Wondering how to start a plant based diet? Who does not want a fit and healthy lifestyle? It has been an important goal for us. And the key to a healthy lifestyle is a healthy diet. A good diet does not only give us longer life, it boosts our immunity, supports muscle, strengthens our bones as well as helps the digestive system function well.
But if you are someone who wants to start a healthy and nutritious diet but also wants to avoid animal products, this article can be your answer of how to start a plant based diet.
So before starting about how to start a plant based diet, you should know what is a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet consists entirely of or mostly plant foods. Besides fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans are also included in this diet.
To choose a plant-based diet you don’t have to be vegan, it is not necessarily a vegan diet. If you are willing to start a diet with less or no animal-based foods, you can definitely start this diet based on plants. Plant-based diets are recommended by dietitians nowadays over other diets.
Before discussing how to start a plant based diet, here are a few types of diet you must know about. There are four types of plant-based eating patterns, vegetarian diet, Mediterranean diet, flexitarian diet, and a whole-food plant-based diet.
While a vegetarian diet is completely based on plants and veggies, Mediterranean diet is mainly based on vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains but it also includes some animal products such as fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt as well as an average amount of red wine. Mediterranean diet is known to be beneficial for heart health besides other health benefits.
On the other side, a flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet is an environment-friendly plant-based diet. Meat or other animal products are less often included in this diet.
Lastly, the whole foods plant-based diet is focused on only eating plants in whole foods form. Processed foods are not recommended in a whole food plant-based diet. Before starting with How to start a plant based diet, you must have to choose which of these four you want to follow.
Why a Plant-based Diet?
There are several reasons, people choose a plant-based diet. Some choose it for sake of health, as plant-based foods are highly beneficial for health, especially the heart. Some decide to start this diet for environmental impact as a vegan diet has the lowest carbon footprint. And others choose plant-based diets to reduce the animal killing for food. So before going with how to start a plant based diet, you should first pick a reason which will also encourage you to continue your diet.
What to Eat on a Plant-based Diet?
In a fully plant based diet, fruits and veggies are always on the top of the list. Make sure to add a standard amount of fresh fruit and vegetables to your shopping list. Eat a lot of green and cruciferous vegetables to get proper plant-based nutrition. These are the main part of plant based diet. Try to prepare a meal around the salad. Also add beans, peas, and lentils to the list as these contain protein and fiber. Speaking of protein and fiber, whole grains like quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice has an excellent amount of it. Eat whole grains in your breakfast.
Eat minimally processed plant foods. Nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds are also an important part of plant based eating. Eat a proper amount of almonds, walnuts, flax, chia seeds, or any kind of nut you like to get the plant proteins from. Eat fruits like ripe peaches, watermelon slices, or strawberries as dessert. Consume soy like Tofu and edamame as these are excellent sources of protein.
What to Avoid on a Plant-based Diet
- Canned sauces.
- Fast food.
- Processed meat such as bacon, chicken, fried fish.
- Packaged snacks like cookies, dessert, chips.
- White and other refined grains
- Drink with artificial sugar.
Things to Keep in Mind Before discussing how to start a Plant based Diet
While figuring how to start a plant based diet, there are few things one must keep in mind.
- If combined perfectly and centered around whole foods, plant-based diet can be nutritious and healthy.
- For those who want to adopt the complete vegetarian diet, alternatives for meat, and egg would be lentils, black beans, cauliflower, pumpkin, and especially mushroom because it already has a meaty texture, and apple sauce, and flaxseeds.
- Replace cow’s milk with almond milk, Oat milk, or coconut milk. Also, soy milk contains calcium, you can go for it too.
- Eat bananas, spinach, chickpeas as well as beans, pulses, nuts for plant-based proteins.
- You have to take B12 supplements in your plant based diet to ensure you are getting enough nutrition.
- A beginner can take Iron and calcium supplements too. Although you can find these in your veg foods.
How to Start a Plant based Diet?
As a beginner, you should adopt the diet by starting slowly. Start with one of the plant-based meals per day, like plant-based breakfast every morning.
Secondly, reduce the consumption of meat or other non-vegetarian foods from your everyday menu. If you love eating meat on a regular basis, transitioning to a plant-based diet would be a little difficult. So try to eat meat only once a day. It will help you adopt the diet.
Take on the meatless Monday habit. It is like a day without meat. Eat only veggies and fruits on Monday.
Choosing a plant-based diet does not mean avoiding dessert. You can prepare vegetarian desserts for yourself after a meal.
Use more plant-based foods to change your eating habits. Have a stock of veg snacks, like fruits and nuts. Do not make yourself starve.
What does a perfect plant-based meal look like?
So how to start a plant based diet with some healthy as well as tasty meals? You will find your answer right here. While choosing your meals, make sure you get all the essential nutrients. Because healthy eating is the most important thing in a diet. As in the plant-based eating process, you are minimizing animal products, you have to make sure that you are consuming enough plant protein or nutrients as an alternative to animal proteins.
To make the whole thing easier, here are some plant-based meal recipes and ideas you can follow-
As breakfast is the start of a day and our stomach is almost empty, we need a proper amount of food. So here are some plant-based meals you can start your day with-
- Chocolate banana smoothie.
- Banana smoothie with different fruits, berries, and nut butter.
- Cereal is always an option. But you better stay away from store-bought cereals. Try homemade flakes, fruit cereal as breakfast. For more taste and nutrition, add some fruits and sliced bananas on top.
- Eat pancakes. This is not only a delicious idea, but if you have a busy schedule the next day, you can make some extra pancakes beforehand and easily store them.
- A whole-wheat English muffin. Use sliced tomatoes and avocados as toppings.
- Toast with scrambled egg is a quick and simple breakfast option. If you are trying to follow pure vegetarian and vegan diets, then add some toppings to your toast and exclude the egg. You can go with peanut butter banana toast or avocado toast.
For a balanced plant-based diet, do not keep your stomach empty in the time between breakfast and lunch. Dieticians often suggest eating something light in that time. Grab an apple or a few bananas as your snacks. Otherwise have some homemade cookies.
Lunch is an important meal throughout the day. Here are some plant-based lunch ideas.
- An Egg salad sandwich with some raw veggies, tofu, green onions, and mayonnaise would be a great lunch choice.
- Veg pizza with toppings of mozzarella cheese, onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and mushroom.
- Veggie rice is a healthy meal choice for plant-based eaters. Simply prepare rice and a variety of vegetables as side dishes.
- Eat an avocado salad sandwich with avocados and vegetables as lunch and fresh strawberries as dessert.
- Prepare vegetarian fried rice loaded with veggies. Add a boiled egg on the top of it. For a completely vegetarian dish add crispy tofu on top of the rice, and a perfect lunch for your weekend is ready.
- Creamy mushroom soup prepared with garlic chips is a quick and easy vegetarian meal. Can be prepared in just about 30 minutes.
- Pasta combined with mushrooms and different veggies.
Add afternoon snacks to your eating habits too. So what can you have as your afternoon snacks?
- Mix salad- a mixture of different veggies and fruits.
- Eat mixed nuts. It has a balanced amount of fat, protein, and fiber.
- Apple slice with peanut butter
- Fruits and cheese
- Rice cakes and avocado
Here are some more plant-based meals ideas for dinner-
- Have pasta with beans and peas, have a bowl of fruit salad to go with it.
- Make veg kebabs with mushrooms, peaches, courgettes, and red onions and barbecue them.
- Prepare chickpea salad.
- Sushi salad with brown rice, with veg edamame, and roasted tofu.
- Delicious and healthy eggplant lasagna with no-boil noodles and Arugula Pesto as toppings.
- Make roasted cauliflower pasta with toasted walnuts, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest. Not only an easy recipe, but it is also delicious.
- Load veggies into sweet potatoes and bake them in medium heat. Garnish with coriander leaves. And your own baked sweet potatoes are ready for dinner.
- Prepare butterfly golden cornbread casserole. A quick meal you can make in just 20-30 minutes.
- Spaghetti prepared with vegetables. And sliced apple with the dish as dessert.
- Make Mexican rice with brown rice, roasted yams, onions, and shishito peppers, and top it with pumpkin seed and jalapeños, if you want to.
Benefits of Plant-based Diet
Lower Risks of Heart Disease
As discussed earlier, plant-based diets are highly beneficial for health. Plant-based foods reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease. They have low amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats which is good for the heart.
Also staying away from processed foods like white rice, white bread will keep your blood sugar level normal. Processed foods have a high glycemic index and have no nutritional value which increases the sugar level.
High on Fiber
Green food contains a high amount of fiber. We all know fibers are the key to a healthy digestive system. It also prevents disease.
Eat whole fruits rather than fruit juice. In the process of making juice from a fruit, it loses its nutrients and vitamins.
High fibers also lower the risk of heart disease as well as reduce blood pressure and inflammation, and improve blood sugar levels.
Good for Gut Health
Plant-based eating can be extremely good for your gut health. And healthy gut means, strong immune system and good functional metabolism. A vegan diet, especially focused on veggies and fruits has been proven to improve the digestive system.
Prevents Type 2 Diabetes
A healthy plant-based diet helps prevent type 2 diabetes. Unlike animal foods, plants have low saturated fats. Animal products increase cholesterol levels which raise the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Variety of Food Choices
There are various vegetarian food items you can have in your diet. Although plant-based diet sounds basic, in reality you get too many food choices, unlike other diets.
Besides preventing high blood pressure, and blood sugar, plant-based diet is best for weight loss. It keeps the fat and calorie consumption down which saves you from gaining extra weight.
Preserve Water Source
In a plant-based diet, less water is used to produce the foods compared to an animal-based diet. Not only vegetarian diet saves water it also does not pollute the water while livestock farming pollutes water sources with their waste.
While the livestock industry is affecting the environment by excessive use of fertilizer, pesticides, choosing a plant-based diet is definitely an environmentally-friendly step.
Animal products are extremely expensive. If you start plant-based diet, you can lower your expenses. Fresh produce vegetables and fruits do seem expensive but if you exclude meat or fish from your budget you will definitely save some money. And also vegetables stay fresh for a long time compared to animal products that a plus point too
Can be Prepared Quickly
Plant-based recipes are very easy to make. Also, there are products available which are ready-to-make and require less to no ckooing at all.
Kindness Towards Animals
Choosing a plant-based diet is a step towards less animal cruelty. When you reduce consuming animal meat, you are actually saving some life.
Disadvantages of a Plant-based Diet
Everything has its own boons and curses. Plant-based food diet is the same. Along with having advantages. it also has it’s disadvantages. While discussing how to start a plant based diet, we must focus on this part too.
Not getting enough Protein
Animal products like meat, eggs, milk contain healthy fats and a good amount of amino acids for protein. Eating animal products provides the proper amount of nutrition without much effort. Plant-based proteins are there but if the protein sources are not combined properly it becomes incomplete.
Deficient in Certain Nutritions
Plant-based foods definitely provide nutrition but are deficient in some nitration like iron calcium, and B12. While in an animal-based diet this nutrition is easily available in meats and fish. These deficiencies can be avoided if you include a few amounts of meat, egg, or fish in your meals.
While switching from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet, most people find it hard to track the calories. Plant foods often do not contain high calories which causes low energy. You have to make sure you are getting 2000 calories every day from your plant-based diet.
Soy is one of the main ingredients in plant-based diet. In a veg diet, people eat a lot of soy and tofu, which is more than the recommended amount sometimes. And this particular thing can end up impacting negatively on hormonal levels of the body.
Soy contains phytoestrogens, and eating a high amount of it risks hormonal imbalance such as irregular menstrual cycles, hair fall, breakouts on the skin, skin pigmentation.
Plant-based eaters or vegetarian people avoid fish oil or fish consumption and prefer vegetable oils and nuts, their diet has declined in omega 3 fatty acids and rises in omega 6. It can cause depression issues in a person.
Risk of Eating Disorder
People with a strict plant-based diet have a risk to end up with an eating disorder. They get obsessive with healthy eating over restrictions. Even doctors sometimes forbid to stay on a strict vegan diet.
So, this was a small guide on how to start a plant based diet. With all these advantages as well as disadvantages, Plant-based diet is a step towards green, healthy life with less cruelty towards animals. And now when you know how to start a plant based diet, it is probably much easier to take the step.
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