So, you’ve decided to take the plunge! Or you’re at least curious and convinced enough for a little toe-dipping.
Switching to a plant-based diet is simple, but it can be challenging. You just remove meat, eggs, dairy, and overly processed foods from your diet, and replace them with whole, nutritious, plant-based foods. No big deal, right?
You can go cold turkey or take some time with the transition. Small, incremental change is usually the best way to make it last.
How to Start
Start small. Commit to removing meat, dairy, eggs, and all things processed over the course of 30 days. Start by adding in more plant-based foods. Throw in veggies with those eggs, or make a green smoothie to go with that afternoon pick-me-up snack. At the grocery store, avoid the center aisles filled with pre-packaged foods. Keep to the outskirts, where all the real food is!
Then, choose two days of the week to go meat-free, two to go egg-free, and two to go dairy-free (arguably the hardest stage, because cheese). After one week, increase the number of days, continuing every week until by the end of the month you are fully plant-based.
Why to Try it
Stay the course for 30 days and you will FEEL the difference. You should be over the initial detoxing symptoms (yes, that’s a thing), and you’ll feel like a new person.
Remember, you should not feel hungry or deprived when transitioning to a plant-based diet. It will take some determination, curiosity, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, but make it your goal to explore a brand new world of food! Invest in a plant-based cookbook, and don’t be scared to try new things.
What to Eat
So what can you eat? So many good things.
Beans and legumes (lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pinto, garbanzo—the list goes on and on) are a great source of plant-based protein. You can also go nuts on almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seed (a superfood!), as well as almond milk and hemp seed.
Don’t forget quinoa! It tastes and cooks like a grain, but it’s actually a seed with amazing health benefits. It’s also a complete protein.
Obviously all fruits and vegetables make the list. And this is where your plant-based diet can really transform into something colorful and exciting. No, really. There are, of course, the dark green leafy variety, which are packed with nutrients and low in calories. But you can also dig into berries, figs, apples, kiwi, banana, pomegranate, cherries, and so on.
Starch isn’t a no-no, but just make sure you’re getting the most nutritious bang for your buck. That means sweet potatoes, squash, brown rice, sprouted whole wheats (try Ezekiel bread or cereal), and steel-cut oats.
These are all beautiful, delicious foods that will help your body, and you’ll be amazed at the variety of flavors and textures you can get out of them in your cooking.
And before you despair that all treats are out of your life for good, did you know that both an occasional glass of red wine and a piece of really dark chocolate (80% or more) are good for your heart and have antioxidant properties?
Also try juicing, smoothies, or wellness lattes (also called superfood lattes), to feel like you’re treating yourself while still fueling your body with the stuff it craves.
So, who’s game to try? Whatever your stage of plant-based eating, we want to hear from you! Comment below with your ups and downs through this process!