Spring has officially sprung, and on most days the heat makes it feel like we’re actually in the midst of summer.

With the hotter weather comes thoughts of getting that summer body you should have been working on in winter, but better late than never, right?

A plant-based diet is one of the ways you can shed those kilos  and while it may seem like a daunting task to completely switch up your diet, there are easy ways to introduce this new concept into your life.

Kathy McManus, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Director of the Dietetic Internship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you are vegan or vegetarian, but rather that you are predominantly choosing food from plant sources.

READ MORE: Veganism: More than a diet

“Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans,” McManus told Harvard Health Publishing.

She says much research has been done that examined the health benefits of having a plant-based eating pattern such as the Mediterranean or vegetarian diet.

“The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods; it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often.The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomised clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.”

Vegetarian diets, she says, have also shown to lower the risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and increased longevity.

With such amazing health benefits, why would you not want to consider this option?

Here are some tips to help you get started on a plant-based diet.

  1. Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of different coloured vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
  2. Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centrepiece.
  3. Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains and vegetables.
  4. Go for greens. Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach and other greens each day. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to preserve their flavour and nutrients.
  5. Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.

– Harvard Health Publishing