So you’ve decided on becoming plant-based? Congratulations on your choice! It’s not an easy one to make, especially when it has a massive impact on your current lifestyle. Considering you’ve thought thoroughly about your decision, the following content is a beginner’s guide in transitioning to a plant-based diet. One of the common mistakes made by many people is jumping right into it or not knowing where to start. For that reason, I’ve reviewed my plant-based diet experience and shared with you some things that could help you during this journey.
First, remembering your why.
In a previous article, I highlight the importance of setting an intention why you want to become tune into the whole food plant-based diet. When you are staying true to what you believe in, your intentions will support your decisions making choices at grocery stores or restaurants. Make several copies of your written intention list and tape it everywhere in your house. So this way, your goals continue to be your motivation and inspiration during your progress.
Second, research and understand what a plant-based diet is…
A whole food plant-based diet does not include meat, poultry, fish, dairy or eggs. Also, it’s includes nothing processed like oils, flours, or butter (unless homemade). What’s important to recognize is that if you buy something in a package, there’s a chance it’s changed. A plant-based lifestyle only includes meals from plants and anything like sauces or dressings, are all home-made, not processed.
The author Dr. Michael Gregor from the How Not To Die Book puts it in these terms about whole foods: are close to their original state, spoil faster, are things your great-grandparents would have recognized as food, rarely have ingredient lists, or, if they do, have short ones, sold without packaging, and often found around the perimeter of the grocery store.
There are many plant-based diets pyramids out there, but the only one I found that is closest to my holistic studies and lifestyle is below… print it out or have it handy in your mobile to reference the pyramid easily.
Third, clean out your kitchen.
A piece of advice that my raw-foodist coach once gave me is, “if you don’t have it in your kitchen, it will not be tempting to eat it.” She is right!
Grab a box, go through your pantry and fridge. Remove all things and products not in agreement with your new diet/lifestyle change. One concern that might arise is your push back on throwing things away you purchased. But you don’t have to. Taking that box and donate it to a homeless person, or you can give it away to your friends or family.
Below is a short list of things you might have in your kitchen and to toss into the box:
Dairy: milk, processed cookies (Oreos), cheese, coffee creamer, yogurt, dairy ice-cream, and bread.
For dairy, you want to read the LABEL, specifically the INGREDIENTS section. Most of the products will have in small letters a particular sentence you need to keep an eye out for which is might contain milk, eggs, or nuts. If that label is anywhere on the product, don’t bother in purchasing it or toss it.
Eggs: pasta, snack bars, waffles, sauces like tartar or mayo.
Eggs are everywhere and almost in anything. Same as the label above keep an eye out for that warning. There are beer and wine products that contain a gelatin-based substance derived from fish. Processed snack bars are a big no-no, especially Special K or RXBAR.
Chips: Cheetos, Doritos, or processed potato chips of any kind.
Popular branded chips in the store contain dairy or food coloring. On top of food coloring being a chemical harmful to your body, some contain Carmine which comes from an insect. Also, chips contain refined sugars that are a cause of heart disease and other disturbing health issues.
Chocolate: Hershey Kisses, hot chocolate, boxed cake or brownie mix, or cocoa butter.
Oh yes, this one is hard, but listen, there are better alternatives for chocolate like Cacao. Chocolate has milk, and sometimes even eggs. We find these in candy bars and ice-cream desserts that already contain dairy.
Like Phoebe from the tv show, Friends once said “anything with a face on it…” remove meats including chicken, seafood, lamb, red meats, and pork.
Eliminate all products from your kitchen that come from an animal or even have traces of an animal. These items include but are not limited to frozen dinners, burger patties, canned soups, jerky, frozen pizzas, dressings (usually contain eggs), and marshmallows (contains gelatin from animal’s skin and bones).
Purchase a whole foods plant-based diet cookbook (or download an app)!
Let’s consider the idea that maybe you weren’t or aren’t much of a chef. If you are looking for plant-based meals that are fulfilling your taste buds, understand that you might have to spend more time in your kitchen.
You might say in your head that you don’t have the time. Well, consider this: if you spend an extra fifteen minutes in bed each morning scrolling through Instagram or lounge on the couch binge-watching Netflix tv shows, then you have time to prepare meals.
Purchasing a plant-based cookbook will help you jumpstart in learning how to cook easy and beautifully made plant-based meals. With today’s technology, you can also purchase or download a free recipe app from your phone. Having the ability to review recipes from the palm of your hand transitions even easier for you.
Once you have found a cookbook or an app, scan through the recipes and the ingredients. Getting familiar with ingredients you will use, it will help you understand what you need to shop for at every grocery store visit.
Let’s go shopping!
Like many people believe, shopping for healthy groceries is expensive, however, it can be affordable if you are smart about it.
Before expecting to use up your paycheck at a whole food store, make a grocery list. Divide the list by greens, fruits, legumes, and superfoods. Having to divide your type of groceries will best determine where you can find all of your items and at a lower cost. Your grocery list will embody mostly vegetables, fruits, and legumes. The vegetables and fruits you can find usually at a local farmers market. The best part of going to a local farmers’ market is that all of their products are usually organic and tremendously cheaper than a natural whole food store.
If you go to a local grocery store that is best fits your needs and budget, I highly suggest choosing organic products. Yes, they can be expensive, but if you are looking to remove toxins from your body, going organic is the way to go. One way to identify if the produce is organic or not, you can use the label reference photo below.
Time to have fun with making meals!
Now that you have your kitchen stocked, whip out your cookbook or recipe app, and start looking for things to make. For those who have tight schedules, consider reviewing plant-based recipes that allow you to meal prep for the week ahead. Meal prepping is a great way to help you stay on track and also enables you to save cooking time.
Don’t be afraid to explore and create your own recipes. There are many times when I am craving Italian or Asian food. Since those types of cuisines at restaurants are not plant-based and filled with GMOs, I stay away. Creating meals like Zoodles and Plant-Based Alfredo sauce helps my cravings to go away. If you’re a big fan of burgers, find recipes that allow you to make healthy veggie patties and switch the processed buns with lettuce! There are always ways to help kick the meat-craves to the curve. You just have to look for healthy alternatives and try them out.
Once you find the things you enjoy eating the most, stick to them. Don’t force yourself to eat foods you don’t like. That will only deviate you from your goal of staying on track. But again, it’s okay to explore! Have fun with flavors and seasonings. It will surprise you by how tasty meals can be with plant-based meats.
Remember your intentions and don’t lose motivation!
One of the essential elements in a beginner’s guide to becoming plant-based is to stay on track and have fun with it. The path you are taking will not be perfect at all times. You most likely will run into speed bumps along the way with temptations.
As I mentioned above, fall back to your intention list and continue to maintain your motivation based on why you are on this new eating lifestyle. One way to help you stay motivated is by connecting with other people online or at local events with similar eating habits. There are a few Facebook Group Communities always sharing recipes, feedback and valuable to get your questions answered. You can grasp new tips and advice from meeting these new people or reading their online posts about how they expand their diet.
Now that you’re on a new plant-based diet path, take notes of how you feel each day. Track your progress, and every day that passes by–praise yourself. It takes a lot of work and immense courage to maintain a new dietary life change.
For that, have compassion for yourself and be your own cheerleader. You’re the only person in control of your body and your wellbeing. There is no one out there keeping track of your progress. So, remind yourself of your commitments and your accomplishments. Maintaining a positive attitude and mindset on your new diet path will help you make this whole becoming plant-based–a seamless ride.