Transitioning from the standard American diet to a whole food plant based one can be daunting. But making small, gradual changes is the key to ultimately eating a healthier, balanced diet. Before we dive into how to start a whole food plant based diet, it’s important to know what it is. We will use the the phrase how to start a plant based diet and leave out the whole food from time to time. We mean the same thing though.
A perfect whole food plant based diet is a combination of
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds, and
- Beans and legumes.
There are different types of a whole food plant based diets. Other people would still include dairy, eggs, and/or fish in their diet, while some (vegans) exclude it altogether. A “flexitarian” diet is mainly plant-based but will occasionally consume animal meat/product.
How to Start a Plant Based Diet
There are many reasons why people want to learn how to start a whole food plant based diet, but one of the main reasons is the health benefits. Since time immemorial, we have been taught to eat our leafy greens. Research (here, here, here and here for example) shows that a properly planned whole food plant based diet lets you maximize the benefits compared to other traditional diets.
Here are some of the benefits of a plant-based diet:
- Lowers your blood pressure;
- Promotes weight loss;
- Lowers bad cholesterol levels;
- Reduces the risk of chronic diseases;
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease;
- Lowers the risk of developing diabetes; and
- Lowers the risk of developing cancer.
Now that we know some of the many benefits it’s time to learn how to start a whole food plant based diet. Here are 11 steps for how to start a plant based diet.
Eat your fruits and veggies – green leafy vegetables and rainbow-colored vegetables
This is the foundation of a plant-based diet – fruits and vegetables! You can either eat them raw or cooked. It depends on the type of vegetable. The key is to get creative about it. You can mix them in soups, pile them on the side of your plate, sauté them, steam, boil – whichever way you like it.
Incorporate them into the dishes you normally make and/or eat. If you’re into pasta, you can add kale or other leafy greens. If you like pizza, then you can add greens to your sauce or put it directly on the (veggie) pizza.
Gradually you would want to move away from pasta and pizza. This is just to help you with the transition.
There are many leafy greens to choose from, such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collards, and more. You can also use other veggies like cauliflower, cucumber, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and more.
Don’t Eat Meat
This is pretty obvious but we need to point this out when you’re learning how to start a whole food plant based diet: Don’t eat meat – beef, pork, poultry, and fish. Other plant-based diets include minimal portions of fish and/or eggs and dairy. But if you’re learning how to start a plant based diet, then you might want to steer clear of those. Just gradually cut down the amount you eat every day, then skip a day as you transition. You’ll find soon you won’t miss it.
Stay away from dairy products
As mentioned, it’s better if you don’t consume dairy products since they contain saturated fat, animal protein, casein, and cholesterol. The protein found in dairy is one of the most relevant carcinogens. Additionally, processed vegan and soy cheeses contain lots of oil and added casein.
Omit the salt
Here’s a tip, before you consume any product, look at the amount of salt/sodium. As much as possible, avoid added salt altogether or make sure the salt content is equal or lesser than the calorie content. You might also want to avoid other variations of salt, such as Himalayan, iodized, sea salt, or Celtic salt. They’re all the same and it’s better to avoid them.
There are many ways to flavor your meals. Instead of salt you can use lemon juice, lime juice, low-sodium flavoring, as well as herbs and spices. Learning how to start a plant based diet includes how to flavor your meals.
Consume whole grains and whole oats.
Always look for whole grains and whole oats when you shop. Opt for brown rice and whole wheat bread instead of the regular ones. Make sure you see the word “whole” on the label or else it’s probably made up of white flour and is heavily processed. Learning how to start a whole food plant based diet means eating more ‘whole foods’.
There are different types of oatmeal – instant oats, quick cook, flavored oats, and more. You may think they all provide the same amount of benefits. However, do avoid the flavored ones, as well as the instant or quick cook oats since they’re most likely packed with added sugar. The best choices would be old-fashioned rolled oats or steel-cut oats.
Beans and lentils are your friends.
Beans and lentils are not only delicious; they’re also an excellent source of protein. You can whip up a lot of different dishes with lentils and beans – like the good old lentil soup. You can also top your salads with it or make hummus and spread it on veggies and crackers.
Eliminate oil as much as possible.
Yes, it’s easier to cooking something fried but to fully maximize the benefits of a plant-based diet, it’s better to eliminate oil. Start by getting rid of every type of oil in your pantry, even if it’s extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
You can use no sodium vegetable broth, wine, beer, water, or vinegar to stir-fry or sauté your food. When it comes to baking, you can use applesauce, pureed prunes, mashed ripe bananas, or no sugar apple butter. And instead of dressing your salad with olive oil, opt to use balsamic vinegars.
Say no to sugar.
Sugar is sneaky and they can be in the food you eat. So, make sure to read the labels to avoid consuming added sugar. Make it a point to only eat sweets on birthdays or special occasions. If you really can’t ignore the sweet tooth, it’s time to get creative without compromising your diet. You can put grapes in the freezer since they taste like candy. You can also freeze ripe bananas and mangoes so you can blend them to make dairy-free “ice cream”. You can add cocoa powder as well to make it more chocolate-y.
Many people worry about the fructose “sugar” in fruit. Don’t. There are lots of studies out there that show our bodies react very differently to naturally fructose and the refined sugar found in processed foods. The fructose in fruit does not compromise our immune system like processed sugar and is fine to eat.
Here is a video explaining those studies:
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Always choose water over sodas or artificially sweetened drinks. Not only will you save thousands of dollars, you can also save your calories by not drinking them. If you want you can flavor your water by infusing it with lemon, mint, and cucumber. You can also opt for soda water or seltzer with a splash of fresh orange or apple juice. However, we do not recommend drinking fruit juice regularly if you want to suppress your sugar cravings.
We Care For You
Starting a whole food plant based diet is tough. If you’ve been on the Standard American Diet for a long time, it’s challenging to switch. But the health benefits are very worth the price. Once you are on this diet, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!
We believe that meal times are the best times of the day. Our residents are provided with three healthy and delicious meals that are tailored to their needs and preferences. We offer special food plans for residents with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. In addition to the great tasting food, we take extreme care to make sure that our residents receive the best nutrition, daily vitamins, and needed caloric intake and are well hydrated to stay healthy and active.
If you want to know more about assisted living facilities, A Paradise for Parents staff and our resources can answer all your questions. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (623) 295-9890 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more about the services we offer. You can also fill out an online form located on our homepage. We’d be happy to assist you in your search for an assisted living facility for your loved one.