How To Get Started On a New Plant-Based Diet

Want to make a healthy change in your life by totally switching up your diet? Here’s what you need to know to get started on a new plant-based diet.

Looking to make a change in life? Whether you want to lose weight, eat healthier, or just really love your leafy greens, making the commitment to a plant-based diet isn’t easy. Giving up your favorite foods or finding meals that meet your dietary needs can be difficult, especially when you’re unaware of what’s available. Here’s how to get started on a new plant-based diet that will help you thrive and find the foods you need.

Defining Your Diet

Committing to a “plant-based diet” is a fairly broad act and statement, as there are many plant-based diets to choose from and enjoy. For instance, are you planning to be a vegetarian or a vegan? Vegetarians still consume dairy products, such as milk and eggs, whereas vegans forego even those for an exclusively plant-based diet. Furthermore, “plant-based” most certainly does not mean only eating like a rabbit—exclusively leafy greens.

Additionally, these labels aren’t something you have to faithfully commit to—you can define what your plant-based diet means to you—but it helps to understand these types of diets so you can understand what you want. In fact, your plant-based diet can occasionally feature meat. So long as your diet primarily consists of plant-based foods, you’re doing fine.

Foods To Focus On

While you may want to commit to a plant-based diet, you may be uncertain about what to eat. In fact, a common myth about plant-based diets is that you can’t get enough protein without meat, but that’s simply because many people aren’t aware of how much protein is in foods such as legumes. To help you get started, some foods you should prioritize are:

  • Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils, provide a rich source of protein and essential amino acids.
  • Leafy greens and vegetables for calcium and other nutrients.
  • Whole grains for amino acids, zinc, and iron.
  • Nuts and seeds for healthy fats.
  • A variety of fruits for added nutrients.

With a bit of knowledge about which plants provide what nutrients, you can easily create balanced and delicious plant-based meals. As more people try out these plant-based diets, food companies and restaurants are offering more vegetarian and vegan options for their customers. The increase in vegan and vegetarian offerings and options makes committing to a plant-based diet easier and more accessible.

Foods To Avoid

Another common misconception about plant-based diets is that because they’re plant-based, all plant-based foods must be healthy for you all the time. While this may be true in moderation, there are plenty of foods you can eat too much of and make yourself sick. Generally, the food items listed above are fine to eat as much as you like—research has found that plant-based diets that focus on legumes, vegetables, nuts, fruit, and whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease. In contrast, highly processed plant-based foods with refined grains can increase the chance of heart disease.

Try to keep a wide palate, rather than sticking to the same few foods, when embarking on your plant-based journey. You’ll not only be able to enjoy yourself more because you have so many food options to enjoy, but you’ll also ensure a balanced diet of nutrients and vitamins.

Finding Meals for You

So, now that you know more about how to get started on a new plant-based diet, it also helps to know where you can find meals that meet your dietary needs—especially on days when you just don’t feel like cooking. While some restaurants may offer takeout that features vegan or vegetarian food, you can’t be sure whether your plant-based items weren’t in contact with meats and other products. Instead, vegan food delivery in the form of meal prep is a great alternative. Services such as Eat Clean directly provide plant-based meals to your door and are a fantastic way to expand your knowledge of plant-based meals by trying out the new meals brought to you every day.

You can try specialty stores that provide plenty of plant-based options for your everyday grocery needs, but these are often a tad more expensive than normal grocery stores. That said, your local grocer still has plenty of options for you to explore if you love to cook. Just make sure you know what you’re looking for and what foods work with your diet before you shop.

Pros and Cons

If you’re not sure if you want to embark on a plant-based journey yet, discussing the pros and cons for a moment may help you make up your mind. It’s obvious that the first positive of committing to a plant-based diet is a healthier lifestyle based on the types of food you will be eating. You cut out a lot of processed foods, trans fats, and more that would negatively impact your health or put you at greater risk of illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes.

Another positive is that a plant-based diet can help you easily regulate your weight. Better weight management is often the primary reason many people commit to a plant-based diet—and with the proper commitment, you will find your waistline shrinking. Once you get into the swing of things, plant-based diets are easy to maintain. You never have to worry about counting calories with such a large variety of foods to enjoy.

The biggest challenge, and a negative to note, may be that you need supplements if you’re struggling to get a certain nutrient or vitamin. However, this isn’t an inevitable outcome. If you end up needing a supplement, it just means you need to reconsider and replan what you’ve been eating to make up for whatever nutrient you’re lacking. You can intake all the necessary nutrients with a plant-based diet if you plan accordingly.

The other notable negative is that, at first, some people struggle to feel satisfied—to find something to replace the craving for meat. The key is protein. You’ll feel full, satisfied, and energized by eating a plant-based meal that’s rich in protein, just as if you were eating a steak.

How To Get Started On a New Plant-Based Diet