Updated: Mar 5, 2021
I thought it was time I shared something a little less philosophical and a little more practical with you all. So this week, I'm giving you my best advice on how to transition your diet from a standard American/Canadian diet to a more whole-foods plant-based diet, drawing almost entirely from my own experience of transitioning over the last few years.
#1: Initiate animal-less Monday, Tuesday, or whatever day you want.
Probably the most typical thing you will hear to get you to move to a plant-based diet is to start spending whole days where you don't eat any meat. I'm taking it a step further and saying, go Animal-less! If you are someone who eats meat, dairy, or eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this will likely be more of a challenge for you. If you are already used to only eating these things only once a day, this will likely be an easier feat.
Some helpful tips:
Try oatmeal or cereal with plant-based milk like almond, soy, oat, or cashew.
Make a tofu scramble, veggie hash, butter and egg-free waffles, or eggless benedict with hollandaise for breakfast.
Make a sandwich or salad that uses hummus and beans as the protein source.
Try a vegan canned soup with crusty bread to simplify lunch plans.
Try going out with coworkers to a vegan lunch place.
Buy a couple of frozen vegan burritos to easily grab for lunch.
Find a recipe that "veganizes" something you are already familiar with. For example, make plant-based lasagna, vegan sausage Zuppa Toscana, plant-based mac n' cheese, or one of your other typical recipes. Sure, it won't taste the same, but slowly you may find how you feel AFTER eating it is what encourages you to try it again.
Make something ethnic. Ethnic recipes from Asia, India, or even South America may already be plant-based and animal-product-free. That means it will taste just like it was meant to taste, and most likely be delicious!
Try a free meal planner for 2 weeks like the one from www.whitneyerd.com or ForksOverKnives.com. You could also try the Forks Over Knives Recipe App, or look on Pinterest or my website for a delicious-sounding plant-based meal.
#2: Choose plants as your snacks
Most people aren't going around snacking on pork rinds or beef jerky on the regular, which means there is a good chance you already eat mostly vegetarian snacks. Perhaps your go-to is a bit of yogurt and granola, or cheese and crackers. Transitioning to plant-based snacks can be pretty mindless for most people, and therefore may be a great place to start.
Here are my tips:
Fruit. Sweet, tangy, delicious, and filling. Enough said.
Vegetables. Pre-cut celery, carrots, cucumber, broccoli, and radishes can be a great thing to keep in the fridge to dip into some hummus or vegan artichoke dip.
Nuts. Very satiating, but are also high in calories so be mindful and stick to just a small handful. Choose almonds as they are high in protein and fiber, and lower in fat.
Whole grains. Sprouted grain toast, whole wheat English muffins, refrigerator oatmeal, whole-grain crackers with very little oil; these can all be a great snack option.
Make-ahead snacks. Chia pudding in mason jars, homemade muffins, healthy cookies, or bean brownies.
#3 Let even your desserts be made of plants!
What? Dessert? Common Lucy, spinach ice cream just doesn't sound ideal.
What you may not know though is that there are SO many delicious recipes online that use beans, whole wheat flour, vegetable oil, fruit, and other PLANTS as the basis of the recipe. They use natural sugars like maple and honey in limited amounts so you still get that sweet satisfaction, without the toll on your health.
One of my favorites is black-bean brownies. These use beans and nut butters as the basis for a goey delicious bar that you love and that will love you back.
A close second favorite is soft-serve ice cream made from frozen bananas. YUM!
#4 Be inspired by the produce section
What kind of grocery shopper are you? Do you get in and get out as fast as you can? Do you browse and look at different products? If I'm not careful, each trip I make to a grocery store can last up to an hour and I'll end up spending way too much money.
However, if you aren't generally a curious shopper, then you may want to try becoming one. Something that may inspire you to include more plants in your diet is to head to a relatively large, and possibly very diverse grocery store. If in Canada, I recommend The Real Canadian Superstore because of the MASSIVE produce section they have. If you are in the states, then you may want to try a few ethnic grocery stores.
Here are my tips:
Pick one or two new fruits to try. If you have never had it, try one you know someone else you know has recommended. Here are some fruits that we love, but I had never really tried them until I was an adult! Papaya, Kiwi, Persimmon, Pomello, Grapefruit, Fresh Coconut, Jackfruit, Cherries, Nectarines, Apricots, Thai Bananas, Mango, Green Mango, Passionfruit, Figs, Kumquats, Dragonfruit, Tamarind, Rambutan, Lychee, Breadfruit, Pomegranate.
Pick a few new vegetables to try. Try buying these even before you know how to cook them. Then go look up a recipe that uses the veggie. Here are some you can try: Asparagus, Artichoke, Beets, Brussel Sprouts, Eggplant, Radish, Turnips, Zucchini, Taro, Cauliflower, Red Cabbage, Squash, Fuzzy Melon, Bok Choy, Chinese Broccoli, Pumpkin, Leek, Sweet Potato, Mushrooms, Gourds, Lotus Root, Okra.
If your budget allows for it, you can also try some of the pre-prepped vegetables that have been processed into things like noodles.
#5 Pick restaurants with plant-based options
Not all vegan food is created equal. Actually, most vegan restaurants specialize in transforming regular dishes into vegan dishes which usually means they are still packed full of oil, sugar, and refined grains.
However, plant-based is becoming trendy! So there are more restaurants popping up that specialize in low-fat, whole-food meals. If you are in Calgary, you definitely need to check out Whole Life Go. They have delicious takeout options right now that are whole-foods, plant-based, and mainly SOS-free (salt, oil, sugar).
If you live somewhere rural, then possibly choosing ethnic restaurants may be the best way to go plant-based. Most Thai, Vietnamese, and even Chinese restaurants will have options with tofu and vegetables (be cautious of how much added oil and salt these can have). Mexican restaurants will usually have bean-based meals or be easily modifiable if you just talk to a waiter or chef. Most regular restaurants now carry at LEAST one plant-based burger or vegan dish.
Do your research. Look at menus and photos before going to have more control over what you are putting into your body, even as a treat.
Those are my tips! I hope that even if you just try two or three, they will be helpful in making your life more PLANTIFUL.
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