Michele Poff

Just Plants, Please

The plant-based lifestyle continues to gain converts as more and more people open to the immense health benefits of this way of eating. There are tons of excellent reasons to go plant-based, but that’s a different conversation. Today, let’s talk about making the transition to plant-based eating.

First, a note on the verbiage. Plant-based means eating only plants. Whole-foods-plant-based means eating only unprocessed plants (e.g., no oil, white flour, white rice). Vegan is more of a lifestyle, and the ethics of animal products become central. Vegans stay away from leather, personal products tested on animals, and everything else possible that harms animals in any way. Both vegan and whole-foods-plant-based are plant-based diets.

A lot of people think that going plant-based is easy—you just eliminate the animal products! That’s true. And it’s also an oversimplification.

A lot of other people think that vegans LOVE vegetables and eat pretty much only vegetables. This is patently untrue. In fact, plenty of vegans don’t like vegetables at all, and plenty of others eat no veggies at all.


There are three (four with alcohol) categories of foods that provide our essential daily calories: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Essential plant-based sources include:

Proteins: Legumes, nuts & seeds, whole wheat
Carbohydrates: Grains, starchy vegetables, fruits
Fats: Nuts & seeds, some fruits like avocado and coconut

These foods provide our essential calories, energy, and nutrients. The three areas need to be balanced for optimal nutrition.

Protein intake depends on body weight, with many scientific sources agreeing on 1 gram of protein per kilogram body weight. People who work out heavily need a bit more, but not much. Overeating protein is harmful to the body—t’s a convenient misconception that we just “pee it out”. Protein is very difficult to digest, and eating too much means you’re putting your digestive organs under stress. If you smell like ammonia, you’re definitely way overeating the protein.

Intake of carbs and fats is flexible, but you need both.

Women need 1500-2000 calories per day, and men need about 2000-2500.


Micronutrients are the individual vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for optimal health. These include iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A through K, and many more.

Micronutrients don’t have a lot of calories. This is where our fruits and veggies come in.

Most fruits and vegetables are digested within about 20 minutes. So, even if you eat a huge vegetable salad or a whole watermelon or pineapple and you feel very full, in about a half hour your stomach will be rumbling again. That’s because fruits and vegetables don’t have enough calories or macronutrients to properly fuel us.

How to Eat Plant-Based

To create a proper plant-based meal, first ensure the meal has enough protein. A good rule of thumb is about 20-30 grams of protein per meal. This is easy—t’s going to equate to about 100 grams of legumes, tofu, or even whole wheat (whole wheat has more protein than most beans!), with a bit more for men. We want to vary our nutrients, so add 100 grams (a bit more for men) of a grain or starchy vegetable like corn, potatoes, or squash. Bring in a bit of fat, like a quarter of avocado or a few nuts because we need fat to help nutrient absorption, but fats are very high in calories so we don’t want to go crazy with them. That’s not enough food yet and we still need our micronutrients, so add a full cup of vegetables. Feel free to get creative!

This is a well-balanced, healthy, plant-based meal. Enjoy it, and feel great!

Recipe: Pesto Cream Pasta


  • ½ box silken tofu (in the blue box, unrefrigerated)
  • 1 full bunch basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 handful of a nut: pine nuts, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon salt, then salt to taste


  1. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add more tofu for more creaminess and protein, but be careful it doesn’t taste chalky.
  3. Pour over hot whole-wheat pasta or use as a filling for fresh ravioli
  4. Serve with a cup of veggies on the side.