I have been following a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle since 2015. I have transitioned from a heavily meat-based to a plant-based diet successfully and never went back.
It is not easy to start a plant-based or vegan diet. But with a bit of help and some good tips, you too can succeed.
What is a Plant-based or Vegan Diet?
More and more people are starting a plant-based diet thanks to its proven health, ethical and environmental benefits.
Even if the large majority of people aren't following a plant-based or vegan diet, more consumers are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is a diet that incorporates only plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes, oils, beans, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, herbs, and spices.
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a diet that avoids all animal products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and other dairy products, honey, most alcohols, fish, eggs, and meat.
A plant-based diet is not always vegan. Focus is on foods primarily from plants though.
The plant-based way of eating is well-known to be very healthy. Plant-based diets offer all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals for optimal health.
What is a whole-food plant-based diet?
A whole-food plant-based diet is based on a large majority of natural whole foods that are not heavily processed or refined.
This type of diet is the most natural, focusing on minimally-processed plant foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Here are some of the major ingredients of a whole-food plant-based diet:
- Fruits: bananas, apples, grapes, berries, avocados,
- Vegetables: lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, potatoes, beets,
- Grains: corn, rice, quinoa, oats, barley,
- Legumes: lentils, peas.
What Are The Benefits of a Plant-based Diet?
In large population studies and scientific papers, a plant-based diet is proven to have the following health benefits:
- lower risk of heart disease,
- lower risk of diabetes,
- lower risk of certain cancers,
- lower blood pressure,
- lower cholesterol,
- increased longevity,
- higher energy,
- reduced inflammation,
If you find a strong reason to start a plant-based diet, you will definitely overcome the transition difficulties.
You will find the strength to endure some trial and error along the way. It is nowadays easier than ever to make the switch.
If you are you are ready for some major changes, starting a plant-based diet is a good one.
Ask yourself what is important to you, what are your goals, make it clear to you what you want to achieve with a plant-based diet.
Protecting the environment and helping save animal lives are good reasons to start a plant-based diet.
Eating less dairy reduces your risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Avoiding milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and starting a plant-based diet is good for health and fitness.
To stay healthy, and have plenty of energy, it is best to avoid dairy, animal protein, and saturated fats.
All major benefits to starting a plant-based diet are supported by excellent science.
Making vegetables the star attraction in your meals is not always easy at first, but with time it will become second nature.
Learning to cook other types of delicious meals will make it easier.
A sudden shift to plant-based eating isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, you can also gradually ease into it.
Incorporate slowly more and more legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables to your meals.
These will keep you full and you will naturally eat less of other foods.
Does a Plant-based Diet Help With Weight Loss?
Plant-based eating is amazing to lose weight and stay fit as well. But you have to plan your meals and exercise program accordingly.
Avoiding products such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey is a good way to reduce your daily dose of fat and sugar.
With time you can have a great body and better health. Starting a plant-based diet will make you feel great about yourself.
In order to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than you need. Plant-based eating is a great way to eat fewer calories.
With the right exercise program, you can easily increase how many calories you spend without decreasing your food portions.
To lose significant amounts of weight, the plant-based diet is the more effective choice.
You will feel more conscious of your body needs.
Fruits, veggies, beans, grains, and seeds are very rich in fiber. These will keep you satisfied and away from more calorie-dense foods.
No need to restrict your portion size on a plant-based diet. You just have to choose the right combination of nourishing foods.
Try to eat more vegetables and fruits, grains and seeds. They are full of the nutrients you need.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Processed foods usually contain a high amount of salt and sugar. These are very detrimental to health and lead to weight gain.
And of course, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and facilitate digestion.
In addition, a plant-based vegan diet is a very good way to keep a healthy heart, to combat stiffness, joint pain or arthritis.
Is a Plant-based Diet For Me?
You will only know until you try it. But you have to do it correctly.
There are still some pitfalls to avoid in order to feel much better, have less fatigue and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
With the right tips and tools, you can make starting a plan-based diet easier for yourself.
Once you begin feeling great having more energy, you will feel motivated to continue.
If you are on a budget and starting a plant-based diet, eat large portions of whole grains, potatoes, and beans.
I advise you to eat out less often, at least in the beginning. Some places are accommodating of dietary needs. But it is easy to make mistakes and feel worse afterward.
Make sure to get fortified foods with B12 or supplements if you are afraid of lacking this vitamin, as it is the only one absent from a vegan diet.
Top 15 Tips to Start a Plant-based or Vegan Diet
Here is are my top 15 tips to help you start a plant-based diet:
- Go slow at first. You don't have to make a radical change in your eating habits. Incorporate into your diet more and more plant-based foods as you go.
- Lower your meat, dairy, and processed food intake. Gradually change your proportions of animal-based foods to plant-based foods to accommodate your new diet.
- Eat lots of starchy vegetables. These bulky foods will keep you full and satisfied while stopping your cravings for unhealthy fats and sugar.
- Try out a variety of fruits and veggies. Consuming much different plant-based food ensures you get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need.
- Prefer healthy fats. Nuts and seeds, olives, coconuts, avocados are all great sources of fats and the most healthy choices.
- Choose whole grains for breakfast. Oatmeal is a staple. You can also try out buckwheat or barley and add nuts, seeds, fresh and dried fruits.
- Don't forget dessert. Prefer ripe and juicy fruits such as apples, peaches, melons, instead of cakes and biscuits.
- Get plenty of information. And keep learning on the subject. You want to know your food and what you put into your body so you have the best chance to succeed.
- Only buy the right foods. You will be tempted in the beginning to shop for what you are used to. Just don't.
- Get rid of what you don't need. To avoid unhealthy foods and stick to your diet plan, make sure your home is filled with the right foods.
- Don't get boring with your meals. Pick foods that are easily available to you but have some meal variety. It is important to keep meals fun and enjoyable.
- Be well prepared when on the go. Eating plant-based at home might be easier than outside. That is why you should always have snacks and prepare meals in advance that you can take with you.
- Develop critical thinking. Not everyone will understand why you are making these changes. Accept to think, live and eat differently.
- Make new friends. Making a big diet change might impact your social circle. You want to avoid feeling pressured by those that don't understand and instead get support from those that know what you are going through.
- Listen to your body closely. Learn to differentiate when you are really hungry and when you are having cravings. This will help you pick the right fuel for your body.
Resources To Help You Start a Plant-based Diet
10 Tips to Help You Eat a More Plant-Based Diet
How to start a plant-based diet: facts, benefits, dos, and don'ts
10 tips for starting a plant-based diet
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II
How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
Forks Over Knives by Lee Fulkerson
Earthlings by Shaun Monson
What the Health by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.