Looking to improve your eating habits with a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet? Not sure where to start? We get it. The internet can be a wonderful place to find information, but boy can it be overwhelming. So let's demystify things a bit, shall we? Get our 7 best tips on how to start a plant based diet and ease into this healthy lifestyle, without driving yourself crazy!
Before we begin: The easiest way to start a plant based diet? Let MamaSezz cook!
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Before we talk about how to start a plant based diet, let's review WHY eat this way in the first palce!
A plant-based diet is the best way to supply your body with the nutrients it needs without having to count calories or scan every nutrition label. Studies show plant-based diets lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, help with weight loss, and can prevent, and even reverse, chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
And the nutrients you get with a plant-based diet can give you ample energy throughout the day, curb your appetite, and help you look and feel your best.
So, where do you even begin? Check out this beginner's guide for seven tips on how to start a plant based diet.
1. Know your facts
Before you dive in, it’s important to really understand the changes you’re making concerning your diet. Spend some time educating yourself on plant-based eating. From online research to support groups (such as online groups, talking with friends, family and/or coworkers that are on the diet), you can have a better understanding of what you’re about to embark on and what kinds of hurdles (and benefits) you should expect.
But first, what exactly is a plant-based diet? A plant-based diet is similar to a vegan diet, in that it doesn't include dairy, meat, eggs, or other animal products. However, a plant-based diet takes it one step further by eliminating processed foods that contain refined sugar, preservatives, white flour, and processed oils.
With a plant-based diet, you consume unrefined and/or minimally refined foods. This includes: vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes. Think of it as eating the most natural (and nutritious) plants available. Simply put, the guidelines of a plant-based diet help you gain the nutrients you need in order to keep your body healthy.
2. Discover your “why”
If you’re reading this article, something is motivating you and leading you towards a plant-based diet. But motivation is like gas in a car engine. It starts the car, makes the car go, but it does not drive the car or tell it how to get to a destination.
Wondering how to start a plant based diet? Don't focus too much on "motivation." Motivation alone can be fickle and hard to sustain. Otherwise every time we “got motivated” to do something big, like change our diet or exercise, we’d be able to stick with it. So what gives? If motivation isn’t our problem what is?
To reach a goal you’re going to need two things:
- A big enough reason, “Your Why.”
- To match your environment to your goal. (More on this second step later in the article.)
Here’s a great formula to discover the details of your “why” quickly.
I want to feel/ or have _________________________________________.
So that/ or Because….____________________________________________________.
I really want to lose weight and not be thinking about what I’m eating all the time… So that I can free up my mind and just live my life without constantly struggling with what I eat.
I want to feel more energetic and not so tired… So that when my kids or spouse want to do something I can enjoy my time with them and also my other hobbies.
I want to get healthier… Because I am afraid my heart condition or diabetes will just get worse as I get older and I don’t want to live the rest of my life sick.
3. Transition your eating habits the right way
If jumping in headfirst is overwhelming to you, know that you don’t have to! Instead, you can focus on the small things. Start with eating plant-based items/meals that you’re already consuming, and slowly eliminating meat and refined foods as you go. You can first eliminate the animal foods you seldom eat. This is similar to how those who are transitioning to a vegan diet often make the change, and it’s an easy first step to take.
You can also work to slowly eliminate the animal products you eat most; remove these foods from meals and replace them with plant-based alternatives. Have fruit handy for a midday snack or try a black bean burger instead of beef, etc.
And yes, we know that you’re eager to see results quickly. You’ll get there. We just want to make sure that once you reach your health goals, you’re able to stick with them. If you’re not someone who does cold turkey well, you can help your body crave less and instead focus on the new plant-diet foods you can eat. Doing it this way, you can create a healthy, sustainable plant-based lifestyle.
4. Look for new recipes
One of the first things we tell someone who's wondering how to start a plant based diet is that they're going to want to find some recipes that actually sound good to them!
If you’re just getting started on the whole-food plant-based diet, chances are that some (or even most) of your old, go-to meal plans won’t make the transition with you. This is a good thing; after all, if you’re set on switching to a WFPB lifestyle, there’s a good chance that your old dietary staples weren’t making you happy or healthy. However, it does leave you with some meal-shaped holes in your weekly food regimen. So, it’s time to find some replacements that you’ll enjoy, too.
Where to start? Well, there is a whole wonderful world of plant-based food out there. Not to toot our own horn, but Mamasezz has a fairly large collection of WFPB recipes for plant-based beginners. We've also got some really easy and tasty FREE vegan meal plans for beginners.
Beyond that, look into other online sources or plant-based cookbooks, or talk to friends and associates who’ve already made the plant-based switch. As you figure out which new food options to focus on, you may be pleasantly surprised at how many delicious meals and snacks are out there.
5. On the go? No problem
Figuring out how to start a plant based diet is a tricky enough situation for beginners – if you're a super busy person who's often on that go, it can feel impossible. The good news is, it can be easy and delicious to eat a plant based diet on the go!
It’s always important to be prepared when it comes to eating on the go. If you’re going to be away from your kitchen for certain meals, get into a habit of prepping everything before you leave the house. This might mean getting lunch ready the night before, sure, but you can take things even further. If you’ve got a busy week coming up, consider making meal plans (preparing what you can and planning for the rest) on Sunday evening. The more prep you can get out of the way early, the smoother your week will go.
Of course, you’re a busy person, and there’s a good chance that the last thing you want to add to your schedule is a lot of meal prep. The good news is that there are high-quality options that require zero prep time. For example, you can work with a whole food plant-based meal delivery service, ordering ready-made meals for delivery to your door. Alternatively, if you plan to eat out, do some research beforehand and look for plant-based or vegan friendly places/dishes. And always travel with back ups (meals or snacks) in case there are no plant-based options available.
6. Create a healthy environment
Told you we’d come back to this. Once you’ve established your “Why,” it’s important to match your environment to your goal. Look, we’re not doubting your commitment or your willpower; we’re just saying that it’s easiest to follow through on a new diet when you don’t have temptation lurking in every cupboard.
In addition to educating yourself and meal prepping, it’s good to be surrounded by a healthy eating environment. During your transition to a plant-based diet, don’t save junk, animal products, or processed foods. They’re not doing you any good. They’ll never be doing you any good. Get them out of your house and replace them with healthy, whole-food alternatives.
By purging your home of unhealthy foods, you’ll not only be giving yourself some added protection for when the junk-food cravings hit, but you’ll also be establishing a foundation of consistency — one you can build on as you go.
7. Keep with it!
Above all else, don’t let a single misstep ruin your commitment. Yes, consistency is key with the plant-based diet, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t second (or third, fourth, or fifth) chances. Tomorrow’s always another day, and if you’re consistently improving and working toward becoming a better you, then that’s a victory worth being proud of.
So learn from your mistakes and keep up your hard work, because the more you commit to the whole-food plant-based diet, the more quickly it will become your new lifestyle.
- A plant based diet can change your life and health – but it's the getting started that can be hard to navigate! Luckily you don't have to...
- Wondering how to start a plant based diet? First, know your facts about how eating this way can help you achieve your goals.
- Come up with a solid "why" behind your lifestyle change.
- Be on the lookout for plant based recipes that sound good and within your skill level so you can commit to making healthy meals at home.
- If you're on the go a lot and not sure how to start a plant based diet, begin with meal prep! Always have snacks on hand! Or even better, get MamaSezz plant based meal delivery to do the work for you and get ready-made and fresh vegan meals delivered to your door.
- Make your environment match your goals and stock up on healthy plant based foods and get rid of junk!
- Don't let setbacks keep you down! We all fumble – dust yourself up and know that you can start again at your next meal.
**By Ali Brown
Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.