HOW TO TRANSITION TO A MORE PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE


Have you recently heard some mumblings about a plant-based diet? Met someone who is vegan? Saw a cool plant-based cookbook at the bookstore? Or just want to eat to beat disease and for environmental sustainability? Then eating a more plant-based diet is for you.


Now that you have decided you would like to give it a try, where to begin??


I have lined up a few different paths for you below as this lifestyle tends to be different for everyone. I hope you can find some helpful tips and tricks in my most popular methods for helping people transition to a plant-based lifestyle.





The Flexitarian

The first path is commonly known in my family as the “flexitarian.” This is a person who does not like to define the way that they eat but enjoys exploring many different cuisines from vegan to vegetarian to some animal products. This is the most realistic goal for most people as I understand that not everyone is able to cut out animal products completely.


To go from the Standard American Diet to a more flexitarian diet I recommend checking out the Blue Zones book for some Mediterranean inspiration! Try cooking with new produce each week and keep lots of fresh & minimally processed foods in your kitchen. When you go out, sample the wild fish or seafood option or enjoy a small amount of cheese from a local farm. Keep things centered around plants while enjoying minimal meat, some seafood, and dairy on the side.


This way of eating is easily achievable for those that enjoy going out and trying new restaurants as you never need to fear the menu won’t have any options as you are mainly controlling the food you have at home. This will also help you not support highly processed brands by purchasing them repeatedly at the grocery store.






Whole Food Plant-Based

This is the path that I actually took when I first decided that the Western way of eating was not for me. To learn more about this style of eating check out Forks Over Knives (the book and the Netflix documentary) or Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn. This is a slightly more specific lifestyle than the previous but still contains so many options but has much higher health benefits to reap. This way of eating has been proven to prevent and reverse heart disease when followed completely. It is also a great way to lose weight without counting calories as you will be eating in abundance but will be able to better understand your hunger cues as it is difficult to overeat plant foods like brown rice or beans or broccoli.


As defined by the Esselstyn’s in their research, a Whole Food, Plant-Based diet is a diet of minimally processed plant foods with limited added oils and high fat foods. This means meals are based around whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, with nuts & seeds. There is no room for animal products in this lifestyle but plenty for an abundance of nutrient rich plants. This way of eating also excludes those processed vegan “junk foods” that have taken the market by storm. Don’t get me wrong enjoying a plant-based burger or faux chicken nugget here and there definitely has a time and a place but is not to become regular parts of your meals in this lifestyle.


To achieve this lifestyle in the kitchen is quite simple, stock up on dried whole grains and legumes as your bases, then add in seasonal produce and get ready to get creative. My favorite part about this way of eating is creating a lot of my own basics. Use fresh herbs, lemon, and cashews to make a bright dressing for your salad. Or soak some almonds overnight, add a splash of vanilla extract and a date for some delicious homemade almond milk.


While this way of eating is fun and entirely achievable in the home it may not be completely accessible for those who rely on or enjoy going out to eat often. Most restaurants have heavy reliance on added oils and processed counterparts making finding a fully whole food, plant-based option somewhat difficult. I have experimented in many settings with baked potatoes, a side of steamed veggies, a salad with a dressing on the side, and really just building my own plate.


What I found works best for me in this way of eating is to mainly eat this way at home when I have control of the ingredients and follow a more plant-based/ vegan diet when I go out.





Plant-Based

I used to think that this diet and a “whole food, plant-based” diet was interchangeable until I started purchasing cookbooks with “plant-based” in the title and would get home to see some animal products mixed in. I started to realize that this means exactly what it sounds like, a diet based on plants. This way of eating is very similar to the flexitarian except is just a bit more plant based (in my opinion). This person eats predominantly plant-based meals but might add and egg or a bit of cheese. They also might try occasional animal products once again when they go out.


As this is not a very strict way of eating, I say that simply planning your meals around plants is once again the way to go. Clean out your kitchen and stock up with grains you know you love, add in a protein source like beans or tofu or tempeh, some seasonal veggies, and minimal locally sourced animal products if you like. This way of eating is easily achievable and still 1000x better than the Standard American Diet for your health and the planet.





Vegan

Now this term has gone through so much controversy as many assume it means a more plant-based approach, but it really just means the exclusion of animal products. This can be healthy and sustainable if you look for minimally processed options and focus on proper nutrition. However, if you eat white pasta and Oreos every day you won’t see many benefits and will most likely become nutrient deficient.


Most of the people who I have worked with who follow a vegan diet made the adjustment for animal welfare and once they learn about the health and environmental aspects of choosing whole options, they tend to make the switch quite seamlessly.



10 Tips to help you be more Plant Based:

  1. Recreate your favorite meals in a plant-based version

  2. Make your own milks and salad dressings

  3. Join a local CSA farm for fresh produce

  4. Only purchase grocery items with fewer than 5 ingredients

  5. Try a new grain or veggie each week

  6. Buy yourself a plant-based cookbook and make one new recipe each week

  7. Try to get a fully plant-based meal at a restaurant near you

  8. Use the app Happy Cow to find vegan options near you

  9. Plan out your meals- plants first!

  10. Check out some of the recipes on my blog!


It all starts in the kitchen, purchase minimally processed plant based foods, keep you fridge stocked, plan out your meals, and set yourself up for success!


Kitchen Essentials for a Plant Based diet:

  • Whole Grains

  • Legumes

  • Fresh Fruit

  • Fresh Veggies

  • Frozen fruit & veg

  • Greens

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Spices

  • Herbs

  • Cookbooks, blogs, and some recipe inspiration!