Many people are interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet but find they have no idea where to start. Browsing the Internet can quickly become overwhelming, leaving dread where excitement and possibility once were. But it doesn’t have to be this way – with the right resources, tools, and guidance, shifting to a plant-based lifestyle can be enjoyable, sustainable, and rewarding.
Plant-based diets have been shown to offer a host of benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, and helping with weight maintenance; they’re even good for the environment. So what is a plant-based diet? It’s different from a vegetarian or vegan diet but still consists of eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. A vegan can be plant-based, but someone who is plant-based is not necessarily a vegan.
The main concern people have when looking to transition to a plant-based lifestyle is how they’re going to get enough protein into their diet. There are many plant-based protein options, though, so there’s no need to worry! These include nuts, beans, lentils, tempeh, seitan, tofu, edamame, and even some fruits and vegetables. Having enough vitamin B12 in the diet can be another concern when eliminating meat, but some alternative milk options and nutritional yeast can replace what you were getting from animal products.
Four Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet
Start with a clean slate
Clean out the pantry and fridge, and stock both with plant-based essentials to get yourself started. Focus on whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, herbs, and spices. By stocking up with suitable types of foods, you’re creating a healthy food environment to set yourself up for success, thus making the process of transitioning much easier.
You don’t have to abandon your favorite foods and dishes when you start a plant-based diet. Get creative with meals, read up on new recipes, follow plant-based influencers on social media, try new meals from cookbooks, ask around, and find a community with the same goals and vision. Don’t be afraid to venture out and try fresh, innovative meals that you haven’t tried before.
One easy way to do this is by substituting for ingredients rather than eliminating them altogether. If you’re used to eating a meal with protein in it, rather than not including the protein, replace it with a plant-based protein option such as beans or lentils or soy-based options such as tempeh or tofu.
Incorporate a plant-based meal as breakfast, lunch, or dinner or try doing “Meatless Monday.” You don’t have to overhaul your diet all at once. Eventually, plant-based meals will become staples in your diet. Start slowly and transition in stages; even small changes have powerful results. Finding out which new foods you enjoy the most can be enjoyable, if you make it fun!
When dining out, look at menus ahead of time to see the plant-based options available. This makes things easier when going out to eat with others, and it can save you time and frustration. Meal prepping weekly will also make staying on track so much easier than having to figure out what to eat each day. Plus meal prepping can save money and keep food from going to waste.
Developing healthy habits
Health is more than what we eat ‒ it’s about the practices that will support your journey long-term. It involves the relationships you have, your spiritual connections, your emotional wellness, and every nonedible form of self-care. IIN calls this primary food, and it’s a pillar of its educational philosophy.
As a Health Coach and dietitian, I have clients who are always looking to try the next new trend and lifestyle change. I work with my clients to find the reasoning behind why they want to try something new, like going plant-based! I want my clients to implement changes that can affect them holistically.
Going plant-based doesn’t have to be a permanent change, either. I’ve helped individuals to transition at least 80% of their meals to plant-based. It can be one, two, three, or all meals each day ‒ whatever works best for you is what matters most. I always encourage my clients to start small and build up other habits along the way. Transitioning isn’t a marathon, and small, actionable steps lead to long-lasting changes.