So you’ve decided to start a plant-based diet. Congratulations! Making the switch to a diet focused on whole plant foods is one of the best decisions you can make for your health and the planet. But where do you begin? Transitioning to a plant-based diet can seem overwhelming when you’re first starting out. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled our top 10 tips for starting a plant-based diet as a beginner. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the many benefits of a plant-based diet in no time.
Tips for Starting a Plant-Based Diet
1. Start gradually
To start a plant-based diet, go slowly. Don’t make a drastic change overnight that you won’t stick with. Start by replacing one meal per week with a plant-based one and build up from there.
Start with Breakfast
For your first plant-based meal, try breakfast. Have oatmeal with fruit, a smoothie, or whole grain toast with nut butter. These provide protein and fiber to keep you full.
Add More Plant-Based Meals
Once you’re used to one plant-based breakfast per week, replace another meal. Try a hearty salad, veggie burger, or stir fry for lunch or dinner. Aim for 2-3 plant-based meals per week.
Find Plant-Based Snacks
Don’t forget snacks! Hummus and veggies, fresh or dried fruit, trail mix, and granola bars are all easy plant-based snacks. Keep them on hand for when hunger strikes.
Explore Meat Substitutes
As you get more comfortable, try plant-based meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, or seitan. They provide a satisfying texture for dishes like tacos, chili, and sloppy joes. Or use plant-based meat alternatives from brands like Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods.
Learn New Recipes
Check out plant-based cookbooks and blogs for recipes. A few easy ones to start with are:
•Black bean burritos or tacos
• Lentil soup or chili
•Veggie fried rice or pasta
•Hummus and veggie wrap
Easing into a plant-based diet gradually will set you up for success. Start with simple changes and expand from there by trying new foods, recipes, and meat alternatives. Your body and the planet will thank you!
2. Find plant-based replacements for your favorite foods
To start, find plant-based versions of foods you already enjoy. Craving a burger? Try a veggie burger, black bean burger or portobello mushroom cap.Missing cheese? Experiment with nut-based cheeses, like almond ricotta or cashew cheese.
For milk, opt for almond, soy, oat or coconut milk. Use them interchangeably in recipes or for cereal and smoothies. Coconut-based yogurts, ice creams and creamers are also delicious options.
In addition to veggie burgers, meat alternatives include tofu, tempeh, seitan and jackfruit. Tofu can be prepared in many of the same ways as meat and works well in stir fries, curries and sandwiches. Seitan and jackfruit have a texture similar to shredded or pulled pork and are great in tacos, sandwiches and BBQ dishes.
For baking, use 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water per egg. Commercial egg replacers and banana puree also work well. Tofu can be scrambled like eggs for breakfast.
Don’t be intimidated if it’s your first time cooking these plant-based foods. Start with simple recipes and experiment. You’ll be whipping up veggie frittatas, coconut milk ice cream and chickpea blondies in no time! Focus on all the delicious foods you can eat, not what you’re avoiding. With an open mind, you’ll find going plant-based rewarding and sustainable.
3. Make sure you’re getting enough protein
Making sure you get enough protein on a plant-based diet is important for your health and sustaining energy levels. Here are some tips to help you meet your protein needs:
Eat more plant-based proteins – A variety of plant foods contain protein, so eat a variety of them. Good options include:
-Tofu (soybeans): A half cup has about 20 grams of protein. Tofu can be cooked in many of the same ways as meat and added to stir fries, curries, and sandwiches.
-Legumes (beans, lentils, peas): A cup of most cooked legumes has 8-10 grams of protein. Add them to salads, soups, and chili or enjoy as a side dish.
-Nuts and seeds: An ounce of nuts or seeds has 6-8 grams of protein. Enjoy as a snack, sprinkle on yogurt or salads, or blend into sauces and spreads.
-Quinoa: A cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. Use as a side dish, or add to salads for extra protein and nutrients.
Combine plant proteins – Some plant foods contain all the essential amino acids we need, while others are lacking in one or more. Combining different plant proteins, such as beans and grains, nut butters and bread, or hummus and veggie wraps, helps ensure you get all the amino acids you need.
Consider vegan protein supplements – Powders like pea protein, rice protein, and hemp protein contain 20-30 grams of protein per scoop. Add to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt or juice to boost your daily intake. Look for an “unsweetened” or “natural” formula with few added ingredients.
Track your protein intake – Most sources recommend eating 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Use a food tracker app to log what you eat for a few days to see how much protein you’re really getting and make changes as needed. The more you practice, the easier it will get!
Following these tips will help ensure you meet your daily protein needs on a plant-based diet so you feel satisfied and energized. Making the right food choices and learning as you go will help make the transition to eating more plants an enjoyable and sustainable one.
4. Take a vegan multivitamin
A plant-based diet can be lacking in certain nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. To ensure you get adequate amounts, it’s a good idea to take a vegan multivitamin.
Look for a multivitamin formulated for vegans or vegetarians. These will contain the proper blend of nutrients for a plant-based diet without any animal products. Key things to consider:
- Vitamin B12: This is essential for blood and brain health but mainly found in animal foods. A vegan vitamin should contain at least 2.4 mcg (the Daily Value) of vitamin B12, ideally in the form of cyanocobalamin.
- Calcium and vitamin D: Important for bone health. Aim for at least 30% of the Daily Value for calcium and 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate are good vegan forms.
- Iron: Important for blood health and preventing anemia. Look for at least 18 mg or 100% of the Daily Value. Ferrous fumarate or ferrous sulfate are common vegan forms.
- Zinc and omega-3s: Important for immunity and heart health, respectively. A good vegan multivitamin will contain at least 8 mg of zinc (about 50-60% of the Daily Value) and 200-500 mg of DHA/EPA omega-3s from algal oil.
- Consider a DHA supplement: If omega-3s are low in the multivitamin, you may want to take an algal DHA supplement to meet recommendations.
- Buy from reputable brands: Some highly-rated vegan multivitamin brands are Deva Vegan Vitamins, Garden of Life, and NutraChamps. Look for a brand that has been third-party tested for quality and accuracy.
Taking a comprehensive vegan multivitamin every day can help ensure you get these important nutrients on a plant-based diet. Be sure to choose a high-quality, vegan-specific formula to meet all your nutritional needs.
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ingredients and flavors as you transition to a plant-based diet. Trying new foods is part of the fun! Here are some tips to help you experiment:
Start with cuisines you already enjoy
If you like Mexican food, try making veggie fajitas, burritos or tacos. For Italian, have spaghetti with marinara sauce and veggie meatballs. Asian stir fries, curries and noodle dishes are also easy to make meatless. This way you can enjoy familiar flavors with new ingredients.
- Substitute meat with plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh or seitan. They readily absorb flavors and have a chewy, meaty texture.
- Explore the variety of plant-based milks, cheeses, yogurts and ice creams now available. Try different brands and types like almond, oat or coconut to find your favorites.
- Don’t be afraid to use meat substitutes like plant-based burgers, sausages and chicken nuggets. Many mimic the taste and texture of meat very closely.
- Add extra veggies, beans, nuts and healthy fats like avocado to boost nutrition. Aim for a balanced mix of proteins, carbs and fats at each meal.
- Browse plant-based recipe sites and food blogs for inspiration. So many amazing dishes can be made meatless, from mac and cheese to mushroom risotto, veggie pot pies to fruit crumbles.
- Talk to others who follow a plant-based diet. Connecting with a community is a great way to share tips, ask questions and find support.
The key is to start simple by switching out one meal at a time. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Take it at your own pace and have fun experimenting with new plant-based ingredients and recipes. Your taste buds will adjust, and before you know it, eating meatless will feel completely natural. The possibilities are endless!
6. Do your research
Doing your research is key to starting any new diet successfully. Here are some tips to help you learn all about plant-based eating:
Check out books on plant-based diets
Some highly-rated options include “The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners” by Gabriel Miller, “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger, and “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. These books provide an overview of the benefits of plant-based diets, how to get all the nutrients you need, and include recipes to get you started.
- Search online for “vegan diet books” or “plant-based diet books” and read reviews to find options that resonate with you. Your local library may have many available to borrow for free.
Follow social accounts for inspiration
There are many active plant-based bloggers, nutritionists and influencers publishing content on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Following a few accounts is an easy way to get recipe ideas, learn new tips, and stay motivated.
-Some recommended accounts include @plantbasedrd, @veganricha, @nutritionstudies and @plantbasedfancy.
Check out documentaries on plant-based living
Some eye-opening films include “Forks Over Knives,” “Food Inc.,” and “What the Health.” These films take a deep dive into the health, environmental and ethical benefits of plant-based diets.
-Most are available on major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. They can motivate you to make the switch and give you facts to help explain your new lifestyle to friends and family.
Doing thorough research on plant-based diets before you start is key. The more you learn about the benefits and how to do it right, the more likely you are to stick with it for the long run. Take advantage of all the resources available to educate yourself – it will make the transition so much easier!
7. Find a support system
Finding a support system is key to successfully switching to a plant-based diet. Making big lifestyle changes on your own can be challenging, so connect with others who share your goal.
- Join an online community to find recipes, ask questions, and share tips with fellow plant-based eaters. Popular options include Reddit’s r/PlantBasedDiet, Facebook groups like Plant-Based Diet Support Group, and meal-planning sites that offer community forums like Forks Over Knives and Oh She Glows.
- Tell family and friends about your goal and ask them to check-in on your progress. Let them know specific ways they can support you, whether it’s cooking a plant-based meal together or being an accountability partner. Their encouragement can help motivate you, especially on days when your willpower is wavering.
- Find local resources in your area. Check with nearby gyms, community centers, and health food stores about plant-based meetups, potlucks, or education events. Attending in-person gatherings is a great way to connect face-to-face with like-minded people. You may find new friends and dining companions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. The plant-based community is full of helpful, knowledgeable individuals. Everyone was new to this lifestyle at one point, so people will understand if you need guidance on things like substituting ingredients, meal prepping, dealing with cravings, or eating out.
Making connections and learning from more experienced plant-based eaters will help the transition feel less overwhelming. A strong support system means you have backup when you face difficulties or need motivation and inspiration to continue progressing. The journey to a plant-based diet is easier and more rewarding when you have companions along for the ride.
8. Don’t give up
Starting a plant-based diet can be challenging, especially when you’re just beginning. There may be slip-ups, cravings, and times when you want to throw in the towel. Don’t get discouraged. Every journey has bumps in the road.
- Focus on the reasons why you wanted to start a plant-based diet in the first place. Think of the health benefits, environmental impact or ethical reasons that motivated you. Refer back to them when you need inspiration or motivation.
- Start with small changes and build up gradually. Don’t go cold turkey if that approach doesn’t work for you. Take it step by step, at your own pace. Swap one meal at a time or try meatless Mondays. As you get accustomed to the changes, you can make bigger shifts. The key is to make sustainable changes over time.
- Have a support system in place. Tell family and friends about your goal so they can check-in on your progress and offer encouragement. Consider joining an online community to connect with others on the same journey. Their stories and advice can help keep you accountable and motivated.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. No one is perfect, and there is always a learning curve when making a big lifestyle change. Get back to your good habits and focus on progress, not perfection. Learn from your mistakes and try again. Your commitment to keep going is what really counts.
The path to a plant-based diet may not always be easy, but by staying determined and patient with yourself, you will get there. Don’t lose hope! With time, eating plant-based whole foods will become second nature. Stay focused on your motivation and celebrate each small win along the way. You’ve got this! Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your health and the planet will thank you.
9. Celebrate your successes
You’ve made it this far – that’s an accomplishment in itself! Starting any new habit or lifestyle change is challenging, so make sure to celebrate all your milestones along the way.
When you hit your first week, treat yourself to your favorite plant-based dessert like dark chocolate or fruit sorbet. At the end of the first month, do something special like getting a massage or seeing a movie. Six months in? You deserve a big reward! Plan a fun getaway or buy yourself something you’ve been wanting.
Looking back at how far you’ve come will keep you motivated for the journey ahead. Share your achievements with others who will support you – whether that’s close friends and family or an online community. Let them know about the new recipes you tried, how much better you feel, or other non-scale victories. Their encouragement and praise will boost your confidence and determination.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. No one is perfect, and changing lifelong habits and patterns takes time. Learn from your mistakes and then move on. Get back to your routine and focus on all the benefits this lifestyle brings. Every small success and lesson learned is progress, so appreciate how much you’ve grown.
Making the switch to a plant-based diet is a big step towards better health and wellness. You should feel proud of your decision to make a compassionate change and stick with it. Staying determined and celebrating victories, no matter how small they seem, will get you closer to making this new way of eating a habit for life. Keep up the good work! You’ve got this.
10. Make it sustainable
To make a plant-based diet sustainable in the long run, you need to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips to help you stick with it:
Make it affordable
A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be expensive. Focus on staples like rice, beans, lentils, and seasonal produce. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables, and stock up when they’re on sale. Meat alternatives and processed vegan foods can be pricey, so use them in moderation.
Keep it simple
Don’t feel like you have to make elaborate vegan meals every night. Simple stir fries, salads, soups, and burritos are all easy to make and perfect for a busy lifestyle. Have a few go-to recipes on hand for when you don’t have a lot of time. Keep snacks like hummus and veggies, trail mix, and fresh or dried fruit around for when you’re hungry.
Do some meal planning for the week ahead. Make a grocery list and stock your kitchen with plant-based staples. Wash and prep veggies when you have time so they’re ready when you’re making dinner. Having a plan will make you less likely to resort to takeout or non-vegan convenience foods when you’re tired or hungry.
Learn as you go
Don’t feel overwhelmed by having to know everything about plant-based nutrition right away. Start with the basics and learn through experience. Try new foods and recipes, explore different cuisines, and read books on vegan living for guidance. Connecting with other plant-based eaters through social media or local meetups is also a great way to share tips and support each other.
The key is making this a journey, not a short-term diet. With time, eating plant-based will become second nature. Stay focused on why you chose this lifestyle and celebrate your wins along the way. You’ve got this! With the right mindset and strategies in place, you can make plant-based eating sustainable for life.
Frequently Asked Questions About Starting a Plant-Based Diet
The plant-based diet trend has been growing in popularity, but making the switch can seem overwhelming if you’re just getting started. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions to help you transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
What foods can I eat on a plant-based diet?
The options are endless! Focus on foods like:
-Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, etc.
-Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, etc.
-Grains: Rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
-Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas, etc.
-Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, chia seeds, etc.
Do I need to take any supplements?
It’s a good idea to take a few supplements to ensure you get all the necessary nutrients:
-Vitamin B12: This is mainly found in animal foods, so a B12 supplement is important.
-Vitamin D: If you don’t get much sun exposure, a Vitamin D supplement can help.
-Omega-3 fatty acids: Flax seeds and chia seeds contain omega-3s, but a supplement may still be beneficial.
What about protein? How will I get enough?
There are plenty of plant-based sources of protein:
-Tofu: Contains about 10 grams of protein per half cup.
-Lentils: 18 grams of protein per cooked cup.
-Quinoa: 8 grams of protein per cooked cup.
-Nut butters: 2 tablespoons contains 8 grams of protein.
-Seitan: 25 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving.
Don’t worry, it’s not difficult to meet your protein needs on a plant-based diet. Focus on eating a variety of the foods mentioned above and you’ll be getting protein with every meal.
How much does it cost to follow a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet can actually save you money! Staples like rice, beans, and in-season produce are very budget-friendly. While meat and dairy alternatives can cost more, you don’t need to rely on them. With some simple meal prep, you can follow a plant-based diet for around the same cost as an omnivorous diet.
So there you have it, 10 tips to help you start your plant-based diet journey. Making the switch to a plant-based diet can be challenging at first, but start slowly by adding more fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes into your meals. Focus on cooking more at home so you can control what goes into your food. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up, just get back to your plant-based meals. A plant-based diet has so many benefits for your health, the planet, and the animals. You’ve got this! Starting a plant-based diet will be one of the best decisions you can make. Now go fill your fridge with delicious plant-based ingredients and get cooking! The planet, and your body, will thank you.