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Pass or Pass on the Plant-Based Plate?

Rewind some months as we rounded the corner into a new year. Did one of the plant-based documentaries have you thinking about changing your nutrition game to an entirely plant-based plan? Did you think about choosing a fork exclusively over a knife?

Forks Over Knives, Game Changers, and frankly a lot of hype made plenty worry that all meats have been making us Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

Perhaps you dipped your toes in the plant-based waters with Meatless Mondays or dove all the way in with a custom nutrition plan to support your revised vision. I’m curious…how’s it working for you now?

We recently took a poll at KKW, and early results confirm what we suspected:

Why is that?

As a health and wellness coach who has written thousands of nutrition plans in my career, the answer comes down to one word: sustainability.

Whether or not such a plan ultimately sticks depends on how well it syncs with one’s values, willingness to make changes, and perseverance through psychological and environmental stumbling blocks. And long term, that’s the difference between “results temporary” and #resultstypical.

My job as a health coach isn’t to tell you what your preferences should be. I’m not here to have an ethics argument. And I’m not even saying that you shouldn’t try plant-based eating – or a hybrid version of it – if you’re truly interested in doing so.

What is worth covering, though, are some reasons as to why plant-based explorations, for many, have become a visit rather than a destination:

1) “I Didn’t Know That I Couldn’t Have ______________”

Surprise, surprise…if you want to define yourself as 100% plant-based (and yes, I mean VEGAN…a term that many media outlets avoid these days), it means you’ll likely lose a number of foods that perhaps you didn’t know aren’t vegan:

  • marshmallows

  • some jams

  • some alcohols (some beer & wines use gelatin from fish as a clarifying agent)

  • white sugar (bone char may be used to make it whiter)

  • some sodas (due to insect-derived dyes…yep, read that again!)

  • some chocolate (check ingredients to see whether it contains milk or casein)

  • nondairy creamers (ironically may still contain some dairy)

  • veggie burgers and pastas (watch for eggs, milk)

  • honey

  • and MORE

We think you shouldn’t be consuming large quantities of most of those items anyway, so it’s best to educate yourself if you’re considering exactly how plant-based is defined.

1) “But My Macros Are So OFF”

One point that Game Changers attempted to make involves the statement that a peanut butter sandwich or a cup of lentils have the same amount of protein as three ounces of meat or three eggs.

Well, maybe. But all proteins are not created equally when it comes to actual macros. Review this comparison:

I’m not sure how the film calculated their numbers for the PB sandwich, since macros could really vary; I used two of our commonly-used recommended items for this table.

Either way, note that not only do calories vary wildly, but also that the plant-based proteins also carry some carbs and/or fats. Having combination-macro foods is fine, of course, although many find balancing the overall numbers to be tricky, particularly when trying to hit certain macro ranges for the day.

As a result, it’s easy to become carb-heavy and/or fat-heavy, as well as frustrated…especially when trying to reach a ratio of macros that supports lean mass and healthy weight maintenance.

Similarly, consider the overall effect that these types of foods may have on glycemic load; if you are at risk for diabetes, a plant-based plan may present challenges when trying to manage blood sugar levels, A1C, and overall energy.

1) My Family and Friends Gave Me So Much GRIEF About Going Vegan

At the cookout: “Can’t you just have ONE burger?”

Having brunch with parents: “But you don’t need to lose any weight.” (…yes, even if your journey isn’t about weight loss)

From the significant other: “There goes pizza night.”

No matter what type of healthy nutrition you may choose to follow, you will likely experience some type of pushback on your lifestyle choices, since it’s a minority decision to begin with.

However, due to an even more strict list of foods and because vegans are still even more of a minority than simply “healthy eaters,” plant-shaming can be exponentially difficult when going vegan. So statements such as, “No meat…as in like, FOREVER?” may be common.

For some, it’s just too much pressure to sustain. For those who wish to plug on through and stay committed to the plant-based protocol, we have your back there, too.

Plugging into a community with like-minded goals can be helpful and provide doses of extra motivation where you most need it. (And seriously, you’re going to want to click on the MOTIVATION hyperlink in that sentence…watch our video for some of Coach K’s valuable perspective and strategies!!)

1) “It’s Just Too Difficult”

Truly, in order to stick with any plan, you must view the work as worth it. Sometimes, the motivator isn’t strong enough. Anecdotally, we tend to find this to be true when the sole motivator of pursuing a plant-based plan involves weight loss. Can a plant-based plan result with weight loss? Sure, and it often does. However, clients tend to stick more with plant-based eating when ethics and health reasons comprise a heftier part of motivation.

Without that heft, individuals tend to reach a point where going the extra mile to prep meals or seek vegan foods while out grows too tiresome.

Ask yourself, “Do I see myself following this style of eating in 12 months? For the rest of my life?” If yes, definitely explore! If no, definitely worth further contemplation and perhaps even a conversation with a coach. You may even explore how a hybrid approach can be tailored to your needs while boosting your chances for sustainability.

When creating a custom nutrition plan for you or coaching you, my job is to help you work within the constructs of your preferences to help you achieve your goals – intelligently, methodically, progressively. Sometimes, the constructs get challenged, and that’s a very good thing: new information appears, we sift through it, and we adopt what makes the most sense to us. Ideally, we consistently apply it and as a result are able to assess how well it works.

Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. And these very EDITS are what helps us to evolve and progress towards our goals – whether initially helpful or not, they set the stage for future growth – we cannot progress unless we’re willing to explore potentially-helpful changes.

In summary, remember: multiple routes exist from Point A to Point B. No matter what you’re packing in your meal bag, as long as it’s in sync with YOUR long-term values, goals, and preferences, you’re right where you need to be.

Coach Jodi Sheakley-Wright, PhD, is one of the lead behavioral coaches at KK Wellness Consulting. She has also achieved pro status as a natural bodybuilder and is a living kidney donor. She has worked with hundreds of families, including those involves in travel athletics.

If you are interested in support with revising your family’s nutrition, order a phone or video consult at Or, if you’re exploring more intensive family nutrition coaching, please visit

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