Have you ever thought of trying a completely plant-based diet, but thought it was too hard? I’ve had many years experience eating a whole foods plant-based diet, and it has never felt restrictive. In fact, I discover new and delicious things to eat all of the time!
I know it can seem intimidating. But, we adjust and we adapt. Here are my top tips to transition towards a plant-based diet.
- Recreate your favorite meals without meat. For instance, instead of beef chili, make a black bean chili. Beans usually are great substitutes for meats in many recipes for soups, stews, taco fillings, burritos, salad toppings, etc. Speaking of beans…
- Eat more beans. Beans are high in protein, and super hearty and filling. Bonus – they are very high in fiber – unlike meat. Soups and stews are super easy to make without meat, try these recipes. If you don’t eat beans on a regular basis, start slowly adding them into your diet to keep your tummy happy.
- Focus on adding, not removing. Put your mindset on filling your plate with greens, vegetables, whole grains, tofu, nuts, beans and legumes. There is a huge variety of foods to choose from! Go grocery shopping and buy quinoa, rice, bananas, tomatoes, apples, oats, flax, nut milks, blueberries, spinach… the list goes on and on!
- Eat mock meats. Mock meats are a great gateway into a plant-based diet. It’s more about adding them into a dish than serving them as a stand-alone meal. Remember, these are extremely processed, so only indulge a few times a week minimum. My favorite brands are Beyond Meat, Field Roast and Gardein. Check out my recipe for Vegeroni below – a favorite in my house!
- Explore new breakfast options (without the eggs, bacon, yogurt…) – like oatmeal with fresh fruit, green smoothies, chia pudding, avocado toast, the list goes on. More ideas here.
- Life goes on without cheese… it really does, guys. Try making a pizza without cheese and loading it with veggies – and be honest – do you really miss the cheese? You can also make your own cheeses and cheese sauces from nuts – like in my plant-based mac & cheese recipe. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor and is great sprinkled on popcorn.
- Make your own mylk. Nut milk, that is. Making your own is so much tastier than the watered-down stuff you buy and you can do it in minutes – directions are here.
- Do your research. Invest in some new cookbooks with plant-based recipes. My current favorites are Thug Kitchen, The Plantpower Way and Vegan Bowl Attack. Also, don’t forget about all of the recipes on this web site!
- Learn the nutritional benefits. It’s easy to maintain this lifestyle when you are aware of how much healthier it is to have animal products out of your life. Books I recommend include How Not to Die and The China Study. The Forks over Knives documentary is also great and is available on Netflix.
Dive right in and keep with it! Try it for 30 days – it takes that long to create new habits – and see how you feel. Maybe you decide to stay with a plant-based diet, maybe you decide to incorporate meat and animal products back into your diet at a more limited amount. Decreasing and/or eliminating meat from your diet is associated with lower risks of heart disease, cancer, obesity and other chronic illness and conditions, so it’s worth doing. Hey, did you know I have a 30 Day Plant-Based Meal Plan available?
Recipe: Vegeroni Pasta
Makes 4-6 servings
This recipe is pure comfort food. While there are some processed ingredients here, it is still way healthier than your standard Beeferoni. I’ve even thrown in a few vegetables! This is also a great gateway food for someone that is trying to lessen the amount of meat they eat.
1 package Beyond Meat crumble (all plant-based)
1 lb brown rice pasta – cooked, rinsed and drained
1 jar tomato sauce (look for one with no added sugar)
3 carrots, shredded
1 red onion, diced
8 mushrooms, chopped
Heat a large pan to medium high heat. Add the onion, and saute for a few minutes. Add a bit of water if it sticks. Add the carrots and mushrooms, stir, then add the crumbles. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are cooked through and the crumbles are starting to brown (5-10 min). Keep adding water if anything sticks. Stir in the tomato sauce and stir for a few minutes, then the pasta, cook for another minute – and you’re done!