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A more plant based approach

Date issued: November 2022

Review date: November 2024

Ref: C-509/SW/Dietetics/A more plant based approach

PDF:  A more plant based approach final November 2022.pdf [pdf] 658KB

What is a “Plant based” diet?

A plant based diet involves eating a diet that contains mostly fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses.  It also involves staying away from processed, “ready-made” foods and refined grains.

It is not the same as a vegetarian or vegan diet as meat, fish and poultry can be included, but in small portions and eaten less often.

Growing evidence suggests that plant-based diets may help prevent many health problems like heart disease, and slow further kidney damage in people with chronic kidney disease.

Having less animal products and processed foods can help slow damage to the kidneys by:

  • Lowering blood acidity, acidic blood puts stress on your kidneys

  • Helping control blood phosphate levels, which can build up in the blood and cause harm to bones and blood vessels

  • Improving diabetes control, blood pressure and cholesterol levels

  • This booklet can be used as a step-by-step guide to help you adopt a more plant-based diet.

Note:  people following a low potassium diet are required to restrict their intake of some plant based foods.  Please speak to your dietitian or healthcare professional for advice.


Aim to have at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Step 1: Increase your overall fruit and vegetable intake

What counts as a portion of fruit and vegetables?

80g (approx. a handful) of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables

30g dried fruit

150ml fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie (limit to one glass per day)

80g beans or pulses

Tips to increase your intake:

  • Add salad leaves, tomato or cucumber to sandwiches, wraps and bagels.

  • Add frozen vegetables to pasta or rice (e.g., sweetcorn, peas) halfway through the cooking process.

  • Add berries, banana, or dried fruit to your cereal, or stewed fruit to your porridge.

  • Snack on fruit and vegetables, bananas, dried fruit and vegetable sticks are easy on the go snacks.

  • Have fruit based desserts - e.g. add tinned fruit or berries to no added sugar jelly, fresh or stewed fruit with yoghurt, fruit crumble.

  • As an alternative pie topping to potato or pastry, use mashed swede, sweet potato, butternut squash, parsnip or carrot.

  • Add lentils or beans to stews and soups.

  • Top toast with mashed banana rather than jam or marmalade

Making just a few of the changes recommended in this booklet could be enough to improve your health

Step 2:  Replace refined grain products with wholegrain products



Refined grain

Whole grain alternative

White bread, pitta, bagels, wraps

Wholemeal or seeded bread, pitta, bagels, wraps

White rice

Brown rice, quinoa, cous cous

White pasta

Wholewheat pasta

White noodles

Wholewheat noodles, rice noodles

Rice krispies®, cornflakes, sugary cereals

Weetabix®, Shredded Wheat®, porridge, bran, muesli, granola

Cream crackers, cheese thins, water biscuits

Ryvita®, rice cakes, wholewheat or seeded crackers

Step 3: Choose plant based fats

  • Avoid using animal fats (butter, lard, dripping, goose fat, ghee) regularly for spreading, cooking and baking.

  • Cut visible fat off meat before cooking.

  • Choose low fat dairy products where possible e.g., semi skimmed/skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt, reduced fat cheese.

  • Use plant oils in cooking, rapeseed, vegetable, sunflower and sesame oils are good for heating.

  • Use olive oil for salad dressings, dipping and drizzling.

  • If you use a lot of butter, try a sunflower, olive or soya-based spread instead.

  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) contain heart healthy omega 3 fats, aim to have 1-2 portions of fish per week.

 Step 4: Reduce processed foods

  • Cook from scratch as much as possible.

  • Choose fresh meat over sausages, bacon, breaded/battered chicken and fish.

  • Use tinned tomatoes or passata rather than ready-made tomato sauces.

  • Make your own soups using zero-salt or reduced salt stock cubes, soup can be made in bulk and frozen into portions for convenience.

  • Avoid using ham and other sliced meats in sandwiches. Use leftover roast chicken, beef or pork instead.

  • Use dried or frozen herbs and spices rather than pre-prepared spice mixes and marinades.

  • Try making homemade snacks e.g., flapjacks, popcorn rather than shop-bought biscuits and crisps.

  • Check ingredients lists on food labels for additives, aim to avoid those which contain preservatives, stabilisers, emulsifiers and artificial colours and flavourings.

  • Check food labels and choose lower salt options.


Salt content


Salt content per 100g


0.3g or less

Can be eaten regularly


Between 0.3g and 1.5g

An OK choice


More than 1.5g

Avoid or only eat occasionally








Remember, all fats and oils are high in calories, so if you are trying to lose weight they should only be used in small amounts

Step 5: Swap out animal products

Start by replacing animal proteins (beef, fish, chicken) with a plant source of protein in one or two meals per week. Once this is achievable, aim to have at least 3-4 “meat free” days per week.

There are many plant-based alternatives to meat that are available in supermarkets, however some of these are highly processed and should be avoided due to their salt content.

Below are some suggestions of meat replacements that are low in salt and additives: 

  • Quorn mince, lentils, use instead of minced meat in cottage pie, bolognese, lasagne.

  • Chickpeas, use instead of chicken in stews, curries and tagines.

  • Kidney beans, black beans, use instead of beef in chilli.

  • Tempeh, tofu, use instead of chicken.

  • Cous cous, quinoa, add to salads for bulk.

  • Mushrooms and aubergines give a “meaty” texture to meals.

  • Lentils, haricot beans, cannellini beans, butter beans, use in soups and stews rather than meat.

  • Banana blossom, can be battered or covered in breadcrumbs and used as a replacement for fish.

  • Jackfruit, can be used as a replacement for chicken or pork in stir fries, stews or fajitas.

  • Mashed avocado, hummus, use to top toast or crackers.

Plant based diet: Meal ideas to get you started:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Grilled/fried mushrooms and tomatoes on seeded toast

Lunch: Homemade vegetable and lentil soup with a wholegrain roll

Dinner: Mixed bean chilli with wholegrain rice

Day 2:

Breakfast: Low fat natural yoghurt with fruit, oats and nuts/seeds

Lunch: Wholemeal pitta bread and vegetable sticks with hummus

Dinner: Chicken with roasted vegetables and potatoes

Day 3:

Breakfast: Wholegrain cereal or porridge with fruit

Lunch: Sardines in tomato sauce on toast

Dinner: Chickpea and sweet potato curry with wholegrain rice

Day 4:

Breakfast:100% nut butter and banana on seeded toast

Lunch: Egg mayonnaise and watercress sandwich

Dinner: Red lentil Bolognese with wholewheat spaghetti

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