If you’re not already familiar with plant-based diets, you might be thinking: how does it work? Do I eat plants? Rest assured, you won’t be asked to digest a fern for dinner. It’s that you’re choosing to eat foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits. It’s a smart choice with innumerable health benefits, including digestive health and weight loss. And don’t worry, you can still indulge on occasion. There are such things as non-dairy ice cream and frozen veggie pizza. But still, even on a plant-based diet, you’ll want to eat carefully. We’ll show you how.
Tip number one: get used to reading ingredient labels. You’ll want plenty of information to make informed choices. Look out for pre-prepared foods that are loaded with sugar, fat, sodium, and other things that will impact your healthy diet.
Also, don’t set out to simply replicate your favorite foods with non-plant versions. That doesn’t necessarily translate to healthier dining. What you want to do is figure out what you like about your favorite foods — such as texture or flavor — and make substitutes that meet your criteria. For example, you might experiment with:
- Lentils: Great for dishes that you’d normally put ground meat in, like meatloaf, sloppy joes, and bolognese.
- Tempeh: Takes on whatever seasonings you add to it. Try it as a breakfast “sausage” patty for a hearty start to your day.
- Beans and nuts: Perfect for blending into thick, creamy sauces.
- Tofu: Crumbled or blended with oil and seasonings, this can make a good filling for both sweet and savory dishes.
As with any new diet, it can help to have a support system. Find friends who are willing to try new plant-based dishes with you, or who are open to going to restaurants that have plant-based options.
And don’t be afraid to start slowly. A good first step is to add around 1,000 calories of legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables to your everyday routine. These starchy foods will keep you full and satisfied so you’ll naturally eat less animal products and processed foods.
You might also check out Facebook and Meetup to see if there are any local plant-based groups in your area. Groups like these will help you expand your support network.
Finally, don’t think of it as a deprivation diet. That will take all the fun out of it. The food really can be quite delicious! You won’t feel deprived of anything, except stomach bloating and lack of energy. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a plant person for life.