It may seem counterintuitive that starting a new way of eating could be fun. After all, aren’t we about to give up foods we love to eat and have to restrict ourselves? The answer is in your perspective. If you’re switching from a standard American diet (SAD) to eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, you may indeed worry that this new way of eating will be boring or too difficult.
Why not reframe this into having an exciting adventure into the unknown. There’ll be new foods and new recipes to try, new dinners to share with your friends, and new tastes to experience.
I encourage you to have an open mind and see the joy in starting something new. While your taste buds might take a little time to adjust, you just might enjoy yourself more than you know.
Love Yourself a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet relies on whole foods centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and very little or no animal products or processed oils. However, eating plant-based doesn’t have to be boring or a chore. You can find enjoyable food replacements for your favorites and actually have fun with this new approach. I guarantee you’ll grow to love eating this way, especially when you know how great it’ll make you feel.
Read on to see my list of 15 ways to make eating a whole-food, plant-based diet fun because you deserve to feel great, live a life with purpose, and be healthy. Let’s make it happen!
Create a Plan to Make Eating Plant-based Fun
First, think about your particular tastes in food. What is it about eating your usual foods that makes them enjoyable? Is it because they offer sweetness, are they easy to prepare, are they just familiar to you and comforting, do you enjoy them with your family and/or for celebrations, or do they make you feel good?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can more easily create a plan to make every one of these reasons work with your new diet! For example, if you enjoy sweets, find plant-based desserts to substitute for the usual sugary nonsense like Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies. Have some favorite meaty main dishes the whole family loves? Find plant-based substitutions like Vegetable Lasagna, Black Bean Meatloaf, or Veggie Divan.
15 Ways to Make Eating a Plant-Based Diet Fun
1. Experiment with new foods and ingredients
Try experimenting with new foods and ingredients in a relaxed and un-stressed way so you don’t feel overwhelmed. There’s no need to rush into cooking with every new ingredient that’s recommended. Instead, pick one new ingredient or food per week. How about trying nutritional yeast in a soup or stew or a tofu egg salad recipe?
Read my article, Go For Plant-Based Progress, Not Perfection, for a few more tips. Don’t be surprised if new foods and ingredients don’t go over well at first. People often take time to adjust so start out simply and with a light touch if you know you have a picky bunch to feed. And, if it doesn’t work the first time, keep trying, just like you would with young children.
Here’s a list of some uncommon ingredients and where you can purchase them, Uncommon Plant-Based Recipe Ingredients.
2. Buy a New Cookbook
There are so many fantastic cookbooks available in the whole food plant-based space. You might be interested in my cookbook, The Everything Plant-Based Meal Prep Cookbook, as a starting place or just look through an Amazon search for something that hit’s your fancy. Have a birthday coming up, ask for a plant-based cookbook if someone’s looking for ideas.
3. Get Excited by New Recipes
What’s more fun than looking through cookbooks or blogger websites for new recipes? Have a favorite meal you’d like to make plant-based? Use a search for the recipe name along with “plant-based” and you should find what you’re looking for. Don’t tackle anything too complicated if you’re just starting. Print out the recipes for your meal plan for future use. Here’s a list of my recipe page categories for inspiration.
4. Collect Recipes in a Notebook
Once you print several plant-based recipes, purchase a cute notebook or binder to store them. I collected recipes over many years and used a plastic cover sheet to protect the recipes, one for each side of the page. If you end up with a lot of recipes, create divisions for each category such as “appetizers,” “main dishes,” or “desserts” for quick reference.
5. Color Code Recipes
If you’d rather keep your recipes in a file folder, you could use color-coding to differentiate each course, green for salads, for example, or orange for main dishes. Purchase colorful Post-It’s or labels and start sticking. Here’s a fun example of some fun, colorful sticky notes but there are many others to choose from. You’d be surprised how many you can collect over the years. I’ve been in a gourmet group for 25 years and have each menu from those dinners.
6. Try using meal templates
In this case, for a meal template, I’m talking about configuring your meals into a food theme for each night. You can repeat the pattern each week or mix it up and plan for the month, it’s up to you. You’ll be surprised at how varied your meals can be even within the same theme.
For example, Tuesday Tacos can range from mushroom tacos to bean tacos, to cauliflower tacos. You’ll never get bored. How about pasta night, Buddha bowl night, pizza night, or burritos? The nice thing about this is that you can repeat the themes or mix them up each month, but boy it’s a time-saver!
7. Use a menu board
Get your family excited and interested in what’s for dinner with a menu board that hangs on the kitchen wall. It could be a whiteboard or a more rustic chalkboard with fancy writing. You’ll feel accomplished and more relaxed when you see what’s planned for the week and know you’re prepared. Here’s a fun whiteboard for the fridge.
8. Make meal planning fun
We know that meal planning saves time and money but don’t feel like it’s a chore. Instead, turn on some energetic or soothing music, depending on your mood. Light up some candles and plan away. Make it feel like it’s your special time and remember how good you’ll feel when it’s accomplished. Save your meal plans for future use, perhaps as a section in your recipe binder. Get my free meal planner if you’re interested.
9. Use a meal planning app or website
To make meal planning more fun, try using a meal planning app or website. Many bloggers have meal plans as giveaways for free, in fact, I have a free 7-day meal plan for you if you’d like to join my list. You can do that on any page on this site. Just look for the highlighted sign-up as you scroll down the page. I also have a small library of freebies that you’ll have access to if you sign up. It includes downloadable PDFs like my Weekly Meal Planner, Weight Tracker, Trader Joe’s Plant-Based Shopping List, and more.
10. Include a night or two off
Cooking for yourself or your family can become a nightly chore so don’t forget to give yourself a break. It’s fine to eat out or get take-out once in a while although sometimes it can be a little harder finding good plant-based options. Or, plan on having leftovers on your meal plan when you make enough of a recipe for more than one meal. Larger portioned meals like soups and stew or casseroles work well for this.
11. Get your family involved
One of our favorite things to do as a family is to cook together. My kids are grown and living on their own now but when they were younger, we made a habit of including them in meal preparation. Now we cook together for the holidays and everyone loves contributing a dish or preparing a recipe on the “special” day. It creates warm memories and makes for an enjoyable meal.
You can include the family in the weekly meal plan, as well. Encouraging them to choose something they’d like for dinner will help them stay enthusiastic about your new plant-based lifestyle.
12. Share plant-based meals with your friends and family
I think you’ll find it quite enjoyable to share a plant-based meal with your friends or family. I’m sure you’d like them to benefit from eating this way and for them to see just how delicious eating a whole-food, plant-based diet really is. Have them bring a dish to share, as well.
13. Focus on a vegetable you love
14. Have fun with salad
Having a salad is a great way to eat plant-based and if you prepare the salad fixings ahead of time it goes much faster. Meal prep salad by purchasing containers. Then pre-chopped or shredded vegetables such as grated carrots or chopped cauliflower. Shred cabbage ahead of time and wash and chop lettuce. Add seasonal fruit or drained and rinsed beans for added protein.
Don’t forget that many markets carry pre-cut or shredded vegetables and bagged greens and that makes salad prep go much faster, too.
Then when your salad is ready, divide it into your individual containers. When it’s time to eat, all you’ll need is the salad dressing.
15. Try a Taco or Burrito Bar
Almost everyone loves tacos and burritos and you can make it easier on yourself by chopping up the ingredients and setting them out for everyone to make their own version of a taco or burrito. Making homemade beans in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker is quick and left-overs are great the next day for salads. Use this fun 7-piece ceramic set for a beautiful display.