Can you be an intuitive eater AND follow a plant-based diet?

01 May 2020

Although this blog focuses on plant-based diets, the comments on being an intuitive eater and following this type of diet go for any other type of dietary restrictions someone might want or need to put in place. As a plant-based intuitive eater myself (I’m vegetarian, but occasionally eat fish) hopefully this will lend a clear view point on the subject!

What's the definition?

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There isn’t really one! That’s because there are lots of different types of plant-based diet, which means followers BASE their diets on plant-foods but might still include animal products in occasionally. The following are types of plant-based diets in order of least to most plant-based...

* flexitarians (occasionally eat meat)

* pescetarians (no meat but eat fish) 

* lacto-ovo vegetarians (no meat or fish but eat dairy and eggs),

* lacto-vegetarians (no meat or fish but eat dairy)

* ovo-vegetarians (no meat or fish but eat dairy)

* vegans (no animal products)

I think lots of people automatically just think of vegans when the term plant-based pops up, but it can be helpful to broaden your definition of plant-based diets.

Roughly 2-3% of the UK population follow a plant-based diet of some kind and a 2018 survey found that 34% of meat-eaters had reduced their meat intake in the past year, compared with 28% in 2017.


Why do people go plant-based?

There are a whole load of reasons why someone might choose a plant-based diet, the more current reasons being on ethical and moral grounds. Many people feel that the more intensive methods of farming we have today lead to lower standards of animal welfare and feel that they no longer want to take advantage of animals. Environmental reasons are also a topical issue as we know that farming for meat and dairy uses the most land, water and releases the most greenhouse gases of all food farming. 

But there are other reasons such as on religious grounds or to help cope with certain health issues. As well as good old fashioned taste preference, some people just don’t like the taste of fish, meat or dairy foods!


Okay so this isn’t exactly going to be a straightforward answer but for some of us, yes it would be relatively easy to choose a more plant-based diet for moral or ethical reasons say and still eat intuitively.

But for anyone who’s spent some time in diet culture it may not be so simple. This is because (especially today) plant-based diets are touted as being the route to long-life and also a great way to drop a few pounds. Because strict plant-based diets can be restrictive (i.e. whole food groups - animal foods - are missing) if you’re still in the restrict-binge mindset then this can lead to intense feelings of deprivation and then over-eating and negative emotions related to that.

I would really encourage you to question your motives for choosing a plant-based diet and if there’s some deep down belief along the lines of “if I eat a plant-based diet I’ll look the way I’ve always wanted to” then maybe hold off on making restrictions to your diet until you’ve worked on removing diet culture from your life. You can always come back to a plant-based diet in the future!

A good question to ask yourself is - if eating a plant-based diet increased your weight, would you keep it up?

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I’d also definitely someone who wants to follow a plant-based diet but is feeling deprived to loosen up on how strict you are. You can have a more environmentally friendly diet and also eat meat or eggs or dairy occasionally – it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You can also benefit the environment in others way too – for example by walking instead of driving when you can, taking less flights, recycling, turning the heating down, buying second hand clothes etc etc.

The same goes for health, you won’t suddenly be immune from disease if you eat a plant-based diet and including animal products doesn’t guarantee you an early grave. Again – black and white thinking has no place in nutrition!

I’ve been fully plant-based at a couple of points in my life and felt rubbish doing it – deprivation, tiredness and bad skin were my main outcomes so I loosened up my thinking, knowing that I can do the world some good and feel good myself by following a ‘mostly’ plant-based diet.


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If you’re looking to invite more plant-foods into your diet there are lots of different ways I'd recommend trying. I’m an advocate for adding foods into the diet before removing foods. Inviting more diversity into your diet full stop can help you to explore plant-foods. Maybe tackle this by trying out one new plant food a week or one new plant-based recipe every week.

The tried and tested meat-free Monday is also a winner in some households; it’s a low pressure way of focusing more meals around plant-foods. Or making a commitment to swapping half of all meat in recipes for pulses, especially when making curries, stews, soups and chillies. Basing meals on plant-foods can also help to re-frame the more traditional British way of cooking – meat as the star attraction and veggies always as the supporting act. Pasta, rice, bread, cereals, pulses and grains such as quinoa, cous cous, bulgar wheat etc are great staples to build a meal around.


Intuitive eating can be kind of tricky for some of us, so if you're looking to get away from diet culture and want some guidance around how to manage that alongside a particular diet get in touch for a free discovery call to discuss your individual needs further.

Call on 07403896800 or email at hello@nondietnutrition.co.uk

For further information about the consultations I offer click here!

"Embrace compassion without exception" - Dr. Janice Anderson & Kiersten Anderson