How to Start A Plant-Based Lifestyle for Beginners
Have you been really curious about trying this whole plant-based thing, but you’re not really sure where to start? We have you covered! Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to switch to a plant-based diet.
Decide Why You Want to Switch To Plant-Based
Whenever people tell me their debating on switching to a plant-based lifestyle, the first question I ask them is “Why? What interests you about a plant-based diet?”
How you answer this question will shape the entire impact that this lifestyle will have on you, and if it will ultimately last. Take someone who wants to lose weight fast for a wedding for example. They’re going to have a very different experience than someone who wants to make a long-term impact on their health.
The same concept applies to switching to a plant-based diet. A lot of people (including myself) switched to this type of lifestyle for preventative health reasons, and in a lot of cases, corrective health. Those people can have a completely different diet than those looking to switch to a vegan lifestyle or even those who are switching out of concern for the environment.
Having a “why” does not need to be this momentous reason. Maybe you just want to start eating less meat and have no intention of making a complete switch, and that’s absolutely ok. Maybe you’re just scrolling Instagram or Pintrest and looking at all the amazing creations on there and thought that you’d like to be able to do something like that.
Wherever you’re at, know it and own it. If you’re not where you want to be just yet, then congratulate yourself for starting! That’s hands down the hardest part.
So, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
Find Your Fit
Once you know why you want to switch to a plant-based diet, I really recommend finding a style to model. When I first switched to a plant-based diet, I thought it was just plant-based and animal-based diets- a black and white simplified version. Once I started engaging with the community, I could not have been more wrong.
There’s so many different options of plant-based diets out there it’s honestly eye opening. You have plant-based, which focuses on the elimination of dairy products and as little as possible to no meat. Personally, I prefer no meat since I feel so much better without it, but some people still add tiny amounts to food.
A fully vegan diet eliminates all animal products from foods. Additionally, they also do not use any products that have animal products within in them or have been tested on animals. If you’re an animal lover, this is for you.
There’s whole food plant-based diets as well as alkaline plant-based diets, which focus on targeted health aspects of food. Diets like this tend to not only eliminate animal products, but also things like specific oils. If you’re here for health reasons, this is a great place to look.
There’s even a raw plant-based diet, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Looking at all these different options can be overwhelming, but just take a step back and remember why you’re doing this. The answer to that question will help guide you to find diet that’s going to resonate most with you.
Once you become more experienced at cooking, making meals, and flavor combinations, you can break off and start experimenting, A lot of people let the fear that it’s too difficult to start stop them from having this incredible experience. It’s so crucial in the beginning that you have something to model and help you through to show that it’s not only possible, but you can have some great tasting food and achieve your goals in the process.
Make it a win win for yourself.
Come Up with A Plan
So now you know why you want to do this and what you’re going to do, now it’s time to well start doing it! The first thing that I recommend to beginners is to go at their own pace and start small. Start thinking of the dairy and meat products that you use in everyday life. You may want to go check your cabinets because there can be a TON of dairy hiding in there. When I first switched, I eliminated almost as much from my cabinets as I did from my refrigerator.
Once you’ve inventoried everything, pick one thing that you’re ok eliminating ideally immediately or an item that you’re going to run out of in the next 7 days. I’m not a fan of wasting food AT ALL, but if you want to get started immediately, don’t be afraid to take that step. You can always give it away to someone else. Don’t wait longer than 7 days because the longer you wait, the more chances you give yourself to not follow through.
A really great place to start is milk. Usually, people go through milk pretty quickly so it’s very easy to make that switch within the 7 days. There are also A TON of non dairy milk substitutes. My personal favorite is almond milk, but there’s also soy, oat, pea protein, and cashew. The plant-based market is evolving so rapidly that there’s new choices and products coming out at a faster rate than ever before.
If you’re not big into milk, you can also start with by swapping out stock or broth. This is something that’s virtually unnoticeable in cooked dishes. If you’re looking for more ideas, you can check out 5 Easy Plant-Based Substitutions.
Once you’ve eliminated one item from your diet, keep that momentum going. Set a schedule for yourself of what you’re going to start switching out of your diet, when you’re going to eliminate it and stick to it. The more and more you transition, the easier you find it will be.
Stick With Foods You Know You Like
One of the pitfalls I hear all the time about people who attempt to go plant-based or vegan is that they start eating foods that they never liked or have tried before and wind up hating. Pretty soon, they abandon the diet all together.
If you hate you tofu and start to switch and think that’s what you have to eat to get protein, then it’s probably not going to be long lasting.
The key to making this switch a sustainable change is to find foods you know you love. A lot of people don’t realize how much “vegan” food they already eat or in so many cases, simple substitutions and eliminations can transform a dish. Pancakes, toast, pastas, burritos- all of these things can be made plant-based so easily.
If you’re just starting out, I would focus on making one to two dishes per week that are plant-based and have ingredients that you absolutely love. This way you know that you’re going to enjoy what you cook and it’s going to make switching a lot easier.
Just like subbing out ingredients, keep switching out meals at your own pace until you reach the level that you’re comfortable with or the goal you set out for yourself. Remember, this is not a race.
Once you’ve been doing this for awhile, I would recommend starting to experimenting with dishes and foods that you’ve never cooked before. The consistent variety of meals is one of the keys to helping you stay on a plant-based diet.
If you’re looking for plant-based meal ideas, check out our blog! We publish three new plant-based meals per week...so there’s a lot to choose from!
“Don’t ever go to the grocery store hungry.” That’s an old saying that a lot of people have heard throughout the years. You wind up going and buying way more than you need, and oftentimes, it’s items that probably aren’t going to be that great for you.
The same concept applies here for anyone switching to a plant-based diet. You always want to create a weekly menu (or whatever frequency works best for you) and go to the grocery store with a set plan for what you’re going to buy.
Especially when you’re first starting out, it can be so tempting to go back to dairy and meat items when you’re starving in the grocery store and have no idea what to cook. Been there, done that. The best way to prevent this is to have that grocery list ready to go and buy ONLY what’s on the list.
I still recommend this for people who are also seasoned vegans and plant-based people like myself. The dairy-free ice cream section can be all too tempting.
If you’re going through this and feel totally overwhelmed, that’s completely normal when you’re first doing research about switching over, especially if you’re not used to cooking. Just take a deep breath and this will feel like second nature before you know it.
If you’re at this point where you feel like you’re totally in over your head and you’re locking up, we’re here to help. I love helping people transition to a plant-based diet and creating a support network them. Even if you think you suck at cooking, check out our meal plans. Having the menus, recipes and grocery lists done for you makes it so much easier when you’re transitioning. We want you to have all the resources you need for success!
The most important thing about going plant-based is to make sure you have fun doing it. So many people focus on what they’re missing out on or what they feel like they have to give up, it starts to become work. Pretty soon, they fall off all together.
Instead, focus on your goals and what’s going to make it enjoyable to switch. If you’re a foodie who loves cooking, focus on trying new dishes and experimenting. If you’re someone who is eco-friendly, maybe this is a chance for you to reconnect with your local farmer’s market.
Whatever you’re reason is for switching, enjoying it is really what’s going to make the change long-lasting!