • Ovo-Vegetarian: includes eggs
  • Pesco-Vegetarian: includes fish
  • Pollo-Vegetarian: includes chicken
  • Vegetarian: a generic term that usually excludes some or
  • all animal-based foods
  • Flexitarian: includes some meat, but in fewer quantities

Shifting to a plant-forward eating style requires a shift in mindset. An easy place to start is to relabel meat as a side dish rather than the main course. Try limiting animal-based foods to just 25% of your plate, or planning a meatless meal one or more days each week.

It is important to remember that when you restrict certain foods or food groups, it may be more challenging to meet your nutritional needs. As you make small adjustments to become more plant forward, be sure to include a variety of foods that contain essential vitamins, minerals, and protein.

Keeping a food journal or meeting with a registered dietitian can help you identify and fill nutrient gaps.