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The super helpful resources every whole food plant-based beginner needs to know about

Written by Ali Donahue
The super helpful resources every whole food plant-based beginner needs to know about

Quick Take

Transitioning to a plant-based diet and not sure where to start? We've gathered up some of our go-to resources to help you live the life you want! From nutrition science sources to our favorite recipe blogs to cant-miss documentaries, we've got you covered. 

On this page

Why plant-based?

5 plant-based nutrition science resources

9 plant-based beginner recipe websites

9 plant-based beginner cookbooks to pick up

8 plant-based beginner books to read

5 plant-based beginner documentaries to watch

Key Takeaways

Free download: Ultimate (little) Guide to Plant-Based Eating

Before we begin: a FREE gift for you

Why plant-based?

The benefits to eating this way are plenty. Eating whole plants can reduce your risk of developing serious illnesses (or even help reverse illness) like:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • hypertension
  • autoimmune diseases
  • MS
  • obesity
  • cancer

Not to mention, eating plant-based can…

Ok, ok, sounds great, right? But how do you get started so you can reap all these incredible health benefits? With these awesome resources for the plant-based beginner. 

5 plant-based nutrition science resources

1. T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies 

T. Colin Campbell is one of the grandfathers of whole food plant-based living. He conducted and wrote the China Study, the most comprehensive study of nutrition which concludes that animal protein is harmful and causes chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, certain types of cancer).

2. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 

Founded by Dr. Neal Barnard, PCRM is made up of over 12,000 physicians with the goal of creating a healthier world and preventing illness with a plant-based diet and education, rather than just treating symptoms. Their website has nutrition tips and science, information and research broken out by specific health tops (like heart disease, breast cancer, etc.), plus healthy vegan recipes.


Dr. Greger’s website is a science-based public service, hosting videos and blogs that break down all the latest nutrition research, with links to the full studies if you like to read them yourself, too. We love Dr. Greger because he’s not only extremely informed on the latest nutrition science, his content is approachable and digestible. This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the science at work when we move from animal products to plant-based foods. He covers seemingly everything - from fertility to gut health to weight loss. 

4. UC Integrative Medicine

    Led by founding director Dr. Rosana Oliveira, this site is chock full of plant-based how-tos and recipes rooted in nutrition science. 

    5. Dr. Esselstyn

    Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is famous for his prevent and reverse heart disease program, which he leads at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. His website is an excellent resource for anyone interested in preventing or healing from heart disease. The website shares easy plant-based beginner recipes, plant-based nutrition news, research, and events, plus has several free videos and testimonials.

    9 plant-based beginner recipe websites

    Ready to get cooking? Here are some of our favorite places to get easy plant-based recipes for beginners.

    1. Chef AJ

    Trying to lose weight? Chef AJ is your girl. A celebrity plant-based chef and pioneer, Chef AJ has four decades of experience helping folks meet their weight loss goals with delicious plant-based SOS-free (no salt, no oil, no sugar) recipes and her Ultimate Weight Loss Program. (Want Chef AJ inspired meals, delivered? Order the Chef AJ Always Prepared Meal Bundle here.)

    2. Happy Herbivore

    An excellent recipe resource for weight loss and families, Lindsay S. Nixon, AKA the Happy Herbivore, specializes in low fat vegan recipes that are affordable and easy to make. Win-win.

    3. Running on Real Food

    Eating this way is part of a lifestyle, not just a diet -- and Running on Real Food is a reflection of just that. If you’re looking for a vegan food blog with simple and healthy meals to fuel your active lifestyle, this is it.

    4. Clean Food Dirty Girl

    Helping folks eat clean, with a sense of humor, Clean Food Dirty Girl is the go-to for whole food plant-based meal prepping. With a seemingly endless array of plant-based recipes and meal plans (both free and for purchase options), this is the perfect option for anyone who really enjoys cooking and wants to do it the whole food plant-based way. (Warning: not safe for work! Co-founder Molly Patrick has a wicked sense of humor and does use some explicit language!)

    5. Straight Up Food

    Another find for anyone looking to cut salt, oil, and sugar from their diet. All whole food plant-based recipes here are SOS-free, with gluten-free options as well.

    6. Nutritiously

    Couple Alena and Lars created Nutritiously to show people just how easy (and tasty) eating plant-based can be. Their beautiful website has tons of well-rounded vegan meals to make at home, plus some great tips and tricks for plant-based beginners, from navigating awkward family conversations to eating this way while traveling.

    7. Forks Over Knives

    From the makers of the famous documentary of the same name, this is often one of the first websites folks will stumble across when they enter into the world of plant-based eating. FOK has over 250 free recipes on their blog from many well-known vegan recipe bloggers -- and their own cookbook, to boot!

    8. Dreena Burton

    Best-selling cookbook author and 20-year vegan, Dreena Burton is known for creating nourishing vegan recipes the whole family will enjoy, from homemade fudgesicles (yep!) to chickpea tacos.

    9. MamaSezz

    We're not just a meal delivery company! We’re dedicated to making eating whole food plant-based easy, whether that’s through our ready-made meals or our free plant-based recipes. MamaSezz Chef Caroline dishes up plant-based recipes every week to suit all tastes, from vegan pesto-stuffed mushrooms to dairy-free cheesecake

    9 plant-based beginner cookbooks

    1. The China Study Family Cookbook by Del Sroufe

    A great cookbook for plant-based beginners looking for vegan takes on familiar foods you know and love. It’s loaded with family-friendly recipes like nachos, hot cocoa, spaghetti and “meatballs.” 

    >2. Straight Up Food by Cathy Fisher

      Tired of vegan recipes with a big long list of ingredients you’ve never heard of? This cookbook focuses on easy plant-based recipes with easy-to-find ingredients -- and no salt, oil, or sugar included.

      3. The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners by Gabriel Miller

      Easy is the name of the game for Gabriel Miller, or “Plant-Based Gabriel.” He lost 100 pounds when he switched to a whole food plant-based lifestyle and wants to make it easy for you to meet your health goals, too. Gabriel specializes in creating simple recipes for plant-based beginners who are overwhelmed about transitioning to this way of life.

      4. Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton

      Got kiddos at home? This is the cookbook for your family, with over 100 kid-tested whole vegan recipes. 

      5. The Plant-Power Way by Rich Roll

      Rich Roll’s not just a vegan athlete; he’s also a vegan family man. This cookbook is for plant-based curious families looking to navigate this lifestyle together with family-friendly recipes and advice. 

      6. Plant Strong by Rip and Jane Esselstyn

      A #1 New York Times best-seller from Engine 2’s Rip and Jane Esselstyn, filled with great info for plant-based beginners plus easy tasty recipes to get you started. 

      7. The How NOT to Die Cookbook by Michael Greger, MD

      The physician behind put out a comprehensive cookbook with 120 recipes for whole food plant-based eaters. It’s also got very helpful sample menus in the back to help you meal plan with whole food plant-based recipes.

      8. The No Meat Cookbook by Matt Frazier

      There's a reason athletes are going plant-based --  considering going plant-based, definitely pick up a copy of this cookbook, written by Matt Frazier, AKA the No Meat Athlete. Not only will it ease your concerns about protein (spoiler: you’ll get plenty of protein a plant-based diet), but it’s got over 100 recipes to help boost your workout.

      9. Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking by Dana Shultz

      A beautiful cookbook from Dana Shultz. All the recipes in this one are 10 ingredients or less, all vegan, and many gluten-free. Note: she does sometimes use oil so keep an eye out and omit when necessary. (Why no oil? Here’s the scoop.) 

      Not a big cook? Get ready-made plant-based meals, delivered! 

      No cooking required. Just heat, eat, and be on your plant-based way! Get started here.

      8 plant-based beginner books to read

      1. The China Study - Revised and Expanded Edition by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M Campbell II

      30 years ago, nutritious researcher T. Colin Campbell conducted the most comprehensive nutrition study to date, looking at the correlation between diet and disease. What they found? A whole food plant-base diet was optimal for longevity and health. This one is definitely a must-read for any beginner interested in the science behind whole food plant-based living.  

      2. The Forks Over Knives Plan by by Alona Pulde M.D., Matthew Lederman M.D., Marah Stets,  Brian Wendel, Darshana Thacker

      Know you want to eat a whole food plant-based diet but completely overwhelmed? The Forks Over Knives Plan helps you get a grasp on the basics in an easy to follow day-by-day plan. Filled with tips and tricks like how to stock your vegan pantry, the best whole food snacks, plus 100 recipes.  

      3. The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss by Chef AJ

      If weight loss is part of your healthy living goal, Chef AJ can help you get there. With this book, you’ll not only get Chef AJ’s tips and tricks for sustainable weight loss but a catalogue of satisfying meals that’ll keep you full and help you lose the weight for good. 

      4. How NOT to Die by Michael Greger, MD

      Science nerds and novices alike will enjoy Dr. Gregor’s How Not To Die. It dives into the groundbreaking nutrition science and reveals WHY it is that a Standard American Diet is harmful and a whole food plant-based lifestyle is healing. He also offers up his now famous “Daily Dozen” -- the 12 plant-based foods you should try to eat every day for optimal health.

      5. Proteinaholic by Garth Davis MD

      Worried you won’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet? We hear you! This is a valid concern, given we’re constantly bombarded with messages about “needing more” protein to be healthy, lose weight, etc. Spoiler: there is such a thing as too much protein, and most of us are surpassing our needs everyday. Dr. Garth Davis’ book deconstructs our obsession with protein in American culture and reveals the scientific evidence that too much protein is harmful, not beneficial, to the human body. 

      6. Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD 

      We know a plant-based diet can help protect us against heart disease, but Dr. Caldwell’s revolutionary work also shows us that this lifestyle can reverse it, as well. This book dives into the science behind these nutrition claims but includes 150 whole food plant-based and heart healthy recipes. 

      7. Cheese Trap by Neal Barnard, MD 

      Having a hard time giving up dairy -- especially cheese? You’re not alone. Dr. Neal Barnard explores just how addicting dairy really is and why it’s time to give it up for good. 

      8. Reversing Diabetes by Neal Barnard, MD

      We used to think that once you were given a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, you were stuck with it. Thanks to Neal Barnard’s groundbreaking research, we now know that’s not true. This book explores how we can both prevent and often reverse insulin sensitivity  and type 2 diabetes with his step-by-step plan. 

      5 plant-based beginner documentaries to watch

      1. Forks Over Knives

      2. What the Health?!


      3. The Game Changers 


      4. Eating You Alive

      5. PlantPure Nation  

      Key Takeaways

      • A plant-based diet can help prevent, even reverse many chronic conditions, from heart disease to cancer.
      • Our go-to plant-based documentaries: Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Game Changers, Eating Your Alive, PlantPure Nation

      Don’t forget your FREE Download: the Ultimate (little) Guide to Plant-Based Eating


      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.

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