You want to make the shift to a more plant-based diet, perhaps for health, the environment, or ethical reasons, but you don’t know where to begin? That’s the case for many people attempting to go more plant-based or reduce their meat and dairy. To help you get started we’ve gathered 10 tips to consider when switching to a more plant-based diet.
But first what is a plant-based diet?
Plant-based foods don’t contain any animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, fish, or honey. The healthiest diet for the human body is a whole-foods plant-based diet that involves unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients. Natural foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are related to a variety of health benefits and can be effective for weight loss and muscle gain.
Plant-based foods can entail highly processed foods and oils, which aren’t as healthy as a whole-foods plant-based diet. However, a plant-based diet can be much healthier than a meat-based one due to plant-based foods don’t contain cholesterol, hormones, or antibiotics, and in most cases lower amounts of saturated fat.
1. Know the nutrients you need
We need 6 essential nutrients to function properly, which are Carbohydrates (CHO), Lipids (fats), Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, and Water.
The whole-foods plant-based diet provides all the essential nutrients your body needs ,so knowing about the 5 major food groups will help you choose your foods wisely.
The 5 major food groups on a whole-foods plant-based diet are fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes. So get started on that grocery list!
2. Learn to cook your favorite dishes but vegan
Reflect on your favorite dishes and learn how to make plant-based versions of them. Google search any dish you like and simply add “vegan” to find delicious vegan recipes online. Focus on finding recipes that are easy to follow in the beginning and try out more complex recipes once you get a hang of it.
For the recipes that require milk or eggs you just use plant-based alternatives instead such as plant milk and plant-based egg replacers such as silken tofu, aquafaba (chickpea water), chia seeds, ground flax seeds, and even bananas.
3. Check the ingredients on food labels
If you want to avoid all animal-derived ingredients in food there’re lists available online that can help you understand what to avoid. Sometimes, products are labelled ‘vegan friendly’, or have the “certified vegan” logo. But in most cases, it’s necessary to check the ingredients list to ensure that the product is vegan. If the label states that the product may contain milk or eggs, it’s still considered vegan. This statement is mostly meant for those with strong allergies, who can get allergic reactions from small amounts of cross-contamination with an allergen.
4. Stock up on the essentials
Always have a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds so you’re able to make a plant-based meal or healthy snack at any time. Canned beans are also very convenient to have in stock due to their long shelf time. Also stock up on vegetables that you know you’ll use and buy smaller amounts of the fruits and vegetables that don’t last long.
Frozen vegetables and fruits are also great to have as you can easily add them to your smoothies and protein shakes.
5. Ditch the dairy milk
Dairy milk and dairy products are high in saturated fat and linked to heart disease, certain forms of cancer, acne, bad bone health, and even bad digestion. 60-75 % of the population is lactose intolerant, which makes plant-based alternatives ideal for anyone.
Start by trying out different plant-based milk options and switch the dairy milk. If you try one you don’t like don’t panic! There’s an abundance of plant milks from different brands based on almonds, cashews, rice, soy, peas, etc.
6. Replace the meat
Instead of building a meal around meat, adjust your mind to building a meal around protein-rich plant-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, or lentils, and add your favorite vegetables and whole grains.
If you’re a big meat eater finding plant-based meat alternatives will give you the feeling of not missing out on the meat taste. However, it’s recommended to eat mostly whole foods plant-based protein. Luckily, there’s no cholesterol, hormones or antibiotics in plant-based “meat” compared to animal meat - just make sure to watch out for fat if you choose to try any processed plant-based products.
7. Get reliable B12 supplements
Vitamin B12 is made by microbes in the soil and is crucial for anyone eating a plant-based diet as it’s generally not found in plant-based foods. B12 is essential for brain development and growth. It’s possible to get B12 from B12-fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and plant-based milks. The easiest way to ensure that you get the recommended amount is by taking B12 supplements.
The Plant Era’s vegan protein powders are supplemented with 50% of your required vitamin B12 to ensure your body gets what it needs to conquer the day. Vitamin B12 is also crucial as it contributes to increase energy levels and fight deficiencies.
8. Explore plant-based options when eating out
Vegan restaurants and cafés are on the rise around the world, and an increase in plant-based options are available as well. To help you get started on a plant-based diet it can be fun to try out new restaurants or explore the plant-based options at your go-to restaurant. You might ask yourself why you never chose the vegan options before!
Get help finding vegan restaurants on happycow.net/, or make a quick search on google to find plant-based food options near you.
9. Get inspired by others
Plenty of food bloggers, chefs and plant-based food profiles on social media share recipes and videos on how to cook delicious plant-based recipes. Find profiles you feel inspired by and take notes. Popular profiles on Instagram including ‘Vegainsfood’, ‘Maxlamanna’, and ‘Deliciouslyella’ make delicious vegan recipes that are easy to follow.
You can also join food groups or communities on Facebook, where everyday consumers share vegan products and recipes, and can assist you with answers to your questions regarding their recipes.
10. Remember to be patient
Change takes time adjusting to, and taking the first step is always the hardest. But if you follow the above-mentioned steps and take the time to learn how to make healthy and tasteful plant-based dishes, or research the health benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet – one thing’s for sure. Your body and mind will be healthier than it ever was!
If you want to know more about the health benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet or vegan protein check out our other blog posts.