There is no right or wrong way to start a plant-based diet. While some cut animal products out of their diet slowly, some go 100% plant-based overnight.
It is often very individual and depends on the person’s goals. The faster you go, the quicker you will experience all the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
In this article, you can find the benefits of going plant-based and 8 straightforward tips for starting a plant-based diet.
Let’s jump right in.
What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet includes fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, oils, legumes, beans, herbs, and spices. It excludes all animal products, like red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey.
Nowadays, there are many variations of a plant-based diet; some focus on whole food plant-based diet, which eliminates highly processed foods and oils.
On the other hand, living a vegan lifestyle means someone eats 100% plant-based. However, they don’t necessarily eliminate processed foods or oils.
The most nutritious and healthy diet is the whole food plant-based one. So let's take a look at the benefits below.
Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet has many health and personal benefits. Let’s take a look at the most significant ones:
A plant-based diet is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is also high in fiber, essential because it can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, and is excellent for good bowel management.
A plant-based diet is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Studies found that it can prevent or reverse heart disease, help with cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
A plant-based diet lowers your risk of certain cancers, like breast, prostate, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.
Plant-based diets can prevent, manage, and reverse type 2 diabetes. The main reason is that the diet can help to lower body weight, improve insulin function, and boost your body’s ability to manage blood sugar.
Plant-based diets are usually lower in calories and help you to lose weight, even if you don’t often exercise. That’s because when your calories come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you’ll naturally reduce your calories.
This research found that you can save $750 annually by switching to a plant-based diet. The study compared the weekly meal plans of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which included meat, with plant-based meal plans. Of the two programs, totaling 2,000 calories per day, the plant-based diet costs less.
8 Tips For Starting A Plant-Based Diet
1. Find Out Your “Why”
Figure out what is the main reason for this lifestyle change. It is a big one, so if you want to be true to yourself, and stick to your new plant-based diet, find out why you want to change.
It can be one or more of the following reasons:
To prevent disease
To manage blood sugar
To lower cholesterol
To live a long healthy life
To lose weight
Compassion for animals
To reduce your environmental impact
Whatever your reason is, make a mental note. Then, if you ever have challenging moments, you can return to your “why” and keep forward more easily.
2. Go All In, Or Start Slowly
There are usually two types of people: those who go plant-based overnight, and those who make a slow, gradual change.
There isn’t a right way to start a plant-based diet, so choose the approach that feels more natural and easy for you.
Creating new habits and starting a completely new lifestyle often take time. So don’t be too harsh on yourself if you need more time to make the switch or if you ‘make mistakes.
3. Eliminate Animal Foods You Don’t Eat Often
First, consider eliminating the animal-based products you aren’t consuming too often, and slowly add more plant-based foods to your diet.
Start cooking meals that you used to enjoy before being accidentally plant-based.
This can be anything - veggie stews, cream soups, veggie tortillas, hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, bean chili, chickpea curry, oatmeal, etc.
4. Stock Up With Plant-Based Staple Foods
It is easier to stick to a new diet when you plan things. For example, you can list your favorite plant-based meals and prepare your grocery list ahead of time.
Stock up on plant-based staple foods, such as:
Fruits: Seasonal and local fruits like apples, bananas, grapes, berries, etc.
Vegetables: Seasonal and local veggies such as peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, lettuce, spinach, kale, zucchini, peas, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
Whole grains: Quinoa, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, whole wheat, oats, popcorn, etc.
Legumes: Pulses such as red beans, black beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, etc.
Other plant-based staples: Including nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, whole-grain bread, plant-based milk & yogurt, etc. You can stock up on the foods above, and for convenience, you can get canned beans and canned or frozen fruits and veggies for faster preparation of meals. .
5. Veganize Your Favorite Meals
Nowadays, there is a plant-based recipe for nearly anything. So you can start experimenting with your favorite meals and search for plant-based recipe versions.
You can also search for specific plant-based alternatives to various products. For example, instead of butter, you can start using:
Applesauce, dairy-free yogurt, coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, nut butter, mashed banana, or mashed avocado in baking.
Olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable stock, or avocado oil in cooking.
Instead of chicken or meat, you can use tofu, soy chunks, or seitan, and instead of beef for burgers, you can use soy chunks, tempeh, beans, or veggies.
6. Consider Meal Prep
Planning your daily meals will make your days more manageable, and you will eat better.
Additionally, if you are super hungry and there is a dull or non-existing plant-based option for lunch, you will be more prone to get something that isn’t plant-based.
To avoid that, you can meal prep your lunch for school or work. Don’t worry too much about preparing something outstanding.
You’d be surprised how tasty a simple bowl with veggies, legumes, grains, and plant-based sauce can be!
7. Stock Up On Plant-Based Snacks
To keep yourself on track, you can stock up on some healthy & plant-based snacks.
There are many good but also not-so-good options out there. For example, the plant-based snack options in most stores are usually not too healthy.
They are packed with sugar and oil and will most likely not satisfy your cravings in a good way; they will spike up your blood sugar, leaving you hungrier and more prone to reach for guilty pleasure food.
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8. Join Facebook Groups
There are so many Facebook groups that you can join.
You can do it to get motivated by looking at inspirational stories of other people who saw the incredible benefits of going plant-based.
You can also ask various questions there and find answers and support for any struggles you might have.
Finally, many group members often share excellent, easy, quick, and budget-friendly plant-based meals and recipe ideas so that you can get many ideas on new dishes.
How do I prepare for a plant-based diet?
Here are my top three tips before start transitioning to a plant-based diet:
Don’t fear volume when eating plant-based foods. They are high in fiber and water content and lower in calories. Because of this, you will need more food to sustain your energy throughout the day. So don’t restrict yourself, and eat until you’re satisfied.
Eat simple meals but aim for variety. For example, try to eat various veggies with different colors to ensure you get multiple vitamins and minerals.
If you are entirely new to this lifestyle, don’t worry - you will learn new things with time. Don’t try to learn everything in advance. Instead, start and learn as you go.
Do I have to supplement on a plant-based diet?
It would be best if you supplemented with vitamin B12, or you can consume plenty of foods fortified with vitamin B12.
These are often foods like plant-based milk, cereal, meat substitutes, nutritional yeast, spreads, etc.
What cannot be eaten on a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet avoids anything from an animal, including meat, poultry, cheese, milk, eggs, and honey.
Is a plant-based diet more expensive?
No. You can be on a budget and still start a plant-based diet. But, of course, it can get pricier if you buy premium things regularly, like plant-based cheese, meat alternatives, vegan yogurt, etc.
But if you consume those things rarely, you can enjoy eating plant-based, even on a budget. Research found that you can save $750 annually by switching to a plant-based diet.
Meat and dairy products can be pretty pricy, too, so cutting those out will reduce grocery costs.
Some people start their plant-based diet with Meatless Mondays, others go entirely plant-based for a month, and the third slowly cut out dairy and meat.
Whatever you decide, choose what feels best for you, and follow the tips from above to make the whole transition more manageable.
You will see that the more plant-based you go, the more benefits you will experience.
Merilin is a 25-year-old imperfect zero waste advocate, passionate about sustainability, veganism, and living harmoniously with nature. In her free time, she loves developing recipes for healthy & vegan sweets, traveling, and practicing yoga.