The Mediterranean Diet as an Intermediate Step Towards a Vegan Diet

Registered dietician Andy De Santis takes a look at the Mediterranean diet from a plant based perspective
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Vegans are among the most passionate groups of
individuals when it comes to the pride and public defense of their beliefs and
lifestyle choice.

And for good reason: opting for a vegan lifestyle is a profoundly meaningful choice with untold benefits.

There also must be some level of acknowledgement
that not all people, despite their beliefs and values, are ready to abandon a conventional diet in
favour of a plant-based ones straight away.

Many of these people may be those closest to you,
and it probably bothers you deeply.

So what can you do?

I highly recommend encouraging & challenging people
who you believe to be “would-be” vegans
to consider adopting a Mediterranean diet pattern as the first step in a
potential transition from the conventional western diet to a fully plant-based
diet.

Is a Mediterranean diet a vegan diet? No. But it is
far more plant-based than the average persons diet has the potential to show someone
just how good (mind, body & soul) plant-based eating can make someone
feel.

So how does a Mediterranean diet compare to a
conventional one?

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There are 3 major differences
in a Mediterranean diet.

1. Meat
alternatives are valued much more highly than meat:
In the Mediterranean dietary pattern, the foods that
are often considered alternatives to meat (legumes, nuts, seeds) are actually
deemed as everyday foods and valued at the same level as other plant based
foods such as whole grains, fruits, and veggies. These “meat alternatives” are
to be consumed much more frequently than meat.

2. Meat is to be consumed much less frequently: In a conventional
diet meat is pretty much an everyday food, but this is not the case at all in
the Mediterranean diet. In fact, fish is the only type of meat the diet recommends
to consume more than once (twice) weekly. Chicken is to be consumed about once a
week and red meat is actually to be limited to about once a month.

3. Eggs and Dairy are to be consumed much less
frequently:
 In a conventional diet eggs and
dairy are pretty much daily staples, but in the Mediterranean diet they are
foods to be consumed on a weekly, rather than daily basis.

Long story short, the Mediterranean diet promotes a
much more plant-based approach to eating without the complete restriction of
animal products.

Is this a satisfactory solution to passionate
vegans out there? No, but my hope is that you are able to appreciate the
potential of the Mediterranean diet as a powerful intermediary between the diet
of conventional western diet and exclusive plant based diets.

I think that the Mediterranean diet offers a very
strong first step for “would-be” vegans out there, and also provides a platform
for those vegans who want to encourage those close to them to try something
different.

The foundations of the Mediterranean diet are built
on strong values, that is to include the majority of your calories from
plant-based whole foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds and
legumes.

For this reason, I do believe the Mediterranean
dietary pattern has some value to would-be vegans, and plant-based eaters out
there who would like to persuade those close to them to eat less meat without
alienating them completely.

My 3 step
plant-based challenge

So talking about the Mediterranean diet as an
intermediary is all well and good, but action will still be required.

That’s where my plant-based challenge comes in.

1. For every litre cow’s milk consumed, swap in a
litre of fortified soy or almond milk. Swap out the Cow’s Milk or Yogurt in
your home with fortified soy or almond milk.

2. For every second egg you consume on a weekly basis,
swap in either ½ of an avocado or 1 tbsp of peanut butter instead.

3. For every meal you consume meat, ensure your
subsequent meal includes a plant-based protein source instead.

It is hard to deny the ethical, environmental and health
implications of eating a vegan diet, but I do believe there is some worth in
acknowledging that there are a body of “would be” plant based eaters out there
that need a little bit of gradual convincing, and today’s article provides strategies
to help with just that.

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