Starting a whole-food, plant-based diet can seem a bit overwhelming. After all, you’ve probably been eating the way you currently do for most of your life. With new foods on the horizon and figuring out what to eat, how to cook without oil, or how to eat out at a restaurant, you have your work cut out for you. Starting something new just does take a little more time until you get the hang of it but this article will help you identify 12 common plant-based beginner mistakes.
So, I’ve written this article to help you avoid any mistakes and to make your transition easier. Now there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes because every mistake is a learning experience. But let’s save some time and get you up to speed quicker.
Take note of these 12 mistakes that’re common when starting a plant-based diet.
Mistakes When Starting a Plant-Based Diet
1. THINKING IT’S TOO COMPLICATED
It’s understandable you’d think that switching over to eating whole plant foods might be complicated. There’s a lot to track in any new endeavor. But to think it’s TOO complicated just isn’t so. It’s as easy as removing meat and dairy from your diet for starters. How about spaghetti with vegetables and pasta sauce instead of meat sauce, or bean burritos or tacos without the meat. Big hardy salads are a no-brainer and soups and stew, are easy enough, right?
It’s totally doable with all of the helpful articles right here on this website.
2. WORRYING ABOUT GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN
It’s a common question that meat-eaters have of vegan and plant-based eaters, where do you get your protein? It’s great to know that there’s plenty of protein on a plant-based diet. Think beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and seitan. Plus there’s some protein in a lot of other foods, as well. We need less protein than most of us think.
3. EATING TOO MANY HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS
To make eating a whole-food, plant-based diet easier, many people will rely on overly processed and packaged foods. It’s just more convenient. Take a step back a minute and remember, this way of eating only includes whole foods, with the exception of some minimally processed products. Yes, there are many, in fact, so check out my article, 49 Plant-Based Recipes Using Canned and Packaged Food.
4. EATING REFINED GRAINS INSTEAD OF WHOLE OR INTACT GRAINS
Eating whole or intact grains instead of refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, processed crackers, and other foods is an easy way to regain health. In fact, people who eat whole grains are apt to live longer according to studies.
Yep, according to a study in this article, The Whole Truth: Whole Grains Increase Longevity, Studies Say,
“Whole grains can help you live longer by reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease, and infectious diseases. The report notes that consuming 90 grams of whole grains a day cuts the risk for all causes of mortality by 17 percent.”
5. NOT READING PACKAGE LABELS TO SEE HOW MUCH FAT, SALT, AND SUGAR IS INCLUDED
Now, more than ever, it’ll be important to become a label reader if you’re still eating some packaged foods. High amounts of oil, salt, or sugar is what’s gotten a lot of us in trouble over the years so take your health into your own hands and spend a few minutes reading what’s included in the ingredients then stay away from any product that has high amounts of these three items.
Luckily, I have an article that goes into more detail, Should You Eat Packaged Food on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?
6. JUMPING IN ALL AT ONCE
I know you’re enthusiastic about eating a plant-based diet and that’s fantastic. But let’s step back a minute and make sure you’re all in. Could taking a slower route be more likely to lead to success? It takes sustained effort, day in and day out, to make a major shift in our eating habits so there’s nothing wrong with slow progress. As my article, Go for Plant-Based Progress, Not Perfection points out, taking tiny, baby steps will allow you to keep moving forward! Consistency is key – putting one foot in front of the other is the way to truly integrate lasting, sustainable change into your life.
Of course, you know yourself best so if you’re pretty sure you can jump all in, by all means, do that! 👍
7. NOT TRYING NEW FOODS
There will be new foods to try when you start eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. How fun to get to experiment with new things so don’t avoid these! 😉 I hope you’re open to new experiences because these new foods will be another path to optimal health.
Plus, many are great sources of protein. Some examples are tofu, tempeh, seitan, or flavoring with nutritional yeast, which is a great source of B vitamins. Or, how about jack fruit, soy curls, miso, chia or flaxseeds, and more. And, P.S don’t worry about soy being bad for you or being genetically modified. Organic soy products are not genetically modified and there are lots of studies that show soy is healing and doesn’t cause man boobs or problems with estrogen!
If you’d like to learn more on the topic of soy safety, read this article, The Safety of Soy.
8. USING OIL TO SAUTE
We’re so used to using oil to saute and in many recipes that it just seems impossible to not use them. However, I guarantee that you can easily do it once you get the hang of it. It’s easy to saute in a non-stick pan with a little vegetable broth or water, and there are substitutes for oil in baking and roasting. It’s a new way of thinking but why eat a food that has very little nutrition and a lot of calories.
Check out my article, Cooking without Oil.
9. NOT MEAL PLANNING OR PREPPING
This is probably one of the best ways to reduce stress when starting a plant-based diet. With new and possibly unfamiliar ingredients, making a meal plan and doing some prep just makes it easier. And keep it simple!! Do this by choosing meals that’re familiar to you but have the meat and dairy removed.
For example, try veggie burgers, pasta with veggies instead of meat sauce, or bean burritos with lots of toppings (think chopped onion, red bell peppers, lettuce, arugula, or kale, salsa, almond yogurt in place of sour cream, and a little hot sauce. Prep a big pot of pinto beans for your burritos and then use them in salads and on the side of sandwiches at lunch. Soups and stews are easy and always make some kind of whole-grain carbs such as brown rice, farro, or quinoa.
To make meal planning easier, download my Weekly Meal Planner.
10. NOT EATING ENOUGH CALORIES
People sometimes find they’re quite hungry when first starting to eat a plant-based diet. They’ve somehow decided that a plant-based diet consists of mostly fruits and vegetables and forget that whole grains, beans, and legumes are a big part of this way of eating. Including beans and whole grains is what will keep you satiated for hours while your microbiome work on digestion.
Be sure to include brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, lentils, and all kinds of beans in. your diet, and read my article, Reader Question: Always Hungry on a Plant-Based Diet.
11. WALKING BY THE CHEESE AISLE INSTEAD OF AVOIDING IT
It turns out that for most people, giving up cheese is one of the hardest things to do when switching to a vegan plant-based diet. It’s just so darn tasty, but did you know that cheese is also mildly addictive. Yep, it’s the reason those little calves get so attached to their mamas and why we get attached to cheese.
Fortunately, we have healthier choices when it comes to plant-based cheese and cheese sauces. Making your own takes a little more time, but it’s totally worth it. There are Mac & Cheese recipes, Pasta Alfredo recipes, and Chili Cheese Dip recipes to name a few. There are also books on making vegan cheeses but we have to be careful with those that don’t include oil.
My solution to avoid craving cheese is to NOT walk by the cheese aisle at the grocery store (or other problem areas.)
12. NOT TAKING VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is quite available in meat and dairy products, but you won’t find it in vegan foods except for a few exceptions. Vitamin B12 is also found in some fortified foods. It’s also found in Natto which is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of fermented soybeans and characterized by a slimy, sticky, and stringy texture. Not too appetizing if it’s not a food you’re used to.
Vitamin B12 is important for brain function, cell metabolism, and is needed to form red blood cells and DNA.
For these reasons, it’s important to take a B12 supplement. Ready my article, Worried About Vitamin B12? And, Why You May Want to Supplement.
I know you’ll be happy with yourself for starting on a diet that’s best for your health and I wish you good luck on your exciting journey. Remember to comment below and let me know how it’s going or any challenges you’re facing. I’d love to help.