I’ve received some messages lately asking for advice on how to gradually eat more plant-based. While some feel compelled to go cold-turkey when they learn about this beneficial way of eating, most of us are more likely to ease into it. So here are some simple ways to get started:
- Buy plant milk instead of cow milk. It’s an easy swap, and you can use plant milk for anything you’d use cow milk for! We like almond milk and soy milk, but take your pick with oat milk, cashew, coconut, hemp, pea, rice. It’s an amazing time to be plant-based with so many options. You’ll probably start to see health benefits fairly quickly after giving up cow milk!
- Eat more fruit. Replace processed snacks like crackers, fruit snacks, and packaged foods with more fruit! It’s very nutrient-dense and full of antioxidants. Once your pantry and cupboards have nothing exciting in them (i.e. processed food), you’ll naturally reach for the fruit on the counter. Keep it in plain sight, like the top shelf of your fridge or the counter. Don’t hide it in the bottom drawer! And don’t be afraid of it!
- Start making a plant-based breakfast each morning until it’s a habit. We have a green smoothie and oatmeal 75% of the time for breakfast. We also like homemade granola with almond milk, avocado toast, peanut butter banana toast, pancakes with berries and bananas on top, oil-free hash browns, muffins, baked oatmeal. Check out my breakfast archives for recipes.
- Once breakfast is a habit, start making plant-based lunches. Swap meat and cheese on sandwiches for hummus and veggies, or avocado, tomato and pesto. The sky is the limit! Or make a hearty soup to eat every day for lunch, eat leftovers from dinner, or make a smoothie (I love this Cruciferous Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie for any meal of the day!). Pasta, “quesadillas” made with a can of refried beans on a whole wheat tortilla, or a baked potato are also easy lunches.
- For dinners, write down your favorite meals that are already vegetarian, and make them often. Do you like vegetable curry? Minestrone soup? Spaghetti? Bean burritos? Pesto pasta? Taco salad? Stick with what you already are familiar with in the beginning. If you’re used to adding beef or cheese, just skip it or replace meat with beans or lentils. For example, I’m sure even meat-lovers will enjoy these Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos or Chili Mac.
- Stop buying all processed treats and just buy ingredients so you can make your own healthier treats. Instead of buying granola bars, cookies, ice cream, etc., make your own treats that are sweetened with fruit or small amounts of maple syrup. You will love these Rice Crispy Granola Bars, Banana Muffins or nice cream (frozen bananas blended into soft-serve), which is my favorite!
- At restaurants, order the meatless options. Bean burritos, black bean or portobello burgers, vegetable fajitas, veggie subs, pasta primavera or pasta with marinara, falafel with hummus and pita, pizza with vegetables and vegan cheese or no cheese. At a steak house, you can order just sides of baked potatoes, baked beans, steamed veggies, corn. It’s easy these days! Just avoid Jack In the Box, McDonalds, In ‘n Out….they have literally no remotely healthy options. Wendy’s has baked potatoes and salads that can be modified. Taco Bell, Chipotle, Costa Vida, Blaze Pizza, Subway, Thai and Indian restaurants, are all ones that we really enjoy vegan options at (although, none of them are oil-free).
- Make a Pinterest board of meals you’d like to try. Whatever category of foods you’re lacking, just search for it! “WFPB snacks” “WFPB breakfasts,” etc. You’ll get tons of results. You can start by checking out my Pinterest board!
In your House = in your Mouth
As you can see, most of the change is simply changing what you buy! If the food is in your house, it’s in your mouth. If you can exercise self-control in the grocery store, you’re pretty much good to go! Here are some tips for doing that:
- Focus on what TO eat instead of thinking of what you’re trying to avoid. Make a list of your favorite whole plant foods and buy them! Your favorite fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, whole grain products, beans, etc.
- Be gradual if that helps you in the long run. Don’t know how you’ll live without butter? Then keep buying it while you figure it out, but don’t let it stop you from cutting out milk, meat, etc. and giving up on a plant-based diet all together.
- Buy ingredients to make your own convenience foods instead of buying frozen food. For example, make your own freezer burritos, waffles or pancakes, muffins, soups, popsicles. Make your own granola or oatmeal packets instead of buying cold cereal. Fruit is the ultimate convenience food. As Dr. Greger says, “Anyone who says healthy eating is not convenient has never eaten an apple.”
Takes too much time?
The number one excuse most of us make for not eating healthfully is that it takes too much time. Yes, reading what I wrote above does sound time-consuming! Making ALL your own meals, convenience foods, snacks and treats from scratch?
There are some hacks to make it not take so much time, but it’s also just a harsh reality of taking care of our health. Would you rather have the challenge of prepping food now, or the challenge of disease, doctors, and drugs later?
Planning is the key! If you work 15 minutes into your week to plan out exactly what you’ll eat, your shopping and food prep won’t take so long. Then take an extra hour when you have time to chop vegetables, prepare some breakfast or snack foods, and batch cook some rice, beans, potatoes, lentils, quinoa….whatever you like. Let me know if you need help! I’m happy to send ideas for your specific situation.
Also, my e-book of 20-minute meals has over 20 quick recipes and more tips for saving time!
This page of resources has more websites, cookbooks and ideas for recipes and inspiration.
But is it worth it?
When we’re young and healthy, we feel invincible. Disease and age seem so far away. But before you know it, many people find themselves with challenges they might have prevented.
Honestly, many of the benefits I’ve seen from this way of eating are not physical. While we enjoy nearly perfect physical health right now, the blessings I most enjoy are peace, clarity, joy, and feeling at one with the world around me.
So, take the baby steps! The journey is meaningful and rewarding!
What ONE small step are you going to take this week? Or what’s one thing that helped you adapt to eating WFPB?