How to Start a Plant-based Diet
Where are you right now? You may be thinking as I did a few years back … did I even eat any vegetables today? Yep, there was a time when I realized that vegetables were almost totally missing from my diet. I’m not sure what spiked this realization.
Maybe it was because of what I’d read about the health benefits of eating plants or because I was getting older, or because I just wasn’t feeling up to par. I’ve always liked vegetables, but sometimes they seemed like an afterthought and weren’t always that interesting. At any rate, getting started as a plant-based eater needed to be a priority on my to-do list! Does this sound like you?
Eating a plant-based diet was a lifestyle change I needed to embrace!
I decided to make fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and plant-based cooking my focus. I started this website to keep track and paid attention to interesting recipes brimming with vegetables. It wasn’t all that hard, and getting started can be easy for you, too.
It’s THE best thing you can do for your health, helping climate change, and for the animals.
It can be as easy as doing something new every week. Something like trying non-dairy milk, having a smoothie for breakfast, or trying a deli meat alternative. By the end of the year, you’ll have 52 new habits.
Why eat plants?
Plant-eaters live longer, healthier lives with fewer problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes. They also usually have fewer aches and pains. It’s never too late to start. Many of these conditions are reversible. Plant eaters have healthy bones and higher blood protein levels than omnivores and average fewer nutrient deficiencies, as well. (source) Read my in-depth article, “Why Eat Plants,” to learn more.
Although there are differences between the plant-based doctors and leaders in the movement, if you include FRESH FRUITS and VEGETABLES, LEGUMES, WHOLE GRAINS, NUTS, and SEEDS but NO DAIRY or EGGS and very little or NO MEAT or PROCESSED OIL, you can consider yourself a plant-based eater.
So, let’s get started. Since starting a new diet can seem overwhelming, here are 12 tips for the best way to start a plant-based vegan diet.
Remember a couple of things before you get started eating whole plant foods…
- A plant-based diet does not include any animal products or dairy products.
- You’ll be getting enough protein, and essential nutrients using plant protein on a plant-based diet and your nutritional needs will be met (except for vitamin B12).
- Your overall health should improve, and you may even lower the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
- You might even experience weight loss.
- Make small changes if you find it too overwhelming. Progress over perfection!
- Reduce your purchases of processed foods.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things.
12 Tips for Getting Started
1. Remember Your Why
On 3 x 5″ cards, write the reasons you want to stick with a plant-based diet. Keep them handy in your pocket, your purse, or on your mirror, and read them often. (Ideas: be able to hike 2 miles, look better in my clothes, walk without pain, live to see my grandkids, get off my meds, etc.) This idea is from “The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person,” which I highly recommend.
2. Find Recipes
There are so many easy ways to find new recipes these days. You can peruse my Recipe Categories for ideas or check out Pinterest. Print the recipes you’ll be using for the week and keep them in a folder in the kitchen somewhere.
3. MAKEOVER YOUR FAVORITES
One of the easiest ways to start is to take the recipes you’ve grown to love and make them plant-based. Luckily you can find vegan versions of just about any food these days, and you can turn your favorites like Mac & Cheese, Burgers, and even ice cream into plant-based goodness. Just search for your favorite recipe and put plant-based or vegan in front of it. Or read my article, “Meatless Makeover,” for more ideas.
4. Make a Meal Plan
Start planning your meals each week. You can download my handy Weekly Meal Planner if you’d like. And read this post, “Beginner’s Guide to Easy Plant-Based Vegan Meal Planning.” What do you already eat that’s an easy switchover to plant-based? Rice as a side made into the main dish, meatless chili, pasta with veggies, soup, veggie burgers instead of meat? It’ll just be easier for you if you know what to eat.
Here’s one day to get you started.
- Breakfast: oatmeal with berries or bananas, .5 oz. walnuts, and soy milk.
- Lunch: large salad with sliced peppers, red cabbage, red onion, black or pinto beans, 1 tsp. pumpkin seeds and dressing (non-fat preferred).
- Snack: apple and hummus.
- Dinner: Thai curried potatoes with chard.
5. Clean Out Your Pantry & Fridge
Go to your pantry (or fridge) right now and spend ten minutes throwing out, or recycling. the following items: sugary cereals, soft drinks, packaged chips, cheese, milk, meat including deli meats, white bread, and creamy sauces. There must be more – just do it! Then, stock your pantry with easy-to-use staples. Here’s a list of meals that you can quickly make with these items.
6. Discover New Foods
Spend ten extra minutes in the grocery store locating any new items on your plant-based grocery list – like quinoa, tempeh, soy milk, and fat-free pasta sauce. And, if you have trouble finding them, refer to my list in this freebie of some uncommon ingredients you might find on a whole food plant-based diet.
7. Put Healthy Items on the Top Shelves
Although it’d be ideal if you didn’t have unhealthy food in the frig, it can happen, especially if you have other members of your household eating a different diet than you. The solution? It’s a good idea to put your healthy snacks and food, like sliced carrots or peppers or tofu and tempeh, in clear containers on the middle two shelves. That way, you’ll see them and choose them over less healthy choices. Put the unhealthy items in the drawers, so they’re out of sight. (From Slim by Design which I also highly recommend.)
You can find glass containers at your local kitchen store or on the Internet* for storing your plant-based snacks, like hummus and carrots, or your leftovers.
8. Go MEATLESS on MONDAY
Meatless Mondays have been around for over 20 years, and it’s a great way to start. Find oodles of recipes that are easy and delicious in the “Main Dish” category, or hop on over to meatlessmonday.com to find more. Join the Meatless Monday movement and try one day, then another, and so on. Surely there are meatless meals that you enjoy. Pasta with tomato sauce and sliced zucchini, anyone?
Or, go MEATLESS for Breakfast and Lunch until you’re ready for the whole day. What’s not to love about a strawberry smoothie, creamy oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts, or a tofu scramble? For lunch, try a large salad with beans or rice added in, or make a sandwich using a deli meat alternative.
9. Eat a Salad a Day and Make Your Own Salad Dressings
Eating a salad a day is a great way to get in those nine servings of fruits and vegetables, and it’s recommended by Dr. Fuhrman. Then discover my oil-free salad dressing formula freebie for making oil-free salad dressings and make one today.
And, If you have access to a healthy salad bar, by all means, stock up on salad because it can make your life easier. Shopping for dinner? Make a salad from the salad bar for the next day’s lunch. Just avoid creamy, gloppy dressing choices and the meat dishes and get excited by the other plant-based choices.
10. Try meat substitutes
Although not the healthiest choice because meat substitutes usually have oil and other additives, if they help you make the transition, give them a try. They’re better to use than animal proteins. There’s “turkey” deli slices and “sausage” and even vegan Toona. Then jump in and embrace whole foods when you feel more comfortable without meat.
11. Focus on what you’re adding to your diet
Don’t focus on what you’ve left out. There’s such a plethora of colorful, beautiful vegetables in the market. Your plant-based recipes don’t have to be elaborate but give them the same love you’d give meat. Chicken is boring by itself without added spices and some fancy cooking. There are so many recipes to choose from. Read recipes, watch cooking videos, and get inspired! And then try one of these easy recipes made from your pantry items, plant-based approved, of course.
12. Stay Motivated
- Meditate on Your Goals for 10 minutes, visualizing them and imagining yourself thin and/or healthy.
- Read “7 tips for Sticking with a Plant-Based Diet.”
- Read “Staying Motivated on a Plant-Based Diet.”
- Be Accountable. Tell 3 friends that you are starting a plant-based diet and have them ask you how it’s going in one week.
- Read the lists you made in step 1 to keep your goals fresh in your mind.
And read my post that includes frequently asked questions about eating a plant-based vegan diet.
Congratulations on making the leap to a healthier diet plan and this new way of eating. I hope these steps help you and your family members more easily make the transition to eating less meat. Your hard work will pay off if you stick with it.
You’ll be eating smarter and, hopefully, live longer, and the good news is that you’ll be much happier, as well..
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I saw a documentary last night that was very disturbing. Today is my 1st day to go meatless. Now I’m on the prowl for recipes that I can enjoy eating, Wish me Luck!!
Yes, the best of luck! There is so much support now and wonderful recipes. Perhaps after a short adjustment period you’ll love how you feel, too.
Robert, was the documentary called “What the Health”?
I saw this one on Sunday, very disturbing & my husband & I are going plant based soon!
Marcia, you should also check out “Hungry for Change” on Netflix. It will cement your desire to stop eating all of the foods our society is pushing on us.
Yes, Marcia, my husband and I just watched last night it was disturbing but very enlightening about how the industry works keeping you sick so they can make a profit. We are also decide to try it with the kids is going to be a little harder but the whole family has to stick together.
My husband and I saw this documentary 3 weeks ago and haven’t touched meat since. We’ve mostly cut out diary too. Having kids is a little trickier and they still have the odd meat meal.
???? Great to hear you’re on board! It’s a process and I hope this site gives you some guidance. Best of luck and let me know how it’s going, both your challenges and successes. ????
After viewing the same documentary we have decided to go plant based as well. My brother is hoping it will help with his asthma. I am looking forward to a healthier life style.
I watched that last night. I’ve been pretty good at eating a lot of fruit and veggies but the chicken was the thing for me.. and those poor pigs. I’m going to make the change.
Was it What the Health?
It’s a documentary that came out last March that critiques the health impact of meat and dairy products consumption, and questions the practices of the leading health and pharmaceutical organizations. http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/
I have seen “what the health” and it really made me have second thoughts about meat and dairy products, and how how it affects cardiovascular disease and heart problems. Since I was born with heart problems I don’t want hem to worsen because of my diet. Therefore I will start my plant based diet today, and will to try to encourage the rest of my family to do so as well.
That’s great! ???? Wishing you and your family the best on your journey!
I too watched What the Health….then Forks Over Knives. Both are great documentaries on Plant Based Nutritional changes that are needed. Today was my day #1 toward a Plant Based lifestyle and my husbands has agreed to join me in the quest! We are looking forward to transforming our lives for the better! I look forward to finding tips and recipes as well as encouragement through your site!
I’m excited that you have started your plant-based journey and wish you both the best of luck. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns!
I’m a nutritionist and “What the Health” is the best one I’ve ever seen.!!!
I watched “What the Health” as well. Great documentary!! Since then I went on the plant based diet overnight. Its been 2 weeks now, weird in the first few days I felt fine now I don’t feel so great. I feel very tired and not well, and sick when eating certain foods, I wonder if anyone else has experienced this? I think I went to fast and my body maybe couldn’t handle the fiber. So for now eating white rice instead of Brown and cooking my vegetables instead of raw works for me. I found out to go slow at this New way of eating, and will continue to do so. I too look forward to trying recipes through your wonderful site.
Hey Sally, I’m sorry to hear that you’re not feeling well. It does sound like your body is adjusting, but also keep in mind that if you’re not eating any meat or dairy that you need to supplement with vitamin B12. It’s hard to find in food, but it is in nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereals and an Asian dish called natto which takes a certain palette to enjoy. Your best bet is to take a supplement. I’ve also read that some people experience a sort of detox when eating a cleaner diet and maybe your body is releasing some of the bad. I know toxins are stored in fat. But, that aside, welcome aboard the plant-based lifestyle and I hope things smooth out for you soon. Did you happen to read my article, “What to Expect When Eating a Plant-Based Diet?” You might find some helpful info in there.
can you do smoothies with the fruits & veggies?
Yes, you can! The fruits help to sweeten up the veggies and make it more enjoyable. I have a few smoothie recipes you can find here in the “beverages” category.
Hello! I just found your site as my husband and I are transitioning to a plant based diet after watching a few documentaries and having poor-family health history. We are on day 3 and have noticed that we are very bloated and it’s a bit harder to gain an appetite / eat a full meal. We do take probiotics and are chalking it off to our microbiome resetting itself – I’m just curious if this is normal to experience and if so, how long does that transition period last? Thanks in advance!
Hi Kristine, you have asked a couple of great questions. In fact their worthy of a full post to my Reader Questions series. Thank you for your permission to share this with everyone. Here’s the link to the article, “Reader Questions: Feeling Bloated Since Starting a PB Diet Plus Can’t Finish a Meal.”