To be fully plant-based or not – it seems that is the question these days! Just the term “plant-based” causes debate, as some consider it to mean complete avoidance of animal products, while others say it means “mostly plants.” Known by its many forms—vegan, vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, raw vegan, etc.—this manner of food intake continues to grow in popularity. A 2020 study conducted by Ipsos Retail Performance showed that over 9.7 million Americans were following a vegan lifestyle. This is a 300% increase from a level measured 15 years ago and that number will may continue to climb. While the debate rages on among pundits of plant-based vs. animal-inclusive dietary lifestyles, there isn’t a doubt that eating a wide variety of unprocessed plant foods leads to better health. Does the SHAPE Program work for plant-based eaters? As SHAPE practitioners, we understand the value of including animal protein sources while following the three phases of the SHAPE Program. These include the thermogenic qualities of animal proteins, the density of protein per serving and nutritional factors that can’t be obtained through plant-based exclusivity. Yet, if you’re seeing the trends I’m seeing, you’re finding yourself sitting across from an increasing number of patients/clients who request a fully plant-based alternative to follow. SHAPE ReClaimed, admittedly, was designed from the start as an omnivorous dietary plan. Despite this, how do you help your plant-based people realize the same measure of success as the meat eaters? The keys are to fill the voids created by plant-based eating vs. animal meat inclusion, while making it interesting enough for compliance (especially in Phase I: FasTrac Cleanse), which has been made easier through new additions to the Nutrition Protocol. Common Deficiencies in Plant-Based Diets Vitamin B12: Many realize the need to supplement vitamin B12 while following a plant-based diet. A plant-based approach to the SHAPE Program is no different; the need for B12 will be palpable. Many of my plant-based patients were already supplementing with B12, however they were showing clear markers of deficiency. If you have labs to review, look for the typical high levels in B12 serum testing, but in contrast you’ll see MCV values above 92 and RDW levels above 13. If you’re a methylation geek like I am, check MTHFR/MTRR/MTR mutations. In my assessment, most will need a change to a better assimilated B12 supplement. Look for methylcobalamin vs. cyanocobalamin (hydroxocobalamin for your methyl donor problem kids). I tend to prefer liposomal delivery for B vitamins, as well. Iodine: The B12 need is basic, but did you know that many plant-based eaters are low in iodine? In my practice, I don’t have many who are consuming sea plants too often. Additionally, we’re asking that people drop their iodized salt (not a great iodine source, anyway) in favor of Celtic Sea Salt and other forms of unprocessed sea salts. This need is something to monitor, as we should all know the connection of iodine to proper thyroid function. Have a plant-based eater who isn’t releasing weight, no matter what you try? Seeing hypothyroid symptoms? Have a look at iodine levels. Other Nutrients: Plant-based eaters also have a higher risk of deficiencies in zinc, iron, omega-3 fats, calcium and vitamin D. These can be managed successfully through supplementation. Protein: But what about the elephant in the room? PROTEIN! Yes, average plant-based eaters have been shown in numerous studies to take in substantially less protein than their omnivorous friends. Here’s where the SHAPE rubber must meet the road. Sufficient protein amounts are critical to the success of the SHAPE Program. New Plant-Based Protein Options for the SHAPE Program Assuring your plant-based eaters’ needs are being met is not a tough job, especially with the new amendments that have been made to the 9th Edition of the Program Guidebook. Previously, only tofu was mentioned as a plant-based protein source, which didn’t provide much variety for these eaters. In my experience, nothing thwarts a SHAPE Program journey faster than food boredom. The new vegetarian protein additions will help. Tempeh and pea protein powder have been added as approved protein options. Tempeh: Wait a minute, isn’t there more fat and carbohydrates in tempeh than in tofu? Yes, indeed there is. Here is the comparison: QuantityCaloriesCarb (g)Fat (g)Protein (g)Tempeh4 oz. (1/2 cup)1608915Tofu4 oz. (1/2 cup)72438 Compared to tofu, tempeh is a more nutrient-dense food. Tofu is lower in calories than tempeh, but tempeh is higher in protein. Tempeh is also a true fermented soy product, causing less potential interference with thyroid health and allowing for better digestibility. Tofu is simply coagulated soy milk, while tempeh uses the actual bean curd making it denser, higher fiber and more “meat-like” in recipes. Finally, tempeh has higher vitamin totals. Try tempeh as a meat substitution while making fajitas—it’ll change your mind about this type of protein source. Most of my plant-based practice members find a good balance with incorporating both tempeh and tofu in their daily intake. SHAPE’s recommendation is to cap tempeh servings at 4 oz. daily. Pea Protein Powder: My plant-based SHAPE patients have also appreciated the addition of pea protein powder, not only to pump up their morning smoothies, but also to add vital protein their bodies need. Pea protein powders have come a long way in taste and texture since they first became available in health food stores. I’ve had great results with a fermented pea protein powder from Nutrasumma, which has 20 grams of protein per 25.5-gram scoop. Here’s the great news regarding working with plant-based eaters: As a SHAPE practitioner, you usually don’t struggle with your plant-based patients/clients getting in their minimum 4 cups of veggies, like I sometimes see with my omnivores. You’ll find pH is usually a bit higher starting out and if not, question how much processed plant foods they’re eating. I don’t typically have the struggle of inconsistent hydration with my plant-based patients and know if I do see it, chances are processed plant foods are being over-eaten. I see this plant-based junk food problem across the board with plant-based eaters, particularly strict vegans, where they assume that simply ditching the animal content in a food makes it a healthy option. Plant-based patients/clients can have all the success they desire while following the SHAPE Nutrition Protocol. You, as the practitioner, simply need to partner with them to assure that potential deficiencies are satisfied within the healthy confines of each phase of the program. I encourage you to embrace individuals from all walks of life and dietary preferences, as you now have the tools to share with them to provide an amazing and transformative experience with SHAPE ReClaimed. About the Author; Stacy Kimmel, PhD, ND: Dr. Stacy Kimmel has been a SHAPE ReClaimed practitioner for almost 10 years. He and his wife, Nicole, own and operate Thriveology, a Holistic Health Center in Sarasota, FL. He has extensive education and training in functional/sports nutrition, homeopathic and botanical remedies, kinesiology, exercise science, rehabilitative fitness and holistic healing. He is the President of AANWP/ANWPB and the Vice President of AANWC/ANWCB. He holds a Ph.D. in Natural Medicine, is licensed as a GEMA Ecclesiastical Holistic Practitioner (LEHP) and is board certified as a Natural Medicine Practitioner by the Texas Chiropractic College (CNMP). When not teaching others how to remove obstacles to great health, Dr. Stacy enjoys going to the beach, exercising and cooking; all while sharing life with Nicole.
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