If you’re thinking about shifting to a plant-based diet, you’re in good company. It’s an increasingly popular way to eat, and gaining in momentum by the day. In fact, according to research firm GlobalData, there’s been a 600 percent increase of people identifying as vegans within the United States just in the last three years!
While not everyone cuts out animal products overnight, 17 percent of Americans aged 15 to 70 currently eat a mostly plant-based diet, and 60 percent are making a concerted effort to cut back on meat-based products.
The terms plant-based and vegan are sometimes confused. To clarify, a vegan diet is one that excludes animal products entirely, while a plant-based menu focuses mainly, if not exclusively, on foods of plant origin. This approach may offer a bit more flexibility, even if you aspire to make vegan meal choices most of the time.
Fortunately, it’s easier to eat plant-based and/or vegan now than ever before, with mainstream markets nationwide offering soy, almond and other plant-based milks as well as vegan butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and meat substitutes like veggie burgers, nuggets and sausage, plus many other products. The following tips can help you make a smooth transition to a healthy, plant-based daily menu:
1. Start where you are
The perfect time to start is now, knowing that you can evolve at your own pace. As you gradually incorporate more fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds into your daily meals, you’ll naturally be crowding out items you no longer want to consume. To kick things off, simply start to “veganize” items you currently enjoy.
For example, your morning shake can be made with almond milk and plant-based protein powder, your parfait with soy, almond or coconut yogurt, your burrito with beans and vegan cheese, and your spaghetti with soy-based “meat” and topped with vegan parmesan. For those avoiding soy, this tasty meat replacement is made from beans, nuts and other healthy ingredients, and comes in Southwest, Italian and Mexican flavors.
2. Stock smart staples
When your home is filled with versatile staple foods, you can create healthy, compelling meals and snacks with ease. Rather than limiting what you can enjoy, going plant-based is actually more likely to open up a vast new culinary world for you.
Stock up on a wide variety of fruits and veggies in season, thinking “organic rainbow” when shopping, as brightly colored produce is especially dense in antioxidants and flavor. Other good basics include intact grains like oats, brown rice and quinoa, beans, and legumes and raw nuts and seeds. Check out these 5 plant-based staples and how to use them for scrumptuous, varied meals.
While eating this way will furnish you with plenty of high-quality protein and a plethora of essential nutrients, many health experts recommend a high quality, full spectrum, daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement—regardless of which diet style you follow.
3. Love clever convenience items
When you can’t make every meal from scratch, healthy shortcuts make sense. To ensure you can still eat plant-based when you’re extra busy, keep good-for-you convenience items on hand, as they can help transform simple foods into deliciously satisfying entrées in no time. For example:
- Pre-cooked brown rice and/or quinoa for easy stir-fry’s or Buddha Bowls
- Pre-baked potatoes for quick twice-baked/stuffed potato meals
- Several flavors of hummus to use as dips, spreads and to top entrées
- Refried beans for quick burritos, and to bulk up veggie soups
- Flavor-packed salad toppers like tapenade, kimchee, kale chips, seasoned nuts and seeds, etc.
- Baked frozen yam fries, as well as organic frozen peas and corn
- Prepared vegan dressings, dips, spreads, pesto and marinara sauce
- Cool seasonings like smoked paprika, coconut aminos, miso paste and “cheezy” nutritional yeast
- Frozen organic fruit for shakes and smoothies
- Vegan protein powder
- Nut and seed butters
4. Expand your horizons
Once you’re set with a smart array of plant-based meals, you can continue to explore new recipes and food combinations over time. You may be inspired by vegan cookbooks and blogs, as well as chats with friends who share your interest in a healthy, plant-based/vegan lifestyle. There are numerous plant-based and vegan groups on Facebook and Meetup as well.
Your local library is a wonderful resource for vegan-related information, including cookbooks loaded with enticing recipes to further ignite your creativity. The vibrant colors and lively flavors of natural plant foods offer endless possibilities, keeping the quest fun and exciting.
The more you eat and live this way, the better you’re bound to feel on many levels, which will further bolster your good intentions. Find your tribe, keep learning, try new foods often and enjoy every day of this fun, vibrantly healthy journey!
Ready to get cooking? Download our FREE vegan recipe e-book for 22+ amazingly delicious recipes.