Studies have shown that following a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, certain types of cancer and other major health issues. Not to mention it can boost energy, reduce inflammation, enhance weight loss, induce better sleep, and improve digestion, mental health and overall well-being.
Technically, a plant-based diet eliminates or minimizes animal products and highly refined foods. This includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, gelatin, animal by-products and processed foods including those made with white flour and refined sugars. This eating approach consists mainly of whole plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes/beans, lentils, grains, soy-foods, nuts and seeds.
The degree to which you follow this style of eating is completely up to you. Whether you switch exclusively to plant-based foods or simply add more plant-based foods and choose to include meat, fish and/or dairy products but in much smaller amounts, is your choice. The idea is to find a plant-based approach that is right for YOU and fits your preferences. Wherever you fit on the plant-based spectrum, this eating approach will provide countless health benefits.
HERE ARE 10 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO SMOOTHLY TRANSITION TO A MORE PLANT-DASED DIET:
- Start slowly: start with just a few plant-based meals and snacks per week. Use plant-based foods that are already familiar to you and that you already enjoy such as veggie stir-fry, bean and rice burrito, lentil stew, meatless spaghetti and hummus or salsa. Begin to build on those foods.
- Begin to be mindful of eliminating processed foods: start to cook with whole, fresh foods instead of items that are boxed, canned or bottled.
- Slowly limit animal foods: there is no need to go cold turkey. Make simple changes by altering the proportion of animal foods to plant-based foods in your meals. Make meat more of a garnish and veggies the star of your meal. Gradually swap animal-based ingredients with plant-based ingredients in your favorite recipes.
- Eliminate the animal foods you like least first: you won’t miss the foods you like least so let go of those animal-based foods first.
- Start your day with a plant-based breakfast: instead of the usual go-to such as eggs and bacon, try a fruit and veggie smoothie made with almond milk, oatmeal with fruit, whole grain cereal with fruit and almond milk or avocado on whole-wheat toast. This will get your day headed in the right direction.
- Pay attention to protein: plant foods contain amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and there is plenty of protein in plant-based foods to meet your requirements. Be sure you are eating enough calories and focus on whole foods instead of refined foods and your protein intake should be adequate.
- Stock your kitchen with healthy plant-based foods: set yourself up for success by having healthy plant-based foods readily available such as beans, dried lentils, whole grains, olive oil, fruits and veggies. Explore the vegetarian and fresh produces sections of your local supermarket and health store to see the large variety of plant-based foods available.
- Go for the greens: get creative and try a variety of green leafy vegetables. There are plenty to choose from including kale, collards, swiss chard, and spinach. Try new recipes and use cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, braising or stir-frying to preserve the nutritional content.
- Build a whole meal around a salad: such a simple meal and full of plant-based foods. Fill a bowl with a variety of salad greens and add veggies, fresh herbs, beans, brown rice, peas, nuts/seeds or tofu. The choices are endless.
- Make meals fun and exciting: don’t make it too difficult on yourself. Focus on foods that you enjoy and that are easily accessible to you. If cooking isn’t your passion, stick to easier recipes. Talk to others that enjoy plant-based eating, scour the web for recipes, and learn how to make meals more fun and flavorful.