Perhaps unlike most people, I enjoy speaking in front of large groups. It's a chance to share information and to - I hope - inspire.

It's one of my favourite things to do.
I speak about a range of things relating to food, health and the media. Often, though, I come back to the same message: eating healthily is not as difficult or complicated as we may have been led to believe

We are bombarded with so much information about what we should and shouldn't eat, from a range of sources with variable credibility, that healthy eating has acquired a veneer of difficulty.

If we're not eating special, expensive foods, eliminating something or following rules, we reason, we must not be doing it right.


I lay the blame for this at the feet of people promoting special diets, from vegan to low-carb to the highly confusing "clean eating".

A term that is bandied about a lot in both alternative and mainstream circles is the concept of a plant-based diet.
I eat a plant-based diet myself, but only recently thought the term might be confusing.
Some people think a plant-based diet is a vegan or vegetarian diet.

This came up this week when the results of a thought-provoking study were published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.

The Broad study was conducted on 65 Gisborne residents.

It looked at a particular dietary intervention and its effect on weight loss and improvements in measures such as cholesterol and heart disease risk factors.
The intervention included education, cooking classes, discussions and potluck dinners in twice-weekly sessions for 12 weeks.

Participants were encouraged to eat until they were satisfied, and they didn't have to exercise.
The results were impressive: improvements in BMI, weight, cholesterol and lower use of medication. The improvements were sustained, for the most part, even after a year.

The diet in question?
A low-fat, vegan diet, including legumes, whole grains and vegetables. Meat and animal products, oils, avocados, dairy and nuts were out. Sugar, salt and caffeine were discouraged.

This was termed a "whole food, plant-based diet" by the study's authors.

If it suits you, eating a low-fat vegan diet is fine. It clearly worked well for these participants and the study suggests they didn't find it too tricky to stick to, despite the restrictions.

This was one whole food, plant-based diet, certainly.

But it is not the only type of whole food, plant-based diet.

The way I eat (I won't call it a diet) is plant-based.

That's because at least half of every plate of food I eat is plants, in various forms.
My plates also contain fish, eggs and cheese and, sometimes, meat.

A plant-based diet doesn't have to be a meat-free diet. It doesn't have to be a vegan diet. It just has to be mostly plants.

It's a great goal for all of us, just don't think it must be all or nothing.

Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large of Healthy Food