The Ultimate Guide To Eating A Plant-Based Diet
In this guide, I will go through the steps needed to successfully start eating a plant-based diet. I hope you enjoy and congrats to you for doing something healthy and positive for yourself and the planet!
-What does Plant-Based Diet mean?
Removing all animal foods from your diet
Eating plant-based means removing all animal food products from your diet. This can be quite challenging once you learn some of the strange things that have dairy and some seemingly random animal-based ingredients in them. It's all about reading labels and learning what some of those ingredients are. Of course, it's a lot easier if you're eating mostly whole foods.
Eating whole foods
A lot of you might have been drawn to a plant-based diet for health reasons. The key to improving your health with a plant-based diet is eating whole foods. I'll talk more about what whole foods are later in this guide. Just keep in mind that you need to remove processed, packaged food. This step alone will improve your health.
What is the difference between plant-based and vegan?
According to *The Vegan Society "Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose." So this means that you would avoid things like leather, fur, and also honey. Being vegan is more of a lifestyle.
Eating plant-based focuses more on the nutrition side. Eating whole foods and removing all animal products from the diet.
There is a whole lot of in-between situations for people so the most important thing I urge everyone to remember is that the lifestyle you live is very personal and none of anyone else's business. Let's all be supportive of each other in the plant-based vegan world. After all, we have very similar goals and we all benefit from the changes people make toward this type of diet, even if we're not doing it perfectly or all the time.
-Start By Doing A Kitchen Investigation
Head over to your pantry and start reading those labels. Reading labels will be very important when you're transitioning over to a plant-based diet. To get started go into your pantry and start reading labels. See what items in your pantry have ingredients that have animal-based products in them. Start to become familiar with the things in your pantry that you will still be able to eat on a plant-based diet.
What is that ingredient?
While you're on this investigation don't just pass over the stuff you can't identify. If you don't know what it is, look it up. You'll be surprised about what is plant-based and what isn't. Either way, it's great to know what you're putting in your body and you might come to the decision that you don't want to consume it!
Head over to the fridge and do the same here.
Do the same thing in the fridge that you did in the pantry. Check out all those condiments and salad dressings. I am completely committed to making my own salad dressing now. Not only does it taste 10 times better but it's also 10 times better for your body!
Be wary of the term “natural ingredients”
This usually means anything but what you would think the word natural means. As a matter of fact, in the United States, this term is loosely defined and not enforced and can be used to hide some not so wonderful things like MSG. This can make it difficult for people trying to follow a certain type of diet. My rule of thumb is if you don't know what it is, don't eat it.
-Removing meat and seafood.
Start with a few staple plant-based recipes.
Think of some of the things you love to eat and then find plant-based replacement recipes or something similar. Do some research and get a few ideas for every meal so you are prepared. Look at the ingredients and make sure they're not too difficult and that you have the ingredients. Sign up for my blog HERE for help. Finding recipes that will be similar to the things you already like will make you more comfortable with some of the changes your making!
Check out these resources for help!
Being prepared will help with your success. Of course, there is the oh so wonderful Pinterest for plant-based recipes. If you haven't tried this yet then you're missing out. There are so many recipes over here it's safe to say this is all you need to start. Follow me on Pinterest HERE. I'm constantly posting plant-based recipes. Now, if you have a smartphone and you're like me and love apps, then you'll love Finding Vegan for recipes. It's easy to use and it provides you with many different recipes from all different resources. I love it! There are so many different tools you can use out there these are great to get started.
Make your transition easy with these techniques.
You can try starting with:
Eating plant-based all week and taking a break on the weekends.
Eat plant-based for one meal a day and then increase as you adjust to the change.
Eat plant-based dinners and transition over to the other meals as you move forward. Or start with breakfast or lunch.
These are just a few ways to start and then move forward. Easing your way into a plant-based diet gives you time to learn and adjust. Don't be too hard on yourself and take your time.
-Let's move on to removing dairy and eggs.
Learn how to replace.
There are so many dairy replacements in the grocery store right now. Start testing them out! There are replacements for every dairy product out there. Keep in mind that some of the plant-based cheese, butter, and condiment products can be highly processed and if you're in this to improve your health you might want to keep the use of these products to a minimum or not use them at all. Now if you love trying new things, just make your own. This is what I do sometimes. I know not everyone wants to do this but it's an option. All the resources I mentioned earlier will have those recipes for you and they're not hard to do at all! As far as replacing eggs in recipes there are a few different options. You can make a flax egg or a chia egg. Both work very well. Most plant-based recipes will tell you exactly how to do this so no worries.
Plant-based milk, which one do I use?
There are so many choices now. Almond, cashew, rice, soy, hemp, oat, coconut, ….... My suggestion to you is just starting to try them out. I like almond overall. Cashew can be very creamy. Rice can be thin and might not be the best for baking. Coconut does have a small coconut flavor so some people might not like that. This is definitely a personal preference topic. Have fun testing them all out!
Condiments and salad dressings.
This is an area where I strongly suggest that you make your own. Not only does it taste soooo much better but it's just better for your health. The stuff on the shelf on the grocery stores is loaded with unhealthy fats, lots of salt, and processed sugar or worse yet, high fructose corn syrup. It's an easy decision, make your own.
-What does whole food mean?
A few ways to define whole food.
Food that grows from the earth. Food that is not processed or minimally processed. Food that does not have an ingredient list. Ingredients you can pronounce and know what they are. I know this can be hard to do but if you ease yourself into it and not be too hard on yourself it's easier then you think and you will feel so much better. My energy levels skyrocketed when I started eating more real food.
If you want to get the health benefits of a plant-based diet you have to eat whole foods.
A lot of people want to transition to a plant-based diet for health benefits. What not everyone realizes is in order to get the benefits there is another piece to the puzzle and that is eating whole foods. Be mindful to fuel yourself with nutrient-dense foods and you will feel the difference! When I'm making a meal for myself I always think of how it will serve my body. This is a great way to be mindful and think of a meal because that is exactly what it is, fuel!
I'm going to say it again, don't be too hard on yourself and have fun!
Don't forget to have fun and enjoy delicious meals and desserts. Don't be too serious and never eat dessert again. That's no fun and also impossible! There are plenty of ways to make delicious plant-based desserts that still serve your body. I don't want you to think you can't still enjoy these things.
Also, if you have something that's not the best for your health, forget about it and just move forward. Don't beat yourself up over it. Nobody is perfect! You want progress, not perfection. Keep going!
-How to start a plant-based kitchen makeover.
Start with a pantry and fridge investigation.
What does that mean? Head into the pantry and start to read labels. See what is in the stuff you're putting in your body. If you don't know what it is, look it up. That's why I call this an investigation. I can't think of anything more important than knowing what you're using to fuel your family and your body! I have to warn you if this is the only step that you do in this whole guide it will still be truly life-changing. Also, this will change the way you eat. You'll want to think twice about putting some of these ingredients into your body. Do this in the pantry and the fridge and learn what is plant-based and what is not. Make a list of the non-plant-based items that are important to you. DO NOT THROW EVERYTHING OUT!
Research your replacements.
Now that you have a list of the non-plant-based things that are important to you. Try to find plant-based replacements. I'm aware that these two steps are time-consuming but they are also life-changing! If you want to make changes in your life and health you will have to do things differently. Plus we have computers and search engines now so this is not too hard. If you get totally stuck just shoot me a message on one of my social media platforms and I'll try my best to help.
Replace as you go.
Don't feel the need to throw everything out and go out and spend a fortune on new plant-based items. Replace the items as they run out this way you're not throwing food out and spending a ton of money. Unless you're a cold turkey kind of person. Go for it! Donate the stuff you don't want anymore and go shopping!
-Finding your “WHY” and why it's important.
Whenever you have a goal it's really important to know why the goal is important to you. Figuring out your "why" is the first step to reaching your goal. I have a worksheet for you to figure this out. You'll find it on my Free Resource Page at the bottom of the page. While your there, enjoy the other free stuff too!! Download it HERE and do it right away! Print out the worksheet and put it on your fridge or someplace you'll see it every day. Look at it every morning and more importantly when things get hard for you. This is your own personal motivation!
Want to learn everything you can about a plant-based diet? Here are some great resources that I've used in the past and currently to take advantage of!
Awesome plant-based doctors to follow
Make sure you head over to nutritionfacts.org and spend some time with Dr. Michael Greger. He dishes out evidence-based, plant-based nutrition facts. He's on Facebook and has tons of videos you can watch.
Blogs to check out
Well, of course, I have to mention mine! Check it out at tinastinson.com and be sure to sign up. There are so many great ones to follow so I suggest you do a google search to see what you like. Some good ones are, Oh She Glows, Deliciously Ella, Thug Kitchen, The Fig Tree, My Whole Food Life, and many many more!
Books to read
Believe it or not I haven't read a lot of vegan books. This is surprising because I love to read! Here are a few staples that a lot of people enjoy. The China Study, Becoming Vegan, How Not To Die, The Cheese Trap, Eat To Live, and many more.
Documentaries to watch
Here are a few and be forewarned, some of these could be upsetting but very educational. Cowspiracy, What The Health, Earthling, Vegucated, Food Inc., and many more.
Podcasts to subscribe to
Nutrition Facts with Dr. Greger, Brown Vegan with Monique Koch, Curiously Veg Radio, Food For Thought, Our Hen House, and Rich Roll! There are many more so be sure to see what you can find and see what you like.
For all of these topics, there are so many options so definitely start exploring. This should be a great start for you!
I hope this guide was helpful. If you would like a free plant-based protein grocery list get it on my freebie page HERE!
Healthy Balanced Living
P.S. If you're looking for more support I created this awesome online course called 30 Day Plant-Based Transition! CHECK IT OUT HERE!
P.S.S. Want to deep dive into plant-based cooking, batch cooking, meal prep, and super cool cooking workshops teaching canning, freezing, and much more! Get on the waitlist for My Plant-Based Life Cooking and Lifestyle Membership! Coming Fall 2019!!!