Making the shift to a plant-based diet is a big deal! You may be trying to shift a habit that you’ve had your whole life, and it’s important to lay the right foundation for success. So we thought we’d help kick things off by providing our top-10 list of tips to help you begin your whole foods, plant-based journey!
Fruits and veggies! Plain and simple. Full of nutrients and fiber, adding a few serving of fruits and vegetables will have huge benefits in your health.
Pick your pace. Some people like to dive into diet changes 100% while others may benefit from gradual changes. Either way, take it one meal at a time. Cleaning out your refrigerator and pantry, removing foods that don’t support your health changes will help avoid temptation. Celebrate each good choice and let missteps be a learning experience. Remember it’s a journey, there may be lots of twists and turns along the way.
Eat the Rainbow. Eating a wide variety of whole plant foods will ensure a nutritious diet while supporting the diversity of your gut microbiome. It’s easier than you might think. When grocery shopping, try some new fruits and vegetables.
Learn plant-based versions of your favorite meals. Google is a wonderful resource in meal planning. Enter the name of your favorite meal and include “plant-based” or “vegan”, such as “Vegan Lasagna”. You will be surprised how many ways there are to make healthier plant-based versions of classic dishes. Begin by replacing common foods like milk and cheese with plant-based alternatives.
Create meals around a salad. A salad can be so much more than lettuce. Grains, beans, veggies, and fruits, are just the beginning when it comes to building a delicious salad. It’s important to include a few serving of leafy greens every day.
Eat fiber-rich foods. Great news! Since fiber is found in all plant food, choosing a whole food plant-based diet ensures you are consuming fiber. Legumes (beans, and lentils) are an important part of a plant-based diet. It’s fine to start slowly if you are not accustomed to eating them. Fiber has zero calories, regulates blood sugar, keeps you feeling full, and feeds all the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Know your numbers. It’s smart to talk to your doctor about dietary changes. Don’t be surprised if your doctor isn’t knowledgeable about nutrition. Doctors are given very little nutrition education in medical school. You might try searching for a doctor certified in Lifestyle Medicine or search www.plantbaseddoctors.org for doctors in your area that are more knowledgable in plant-based nutrition. It’s also good to have a blood test and know your starting numbers for cholesterol, lipids, omegas, iron, and blood sugar. This way you’ll have evidence of how powerful a whole-food plant-based diet is!
Don’t Forget the “Whole”. Remember the “whole” part of your new whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. It’s easy to go to the store and buy a cart full of food that doesn’t have any animal products in it. Potato chips are, in fact, a plant-based food, but are highly processed, full of fat and salt, and certainly not a healthy choice. A whole potato on the other hand is a wonderful option. It’s easy to fall into this trap with meat substitutes. There is an increasing number of meat analog products on the market. While these foods make transitioning from meat easier, remember they should not become a daily staple.
Get Educated. There are so many resources available to support you in your plant-based journey. Here are some we love.
How not to Die by Michael Gregor, MD.
Fiber Fueled by Will Bulsiewicz, MD.
Your body in Balance by Neil Barnard, MD.
UnDo it! by Dean Ornish, MD.
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
Plant-Strong by Rip Esselstyn
Veggie Doctor Radio (veggiedoctor.libsyn.com/)
NutritionFacts Podcasts (nutritionfacts.org/audio/)
The Exam Room (www.pcrm.org/podcast)
Apps for iPhone and android
Daily dozen from nutrition facts.org
21-day vegan kick start from the Physicians Committee
Happy Cow for finding Vegan Restaurants
Private coaching. Many people benefit from hiring a health coach to help them on their journey. Health coaches can help you set realistic goals and guide you on your journey. Plant-based coaches are educated specifically in plant-based nutrition and lifestyle transformation.
Enjoy the journey. Remember the adage, “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin”, so take the first step and remember: without our health, we don’t have much. Also, know that it is never too late to start on a journey to better health. Don’t think that just because you’ve been eating animal products and processed foods all your life that it’s too late. The human body has an amazing capacity to heal when you feed it the right foods. So go for it! You will never regret it!