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7 simple tips for starting a plant based diet
There has been a lot of buzz around starting a plant-based diet over the last few years. You probably already know that a whole foods plant-based diet is far healthier than the standard American diet, and has far less environmental impact. It can be overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out how to start. There is so much information out there. I created these 7 simple tips for starting a plant based diet to help you on your journey. If you have any other tips to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Just as a side note, I really don’t like to use the word “diet” because I don’t believe in restricting yourself. I don’t believe that choosing healthy foods is a “diet” I am simply using those words because that is what most people are searching for.
1. Figure out your motivation + educate yourself
Your motivation may be health-based, concerns for the environment or animal welfare. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is, as long as you know what it is. If you “go vegan” because it’s trendy, you are far more likely to stick with it than changing your eating habits for a good reason. I recommend watching some documentaries if you haven’t already. Some of my favorites are Forks over Knives, What the Health, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. All of these are on Netflix and there are some on Amazon Prime too (you can get 30 days of Amazon Prime for free..)
The book “How not to die” is what really pushed me toward changing my eating habits. If you prefer videos, most of the same information is available through either blog posts or videos on NutritionFacts.org. It’s also good to educate yourself because a lot of uninformed people will be giving you their opinions. It’s nice to have an informed answer when they ask things like “but what about protein???” whether they want to listen to you or not. 🙂
2. Eat more food
This may seem counterproductive if one of your goals is losing weight but bear with me. Plant foods, in general, are not as calorically dense as animal-based products. That means that you can, and should, eat more of them. I wrote a post about counting calories vs. counting macros. In general, I think that you should follow your bodies cues and eat whenever you’re hungry. However, when you first change your diet you may want to track your intake to make sure you’re eating enough food.
3. Make swaps
When transitioning to a plant-based diet, I recommend switching slowly. I believe that many people try to change everything all at once, get overwhelmed, and give up. Swapping out animal products for their plant-based counterparts is one easy way to do this. Dairy is one of the hardest things for most people to give up, and it’s unfortunately probably the worst culprit when it comes to overall health. Fortunately, there are quite a few good dairy-free alternatives. Yes, the dairy-free alternatives cost more and no, they aren’t necessarily healthy. That being said, it’s okay to have them every now and then, especially when you’re transitioning.
Some of my favorite dairy-free alternatives:
- Earth Balance soy free spread instead of butter.
- SoDelicious Coconut Creamer instead of coffee creamer.
- SoDelicious Cashew milk ice cream (it’s SO creamy) instead of ice cream.
- Any kind of almond milk instead of dairy milk.
- Follow your heart and Daiya dairy-free cheese.
- Daiya also makes a really good mac and cheese and cheesecake, but again, if the goal is health it’s best to eat those processed foods in moderation. 🙂
4. Prepare for being on-the-go
For me, eating plant-based food at home was easy peasy. On the go? That was another story. If you live in a large city you may have more options, otherwise, you may have to bring your own food. Just keep a few snacks in your bag in case you get hungry. Going out to eat when you’re on a plant-based diet is possible but it may take some planning in advance. HappyCow is great for finding vegan and vegetarian restaurants (or other restaurants that have options for you.)
5. Have some go-to meals
No, you don’t want to eat the same three or four meals forever, that would be boring! However, it can be good to have a few “go to” meals that you enjoy and already have the ingredients on hand. For me, I like risotto, tofu/veggies/rice, vegetable curry, and smoothies. I almost always have the ingredients I need to make these recipes. Having your go-to meals on hand can help keep you on track when you aren’t feeling motivated.
6. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune
Eating a healthy plant-based diet doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you start looking at pre-made or packaged vegan food, yes, it’s expensive! That doesn’t mean you can’t eat delicious meals and save money doing it. I always laugh when someone asks me what I eat because I don’t feel deprived at all. Giving up gluten (I have Celiac Disease) was so much more difficult for me than giving up animal products. Next time you’re at the store, check out all of the beans, lentils, veggies, and grains. There are probably lots of them that you haven’t even tried! If you need more inspiration for delicious plant-based food, check out my plant based food board on Pinterest.
7. Start meal planning
Meal planning can help you save money and eat healthier. I’m really not good at meal planning, but I’m working on it. If you’re on a journey to start a healthy plant-based diet, what better time to start meal planning than now? Meal planning will help you ensure that you have plenty of healthy plant based options in your home at all times.
I hope that these 7 simple tips for starting a plant based diet will help you along your journey. What inspired you to start a plant-based diet? Please let me know in the comments!