Are you ready to transition to a plant-based diet but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to start a plant-based diet.
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What is a Plant-Based Diet?
There’s a lot of confusion regarding the difference between a vegan and plant-based diet. The official definition of a plant-based diet is a diet that consists of whole, unrefined, and/or minimally processed plant foods. These include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Those who eat a plant-based diet usually avoid highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oils. When it comes to eating meat, it all depends on your interpretation. Many of those who follow a plant-based diet don’t eat meat, but others may eat it in small amounts. For vegans, it’s important to be aware of this and check labels and ingredients.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Plant-Based Diet
Now that you know what you’ll be eating, here’s how to start a plant-based diet and ensure you stick with it:
Find Your “Why”
Before you begin a plant-based diet, take a minute and remind yourself why you want to start eating this way in the first place. Did you read about the benefits of eliminating animal products from your diet and hope to improve your health? Perhaps you want to lose weight, reduce your environmental footprint, or prevent the suffering of animals. Whatever your motivation may be, write it down and put it on your fridge or bathroom mirror as a daily reminder. This will help you stay committed on those days when you want to go back to your old way of eating.
Prepare Your Kitchen
Out of sight, out of mind! If you’re serious about your new plant-based diet, the best way to show your commitment is to get rid of any foods that aren’t plant-based. That doesn’t mean you have to throw them away! If the food is still good, consider donating it to your local food bank, ask a neighbor if they’d like it, or take it to work and offer it to your co-workers.
If you’re the only one in your house that’s eating a plant-based diet, create dedicated space for your plant-based items in your pantry and fridge, whether it’s a designated drawer or shelf.
Stock Up on Plant-Based Foods
Now that you’ve made room in your pantry and refrigerator, it’s time to go grocery shopping! The easiest way to support your new, plant-powered lifestyle is to make sure your kitchen is always stocked with healthy, whole plant foods.
Fill your cart with fruits and vegetables to snack on, as well as hummus, canned beans, and whole grains like oats, quinoa, and rice. Don’t forget to stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables as well. They’ll come in handy on those days when you need to throw a meal together fast!
Want more vegan grocery tips? Check out our vegan grocery list for beginners!
Get Enough Calories
One of the biggest adjustments for anyone transitioning to a plant-based diet is eating enough calories. Compared to the Standard American Diet, which is loaded with processed foods that are high in fat, a plant-based diet is made up of foods that have a lower caloric density. They’re also high in fiber and water, which means they’ll make you feel full without eating a lot of calories. While your body is getting used to your new way of eating, don’t worry about portion sizes—even if you’re trying to lose weight. If you’re hungry, eat! Also, don’t forget to eat the rainbow so your body gets the proper nutrients.
Take it One Day at a Time
Starting any new diet can be hard. But beginning a plant-based diet, which is probably the complete opposite of the way you’ve been eating your entire life, comes with its own set of challenges. Rather than worrying about what you’re going to eat at Thanksgiving or how you’ll have to turn down your grandma’s cake when you visit her, take it one meal at a time. If you accidentally eat something that isn’t plant-based, that’s ok! Be kind to yourself and simply try to do the best you can.
Keep Educating Yourself
If you find yourself having trouble sticking to your new plant-based diet, come back to your “why” from step one and educate yourself more. Here are some resources you can utilize based on your “why”:
- If you’re eating a plant-based diet for health reasons, watch a documentary like “What the Health” or “Forks Over Knives.”
- If you’re trying to lose weight, find some success stories online or join an online community to help you stay motivated and accountable.
- If you’re an eco-warrior, track how much your plant-based diet is reducing your environmental footprint.
- If you’re protecting animals, visit a local animal sanctuary or watch a documentary like “Earthlings” or “Cowspiracy.”
Visit Willow in NYC!
If you’d like to try some delicious vegan cuisine in NYC, stop by Willow today! Our restaurant at 199 8th Avenue serves vegan comfort food with upscale plating. You can also place pickup or delivery orders online. We look forward to serving you an outstanding meal!