8 Myths about plant-based diets with Millie Padula

Home » 8 Myths about plant-based diets with Millie Padula
Credit: Millie Padula / Instagram: @dieticianedition

Nutritionist and Dietitian Millie Padula, is the ambassador for Inside Out Nutritious Goods. Having grown up in a family of foodies and restauranteurs, Dietetics was a natural progression for her. She’s carved her own niche branching out into nutrition marketing working with leading food brands creating evidence-based online content, hosting workshops and bringing clarity to the sometimes mirky waters of healthy eating from self declared expert gurus. She’s the real deal.

“Healthy eating doesn’t just refer to the foods you put into your body; healthy also ecompasses your relationship with food, which is your purpose for eating and how you feel when you put different foods into your body.” explains Padula. “In today’s society, we are all so obsessed with the idea that we need to be removing foods or nutrients from our diet (sugar, gluten, dairy, carbs – none of which you need to remove by the way), when in actual fact – we should be more concerned with what we can add into our diet to make it more nutritious. One of my biggest tips is to focus more on what you can add to your diet (plants, whole-foods etc) rather than becoming fixated on what needs to be taken out. This mindset is life-changing, I promise!”

There’s no end to the sweeping and ever increasingly popular trends in animal free commodities. Plant based material is being used as a more cost efficient and eco-friendly alternative for jet fuels. Studies are also in play to reconstitute plant based products for use in food packaging to improve the shelf life of fresh produce. Not to mention many peer reviewed papers on the positive health benefits including cardiovascular health, dental inflammation, and even the cellular inhibition of diseases like HIV for example, the move to a plant based world is being embraced by many in the community and across industries.

Millie Padula debunks some common myths around plant-based eating:

1. Plant-based eating is the same as vegan or vegetarianism

When referring to a plant-based diet, the words vegan and vegetarian can often be intertwined and used conversely given the definition is slightly vague and contestable. Although plant-based, vegan and vegetarian diets all share similar traits they are essentially different. Vegan diets completely eliminate animal products, whilst vegetarian diets are plant-centric with an exception for animal products such as milk, eggs and cheese. However,  plant-based eating patterns are formed with plants being the foundation and may incorporate modest amounts of animal products.

As a dietitian, I am a strong supporter of a plant-based kind of eating! We have been exposed to a variety of extensively researched and beneficial diets of which are shaped around plant foods, particularly The Mediterranean Diet. It is important that we prioritise including more plant foods into our diets, however animal products can still be incorporated to influence a healthy lifestyle.  

2. It is difficult to meet your protein requirements on a plant-based diet

It is a frequent misunderstanding that meeting your protein requirements on a plant-based diet is difficult. Regardless of if you have eliminated all animal products or not, it can be very easy to fulfil your protein intake requirements with some careful thought.

The idea that plant proteins are lesser than animal proteins as they don’t comprise all nine vital amino acids is totally inaccurate and deceptive. Nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes, wholegrains and comparable superfoods such as Inside-Out’s Milkish range are all part of the plant family and are all sources of protein.  

By integrating a range of plant proteins into your diet over the duration of each day, your body will have satisfactorily consumed more protein than your body needs. Majority of the time, food alone is enough to meet your protein requirements, however if these requirements are hard to meet protein powders are an option too. 

3. Plant-based automatically means nutritious

Plant foods including fruits,vegetables, lentils, nuts and many more, are extremely high in nutritional value. Many plant foods are rich in fibre which support our digestive health, prebiotics to power our healthy gut bugs and a copious amount of vitamins and minerals that assist in all of our body’s functions. Plant foods are also a great source of energy given they contain either a mix of our three macronutrients or isolation of a single macronutrient.

On the other hand, numerous foods that are low in nutritional content also can be classed as plant-based. These may involve hot chips, lollies, and heavily processed ‘fake meats’ that are rich in salt, saturated fat, and/or sugar.

Additionally, In a cake, doughnut, baked good, chocolate product, ice cream, or other confectionery item, replacing an animal-based component for a plant-based component doesn’t necessarily make it healthy. It is important to focus on dietary inclusion rather than exclusion and to be careful not to demonise other foods because there is room for all foods in our diet. It essentially is to educate you on the aptitude of clever marketing.

4. Plants aren’t filling or satisfying enough

Plant foods with a high nutritional value provide nutrients that have been scientifically shown to satisfy you. Plant-based diets which are well balanced and include a range of foods and minerals are regarded to be more satisfying than typical animal-based diets.This is due to the fact that plant foods are high in dietary fibre, slow-release carbohydrates, and either plant protein or healthy fats. 

Fibre delays your gastric emptying meaning that we feel more full for a longer period, slow-burning carbohydrates provide glucose to the blood-stream at a slow and consistent pace for constant energy and appetite, plant proteins and healthy fats are absorbed at quite a slower pace, this also enhances fullness.

My recommendation is to aim to incorporate a source of slow-release carbohydrates, plant-protein, healthy fats, and fibre in as many main meals as possible.

Don’t stress if you don’t get it exactly right all the time as no one does, but it is also vital to think about the different nutrients that form your meals and snacks to make them more filling and enjoyable.

5. Plant-based diets are too restrictive

As vegan diets do not include animal products, dietary options may be limited, but not to the point of feeling restrictive and unhealthy. Since our food system is constantly-changing and adaptive to the many eating habits developing in society, plant-based eaters have more alternatives now than ever before. 

As you may be aware, such a large portion of foods that constitute (or should constitute) our diets are made from plants (fruits, vegetables, nutes, seeds, wholegrains, lentils and legumes). For example, if dairy is not a part of your diet, choosing a plant-based milk such as Inside Out’s Almond and Oat Milks which is enhanced with calcium, will provide you some of the macro and micro nutrients which dairy-based milks would provide you with.

6. Plant-based diets are unsustainable

A well-planned plant-based diet that includes a range of great tasting is sustainable. Any diet that limits calories or comfort foods, plant-based or not, is unsustainable.

Depriving yourself from your favourite foods can often leave you feeling sad, hungry and disappointed. Plant-based diets however enable you to consume such a variety of food groups and foods which contribute to a more pleasurable diet. In order to make a diet sustainable -you have to enjoy it!

7. Plant-based foods are too expensive

Plant-based diets can be costly if you include pre-packaged meals, vegan chocolate, cashew-based ice-creams, dairy-free cheese and other similar products into your diet. Opposingly, reducing expenses can be simple if your diet consists primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, tinned lentils and legumes, nuts and seeds, long-life milk alternatives and wholegrains such as rolled oats, rice and pasta. By purchasing grains, cereals, nuts/seeds in bulk money can be saved and remember  that ‘health-halo’ foods are often not what they promise to be.

My advice is to keep it simple!

8. You can’t get enough Iron & B12 on a plant-based diet.

Considering the prevalence of iron and B12 in animal products, some people think eating a plant-based diet (either fully or primarily) makes it hard to get enough of these critical elements. Numerous plant-based foods are high in iron, and including them in your diet on a daily basis will help you meet your iron requirements. Some examples of these foods are lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu and fortified cereals and products.

However, B12 can be slightly harder to obtain. B12 is contained within Inside Out’s Milkish Range and other fortified products. Only one glass of their oat or almond milk will give you 50% of your required B12!

If you speculate that you may have an iron or B12 deficiency, please seek professional guidance from a doctor/dietitian to have your bloods monitored and a suitable supplement regime prescribed if needed. 

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