When you make the shift to plant-based foods, your mind, your body, and your food go through some pretty big changes. Here is your guide to eating whole food plant-based without driving yourself, your friends, your family, or your waiter crazy!
The Full Story
As you adapt to whole food plant-based eating, know that this change will help you in many ways: No more worrying about your weight, or micromanaging your meals, or struggling with shame and poor health.
(We’ve seen it firsthand. Read Millie’s story, which led to the founding of Mamasezz!)
You’ll also experience ups and downs as your habits become healthier and happier. This is completely normal. Knowing what to expect in your mind, body, and food, and having the tools to handle bumpy times, helps a lot.
Let’s start with knowing your baseline health
To really understand the power a plant-based die, you need to know the state of your physical health right now.
Find out what your baseline health really is by getting your blood work done. You can ask your doctor for a CBC (Complete Blood Count) or there are a number of online companies that help you quickly and inexpensively.
MIND: Your mind will feel like your enemy (at first). Acceptance is the key.
You will resist these changes. Especially if you've jumped in with all of your heart. This can result in confusion, despair, and the expenditure of a great deal of energy.
Resistance is the outcome of wanting to change a habit but finding your habits of thought do not cooperate with your new desire.
It is as if you are of two minds. One mind is perfectly sensible and reasonable, the other is contrarian, sneaky, seductive and seemingly a lot more fun.
Letting your mind be your enemy takes an enormous amount of energy. And you will not win.
Try this instead:
Everyone rides an emotional roller coaster when making significant changes. You will most likely slip up. Don’t sweat it. Keep riding!
BODY: You’ll feel changes from your belly to your heart to your taste buds
Here’s the truth...
You may lose weight.
You’ll reduce chronic inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among other conditions.
- Your blood cholesterol levels may drop by up to 35 percent.
Cravings change after two weeks because your taste buds change.
You may feel gassy and bloated. (Here’s why and what to do.)
You may have more energy.
You might avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes that impact your energy level.
Your skin may glow and pesky skin issues clear up.
- You will need to take a B-12 supplement. (Here’s why and where to get it.)
FOOD: What foods can you eat on a whole food plant-based diet?
Here’s the truth…
You can a LOT! And these are delicious foods. Here’s a rundown on what is whole food plant-based, and here’s a quick list:
- Whole Grains
- Greens (fresh or frozen)
- Tons of other Veggies like squash, celery, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, sea vegetables
- Fruit (fresh or frozen)
- Seeds rich in Omega-3s (flaxseed, chia seed)
- All the spices you love!
- Water, unsweetened plant “milks,” herbal teas, green tea, decaffeinated coffee
- Seeds:(except omega 3 sources) sesame, pumpkin, sunflower
- Dried fruit
- Added sweeteners like maple syrup, date syrup, molasses
- Tofu, tempeh, miso
Quick note on oil: It’s 100 percent fat, has a tremendous about calories per serving, and doesn’t have much in the way of nutrients. Use it sparingly, if at all.
FOOD: Ummm, how hard is it to do this?
Here’s the truth…
It's easier than you think! Relax, take a deep breath, and hit the pause button. Give yourself some time. Take a week to make a plan to move to this way of eating.
FIRST — Grab a pen and paper and make a list of all the foods that you already eat that fit a WFPB diet.
SECOND — Make a list of your favorite meals that you can remove the meat or dairy from and substitute veggies instead. Here are some ideas:
- Chile: Remove the meat and replace with chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Keep your favorite spices.
- Marinara Pasta: Remove the hamburger and add chopped zucchini and chopped carrots in with the onion you sautee to get started
- Tacos: Replace the meat with chopped walnuts that are stir fried up with the taco spices. Note: Use veggie broth instead of oil for stir frying.
- Pizza: Use a whole grain crust, marinara, and pile high with veggies
- Burrito Bowl: Same rice and black beans, add avocado guacamole, lettuce, tomato and salsa.
THIRD — Make a shopping list of what you will need for your first two weeks of eating this way. Add plenty of favorite fruits like grapes, cherries, apples, oranges, and bananas. Get the fixings for your favorite salad, and veggies to steam up.
LIFE: Eating plant-based while at work, traveling, or out to dinner
A little preparation goes a long way toward making this easier.
The most sensible tip of all? Eat regularly. When we are too hungry, it's hard to make good decisions. Here are some additional tips to help you stay on track and happy.
Eat a little before you leave home. We all make bad decisions when we are “hangry.” Bypass the risk and eat some good food before leaving home. That way a small salad or side dishes will let you focus on your party guests instead of the food.
Use the Ultimate Seasoning Food Hack. When something’s not quite tasting right with your whole food plant-based dish, chances are it’s missing Fat, Acid, Salt or Sweet (FASS). Here are some examples:
- Fat: avocado, raw nuts, nut butter (natural, low sodium versions with no refined or added sugars), chia seeds, hemp seeds, unsweetened coconut shreds
- Acid: lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges, salsa/tomatoes, vinegar
- Sweet: dates and other unsweetened dried fruits, date paste, date syrup, fruit purees (mashed bananas, unsweetened applesauce)
- Salt: sea salt, Tamari, low sodium soy sauce, celery
Go old school. Plan ahead and pack a proper lunch for your trip. Not a snack, a LUNCH. A snack is not enough! Pack what you would normally eat for lunch when you aren’t away from home and bring it with you.
Pack double. This is a game-changer! If you normally eat one bowl of noodles, pack two. One sandwich, pack two. One water, pack two. We are always hungrier than we think we are going to be when we travel.
Research restaurants, ask for what you need. Check out Happy Cow, a free website with state-by-state listings of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and stores. Read online menus and find out what you can order or sub out. (Chicken on pasta? Ask for broccoli. Deli meat on sandwiches? Ask for avocado.) No big deal; just a quiet ask for a substitution.Others will follow your no-drama lead.
Connect with other plant-based folks. You are not alone. Look for Facebook groups and local potlucks. Or start a group of your own! And be sure to join MamaSezz’s HeartBeet Gang Facebook Group for more tips and recipes.
YOU: How are you doing so far?
Here’s the truth.
YOU ARE DOING GREAT! A couple more tips to support you on your way...
- Talk about what you are trying to do with supportive friends. Research shows that social support and telling your story boosts the brain chemical dopamine, that impacts happiness.
- Kick mid-afternoon hunger to the curb and boost your energy with a Green Smoothie.
- Disconnect. Unplug. Go outside. 5 minutes is all you need to positively impact your mood. Wow. Amazing right? It really works.
- Prepare for the mental and emotional ups and downs that come with changing habits.
- Look out for (and look forward to) the changes your body will experience with whole food plant-based eating.
- Get to know which foods are whole food plant-based (and which aren’t).
- Practice the tips and hacks that make whole food plant-based eating fit into your whole life.
Try out the GET ME STARTED bundle. Includes prepared meals + meal plan.