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Hello, I’m so glad you’re here! If you’re looking to start a plant-based diet, or want to learn more about what a plant-based diet entails, this is the place for you.
We’ll cover what a whole-food, plant-based diet is, why you should give it a try, and how to overcome your fears and excuses. We’ll also cover how this site can help you through advice, recipes, and resources. Keep reading to learn how to start a plant-based diet! It’s easier than you think.
First, the ground rules:
- Start slowly.
- Try not to get overwhelmed.
- Always consult with your doctor about your personal health situation.
As you get started, try to remember that you’ve probably been eating your current diet for a lifetime. Changing a lifetime of eating patterns won’t happen overnight! But you are taking the first step, and that’s what counts.
What is a Whole-Food, Plant-based Diet (WFPB)?
Simply put, it’s a diet powered by plants! A WFPB diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts. It’s a diet low in fat that seeks to eliminate animal products, processed foods, and, usually, oils. It’s a diet that’s centered around plants and whole foods.
What Can I Eat on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?
You can eat any whole, plant food that you can think of! To start a plant-based diet, simply start eating more plant foods. Please find a non-exhaustive list of options below.
You can do so much with these whole foods! The recipes you’ll find on this site are all dairy-free, meat-free, vegetarian, and vegan. Most recipes will not contain processed foods, refined sugar, or oil of any kind.
However, all of the recipes are designed to be delicious, easy, beginner-friendly, and health-promoting. Give them a try and see for yourself how satisfying plant foods can be!
Why Should I Start a Plant-Based Diet?
I eat this way (and urge you to do the same) because of the overwhelming evidence that meat, dairy, and oil have deleterious effects on personal health and cause harm to animals and the environment.
There are truly so many reasons to choose a WFPB diet! The better question is why shouldn’t you give it a try?!
Get to Eat More Whole Plant Foods!
Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts every day is a rich and diverse diet. Whole, plant foods provide the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are essential to optimal health. (Bonus: When you start a plant-based diet, all of this fiber will keep you full and satisfied!)
“With so many phytochemicals, it could be overwhelming to select specific compounds to try to protect your health. But you don’t have to. Most plant foods each contain dozens of phytochemicals (for example, a carrot has more than 100).
You should, however, try to eat a varied diet. Krivitsky recommends ‘eating a rainbow’ — many kinds of colorful fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds — in order to scoop up as many different phytochemicals as possible. ‘They all do different things and they complement each other. So one might block a carcinogen [something that causes cancer], and another might interfere with cancer cell replication.'”
Reduce Your Consumption of Animal Products
Above, we see that adding fruits, vegetables, and whole plant foods may improve health in a variety of ways. Once you start incorporating plenty of whole foods into your diet, you will likely also reduce your consumption of animal products.
Through reducing animal product consumption, you will reduce your environmental impact substantially, reduce your personal impact on animals, and use your buying power to say “no” to animal agriculture. You will also reduce your health risks in natural and intuitive ways, without putting in much conscious effort.
For example, let’s look at saturated fat. Dairy, eggs, and meat are the main sources of saturated fat in the diet. When you remove those foods, you’ll massively lower your daily saturated fat intake and keep it down without much effort–without counting grams of fat or reading nutrition labels.
We know that lowering saturated fat intake means reducing heart disease risk, our leading killer, yet people are still eating plenty of saturated fat every day. If you remove the food group that gives you most of your daily saturated fat intake, you don’t have to think about it every day. It simply becomes second nature to eschew those foods. In this way, you’ve succeeded in making a lifestyle change, and we know that lifestyle changes stick a lot better than diets.
By adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet, you’ll be adding more of the good (plants), subtracting more of the bad (animal products and processed foods), and improving your modifiable risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, and saturated fat levels) in the process.
But I Just Can’t…
“It’s too hard, too complicated, too expensive. I don’t even know how to cook!”
Everyone has their reasons (or excuses) for not changing their diet. It might not be the right time for you. Maybe you’re not convinced it’s worth it. Or maybe you’ve tried and failed at too many diets too many times before. Maybe you no longer trust yourself to succeed, and have lost hope and confidence in yourself.
I’m here to tell you that you can do it. The reason so many diets, exercise plans, and habits fail is because they’re unsustainable.
Perhaps in the past you’ve committed to exercising for 2 hours per day. Maybe you committed to eating only 1200 calories per day. You started out with a plan and you had the initial motivation to make it happen. But it didn’t work out in the long term.
Why didn’t your last diet work?
- Your goal wasn’t realistically achievable.
- Committing to an extreme calorie restriction or starting a huge amount of exercise all at once is difficult. On some level, you probably knew that it was too difficult when you set the goal. Remember that if you hate and dread the plan before you even get started, you won’t reach your goal!
- Your goal wasn’t sustainable.
- Did you know that there seems to be a finite amount of willpower everyone has when they start their day? Every time we need to say “no” or resist a food temptation, we experience “willpower depletion“. If you are limiting yourself to a small number of calories or restricting many foods, the self-control that you need to repeatedly exert will eventually run out.
- You didn’t trust yourself and you “knew” you would fail from the start.
- Mindset is such an important and powerful thing. You may have tried and failed before, but that doesn’t matter right now! It doesn’t matter if you’ve tried and failed at this once, twice, or a hundred times before. It only takes one time to succeed. You owe it to yourself to trust and believe in yourself.
Why will whole-food, plant-based eating work?
A WFPB eating plan will work because it’s sustainable! For starters, let’s explore the perceived difference between a “diet” change and a “lifestyle” change.
A diet is typically a short-term, restrictive eating plan. It entails a lot of negative connotations. Alternatively, a lifestyle change is a sustainable change that gets incorporated into your every day life, for a lifetime.
A lifestyle change to whole-food, plant-based eating, is a softer approach than a “diet”. It stresses more plant foods, fewer processed foods, and a positive attitude toward foods that help nourish and satisfy.
On a WFPB eating plan, you’ll learn to eat healthy plant foods that your body recognizes, that fill you up, and that satisfy you. You’ll relearn how food should taste (fresh!), where food should come from (the earth), and how much to eat (until satisfied).
A WFPB diet is sustainable because there are plenty of food options, you don’t have to restrict calories, and you won’t feel deprived. You’ll find that you can eat real, whole foods and feel happier, healthier, and more energetic. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you’ll likely also see those numbers come down. You might eventually conclude that you can eat this way for the rest of your life, making it a true lifestyle change. But for now, just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. And believe in yourself!
The Excuses, Debunked:
I don’t want you to decide that you can’t start a plant-based diet because it’s too hard, too expensive, or too restrictive. Eating this way really doesn’t have to be any of those things! Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common excuses.
#1: It’s Too Hard:
When you’re just getting started, try adapting some of your usual dinners (think pasta, chili, and tacos). Plan to include less meat and cheese in these typical meals, and add more beans, mushrooms, and vegetables. Small changes like these can help ease your transition and help you get past the “it’s too hard” mindset.
A WFPB lifestyle isn’t hard, even if you don’t (yet) know how to cook. You can truly make this type of eating plan as uncomplicated as you want!
Choosing frozen fruits and vegetables instead of fresh will save you some washing and prep time. Batch cooking staple foods like rice, oats, and beans on the weekend can help you feel more prepared for the week ahead, and can help you get food on the table when you don’t have much time. Alternatively, you could choose to meal prep all your lunches/dinners for the first week or two of your new eating plan. Having meals prepped means removing all the guesswork from the week.
In fact, having a few meals/staples ready to go in your fridge is one of the best ways to ensure that you stick with your new eating plan. It’s easy to start out strong with lots of motivation, and then give up halfway through. Strong planning can help you stay on track until the habit sticks, because we know that willpower fades.
#2: It’s Too Expensive:
It is VERY easy to spend a lot of money when you start a plant-based diet. It’s also VERY easy to stick to a small budget when eating a WFPB diet.
If your version of a WFPB diet includes organic berries at each meal, then you’re probably going to be in the former category. If you’re watching costs, I recommend cooking from scratch, buying staple foods in bulk, and eating seasonally/locally. Eating whole-food, plant-based means reducing meats, cheeses, processed foods, and oils. These are some of the most expensive foods in the grocery store.
On the other hand, there are so many inexpensive vegan staple foods that you can purchase on a shoestring budget. Items such as beans, rice, oats, sweet potatoes, and bananas are nutritious and economical. Refocusing your diet around foods such as these will almost certainly reduce your weekly food bill.
#3: It’s Too Restrictive:
A whole-food, plant-based eating plan is much less restrictive than it seems at first glance.
A WFPB diet does not mean calorie-restriction in any way, shape, or form. In fact, there is a good amount of evidence that you can eat more whole, plant-based foods and actually weigh less. This has definitely been my experience. I have lost weight without trying on a WFPB diet, even though I have a huge appetite. For the science on why this may be the case, please see Eating More to Weigh Less.
A whole-food, plant-based diet means removing or minimizing certain foods. However, you’ll also add a variety of different foods and plenty of herbs and seasonings for tasty meals!
There is a whole world of grains, vegetables, and beans out there that you probably haven’t explored before. You may even become more creative in the kitchen, since you’ll be trying new-to-you foods and plenty of seasonal produce. When you start a plant-based diet, let the new, delicious, plant-based foods crowd out the less healthy options on your plate.
I Want to Start a Plant-Based Diet: How Can Plant-Powered Cooking Help Me?
Whether you already eat WFPB, are interested in trying it out, or simply found this site by accident :), I’m very glad you’re here! My hope is that the information and recipes I provide on this site help you and your family become happier and healthier through the power of whole, plant foods.
The recipes on this site are designed to be delicious, easy, and beginner-friendly, so please take a look! Cooking WFPB food doesn’t have to be hard, and I want more people to recognize that!
In addition to the recipes, I’ve put together a few additional guides for you below.
How to Stock Your Whole-Food, Plant-Based Pantry
If you’re just getting started with a new way of eating, I understand that it may be extremely overwhelming at first. You may feel like you’ll need to deprive yourself if you want to eat healthy/save the animals/save the environment. However, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed or deprived!
Start slowly. Take a look at my Pantry Guide and focus on how many of those foods you eat already. Take another look and see how many of those foods you’d like to try. Each time you go to the grocery store, buy some of the recommended foods and try something new. Over time, you’ll be able to replace many (or all) of the processed foods and animal products you were previously eating with these new items, and you won’t feel deprived at all.
Please be sure to supplement B12 on a vegan diet. (More information in this Pantry Guide.)
Time to Cook! Recommended Kitchen Tools & Products
Please check out my Recommended Kitchen Tools if you’d like some ideas about how to cook all of the foods that are now in your pantry! I’ve only listed my favorite and highly recommended tools. These are items that I use all the time and think that you’ll love too!
A great eating plan, a well-stocked pantry, and a healthy dose of motivation can help you go far. But a well-stocked kitchen with helpful tools can help you go farther, with less effort.
What Should I Cook? Staple Recipes
Basic, staple recipes that everyone should have in their arsenal. Some of these recipes aren’t earth-shattering, and that’s okay. If you’ve ever looked for a recipe to make simple Instant Pot beans, made them, and found them to be too hard or too salty, then this section is for you. I have collected my favorite, staple recipes so you can have an easy resource for your regular, daily cooking.
If you’re just starting your plant-based diet journey, try one of these recipes every few days. Before you know it, you’ll have a new recipe repertoire that you’ll be able to pull from when you need food on the table.
Final Tips & Advice
Remember that a whole-food, plant-based diet is a diet powered by plants, primarily focused on whole, plant-based foods. If you’re eating more plants than you were before, you’ll still reap some of the health and environmental benefits.
- Don’t worry that you’ll never be able to give up “x”!
- If you can replace “y” and “z” with whole, plant foods, then do that and keep eating “x”. Before you know it, you might realize that you don’t want or need “x” anymore!
- Try to reconsider and reconfigure your mindset.
- Stop telling yourself that it’s “too hard” or “too restrictive”.
- Start thinking about all the things that you “can” eat, rather than the things you “can’t” eat.
- Think about all of the new, plant-based foods you want to try!
- Think about how you’ll feel, how your health will improve, and the impact that you’ll have on those around you!
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Don’t get discouraged if you’re not perfectly WFPB/vegetarian/vegan/dairy-free/oil-free overnight.
- Do what you can, when you can do it, and when you feel ready to do it.
- If hot sauce helps you eat a large sweet potato every day, then use the hot sauce! If you’re trying to avoid oil, but store-bought hummus helps you eat cups of raw vegetables, then buy the hummus!
- Take baby steps and think of this way of eating as a spectrum. The more plant-based the better, but it might take you some time to get there.
- Eating a piece of fruit for dessert or switching out your mid-afternoon chips for crunchy veggies are small things that you can integrate into your daily life right now. These are sustainable and achievable changes that can help you build up momentum for bigger changes.
Good Luck with your Plant-Based Lifestyle
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that you want to start a plant-based diet! If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, trust that that’s perfectly normal.
Just remember that a whole-food, plant-based “lifestyle” means eating this way for life. You’ll need to find ways to integrate your new, healthy eating patterns into your daily life, almost without thinking about them. But don’t worry. You have plenty of time to figure it all out–it’s called a lifetime!
I hope this information has been helpful! If you have any questions or comments about how to start a plant-based, vegan diet, please let me know below. Please also subscribe to the Plant-Powered Cooking newsletter to receive nutrition tips and new recipes right in your inbox.
I hope to see you back here again soon! Good luck with your journey!
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