Plant-based eating can be for everyone, the main idea is not to “diet” or remove something from your nutrition but more about adding more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.
For those of you who love their steak or burgers once in a while, you don’t have to completely eliminate animal-based food but you can certainly reduce it by making more meals that are plant-based.
While exercising is important, nutrition is probably the number one reason why we have so much obesity in our nation. Not knowing what to eat and difficulty reading labels has led us to be confused about what to eat or not to eat.
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In order to be successful in adopting a plant-based lifestyle, it is recommended to take small steps so that you have the opportunity to adopt and maintain new habits. Slow and steady is a great strategy to form new habits.
Step 1: Choose Your Type of Plant-Based Nutrition
As mentioned earlier, a spectrum of plant-based eating is available to you. Start by identifying what you would like to change in your nutrition.
Considering that your nutrition will be mainly coming from plants, your options are:
- Strict plant-based nutrition (vegan): With strict plant-based nutrition, you are not going to consume any meat, fish, or animal products like dairy foods, honey, or eggs.
- Vegetarian plant-based nutrition: In vegetarian plant-based nutrition, you will be able to consume eggs, milk, cheese, and other products of animals but no meat or fish.
- Pescatarian plant-based nutrition: The pescatarian plant-based nutrition is similar to the vegetarian one but include fish. That would mean that your nutrition includes plant-based food, eggs, milk, cheese, fish, and other products of animals but no meat.
- Flexitarian plant-based nutrition: This option is great for individuals who would like to slowly move into plant-based eating without fully committing to never eat meat again. In this plant-based nutrition option, your meals will have a large proportion of plant-based food.
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In addition to small portions of eggs, or dairy foods and, on occasion, include meat, fish, seafood, or poultry. Some individuals in that category have adopted the meatless Mondays to reduce their consumption of animal protein.
Is it hard for you to decide? If so, let me ask you this question.
On a scale of 1 (not ready) to 10 (let’s do this), how ready are you to make a change in your nutrition? If you said 1–5, try option 4. But if you said 6–10, try option 2 and see if you can stick to it.
Maybe give yourself a month to ease into your new change. For example, stop purchasing meat products when you go to the grocery, finish eating all the animal food in your fridge and freezer.
We wouldn’t want to cause food waste, especially if you are choosing plant-based eating because of environmental benefits.
Step 2: Adapt Your Grocery for plant-based eating
In order to ease yourself into plant-based eating, try to slowly increase the amount of plant-base food on your grocery list and stop purchasing animal protein and dairy products.
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Stock up on cans of legumes such as black beans or chick peas since they are fast and easy ingredients to add to many recipes (just make sure they are not full of sugar or salt).
When purchasing vegetables in cans instead of selecting fresh ones, make sure to read the label and avoid added sugar or salt. You can pick a no- or low-sodium option.
In addition, you can also select frozen vegetables like peas or corn, the same warning applies. Make sure to read the label, some frozen food has added sugar, salt, and butter.
You can start by taking a look at the labels on the products that you have in your pantry and freezer. This might require a bit more shopping time at first but eventually, you will know which brand is the healthiest.
Here are some examples of items that could be on your plant based grocery list:
|Fruits||Vegetables||Grains||Legumes and Nuts||Herbs and spices||Other|
|Apples||Asparagus||Basmati Rice||Chickpeas||Basil||Vegan sour|
|Apricot||Avocado||Jasmine Rice||Pinto Beans||Black||cream|
|Blackberries||Bok Choy||White Rice||Split Peas||Bay leaf||mayonnaise|
|Blueberries||Broccoli||Wild Rice||Mung beans||Cilantro||Vegan bread|
|Cantaloupe||Brussels sprouts||Arborio Rice||Red kidney beans||Cinnamon||& wraps|
|Cherries||Carrots||Barley||Soy Beans||Cumin||Whole grain|
|Grapes||Celery||Quinoa||White beans||Garlic||Bran cereals|
|Kiwis||Cucumbers||Steel Cut Oat||Cashews||Mint||Maple syrup|
|Oranges||Green beans||Alfalfa||Parsley||Almond milk|
Step 3: Plan your meals
One of the most difficult parts about adapting to plant-based eating is to adopt new habits in the kitchen. Instead of having burgers or roasted chicken for dinner, you have to find new ways to cook and bring more plant-based food at your table.
If you are going to try the vegan approach, breakfast might be the most difficult to adapt, especially if you are used to eating eggs in the morning.
It is strongly recommended to try new recipes as opposed to trying to adapt your old recipes to plant-based nutrition. For example, a plant-based Mac and Cheese is hard to make.
In the regular dish, cheese is the main ingredient and plant-based cheese is far from having the same taste and texture.
Here are a few ideas of meals you can plan for each meal. If you are going for the strict plant-based nutrition, make sure to select items that are vegan-friendly for the bread, wraps, mayonnaise and other condiments.
Breakfast can be difficult when you are used to a bacon and egg type of breakfast. Try to keep fruits, bran cereal and oat, and vegan bread in the house, that way, you will have quick options when you don’t want to think too much about what to make.
Here are some breakfast ideas:
- Bran cereals with bananas and plant-based milk (this will be a winner for your fiber intake).
- Oatmeal in a jar (see recipe in the next chapter)
- Vegan bread with natural peanut butter and no sugar added jam
- Fruit salad
- Hummus and pita bread
If your usual lunch is deli meat sandwiches, you will be going through a bit of a transition for meal planning. In general, many plant-based options can be quick and made in advance (i.e. salad in a jar).
In general, dinner is the time when individuals spent more time with friends or families. A plant-based dinner can be a combination of vegetables, grains, and legumes. You should read these 8 ways to include more vegetables and fruits daily.
Here are a few examples:
- Veggie Burger with sweet potato fries
- Vegetable, black beans, and rice stir fry
- Rice and beans with plantains (see recipe next chapter)
- Grain bowls
- Risotto with roasted vegetables
Step 4: Let’s start plant-based eating
The best way to start plant-based eating is to start with small steps now. Choose a day this week when you want to have a plant-based nutrition day. That day will be the beginning of your journey in plant-based eating. Once you’ve chosen a date, pick your recipes!
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Now it’s time to put your learning into action. First, pick a day when you will start your plant-based eating, then select your meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes), go shopping, and get your grocery items and implement the change!
If it seems like a big change for you, try once a week for the first month and gradually move to twice a week, three times a week, etc. The best approach is balanced nutrition with a lot of variety and refrains from overindulging.
There is a strong advantage not to surpass the daily intake recommendations for sugar, sodium, and protein. This is the optimal way to avoid health issues and prevent chronic diseases.
Remember, slow and steady is a great approach to change habits but mostly to make them stick (1). Plant-based eating is not a diet but a way of living so have fun with it!