A few small plants outside are in focus.
Soy products are now a mainstay in most grocery stores, providing a lower-cholesterol alternative to animal milk. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Eating a diet rich in whole plant foods is making its name on the market.

“Plant-based” eating is defined as the consumption of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products.

According to the Plant Based Foods Association, consumer purchases of plant-based food items increased 20 percent last year, with sales topping $3.3 billion. Meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, rose 24 percent, while milk alternatives climbed 9 percent.

Many adopt a plant-based diet to combat chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, or simply to lose weight, support the environment or fight animal abuse.

Whatever the reason, there are key points to keep in mind if you are looking to incorporate more plant-based foods in your diet.

Forget the ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality

Your newfound taste for plant foods doesn’t mean you can never eat meat or cheese again.

Labeling foods as good or bad, or even restricting yourself to certain items, can create an unhealthy, all-or-nothing approach to your relationship with food. This could very well cause you to fail.

Incorporating plants over time—establishing meatless Mondays, for instance, or one vegetarian meal each week—is a reasonable strategy to help fight a fixed mindset and grow your consumption of plant-based varieties.

This will help you build an approach for the long-term, identifying foods you truly enjoy along the way.

Satisfaction is key

You may not be a big fan of vegetables or salads, but this doesn’t mean your meals have to be boring or bland.

While some may call plant-based diets restrictive, these foods may actually allow you to explore new flavors, textures and cuisine. You’ll soon find yourself cooking with items you never knew you liked.

Milk, for example, has expanded to a range of soy, almond, coconut, hemp, pea, flax and cashew-based milk varieties. Trying these in cereals or experimenting with them in baking may lead you to a new secret ingredient for your favorite recipe.

Plant-based: Not always health-based

New products bearing the plant-based label are quickly holding their place on local supermarket shelves.

Some items you can expect to find: non-dairy cheese, frozen desserts, creamer, cream cheese, yogurt, whipped cream, meat alternatives, crackers and pastries.

But keep in mind: Just because a product contains organic ingredients or the plant-based label does not mean it is automatically healthy food.

Be mindful, read labels and take caution before indulging mindlessly.

Consider the checkup

You may have put meaningful time and effort into your diet, but even then you may experience hiccups along the way, as with any lifestyle change.

To measure your progress, it is always best to consult with a dietitian or physician to help identify any specific nutritional requirements you may have as you strive to become a healthier you.