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Plant-Based Diet: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

Plant-Based Diet

How To Start A Plant-Based Diet - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second-Summary
  • A plant-based diet eliminates all animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, and fish.
  • It may offer various benefits like weight loss, lesser inflammation, higher nutrition, and lesser environmental burden.
  • Because of these benefits, many individuals are switching to a plant-based diet.
  • If you are a beginner, the best way to transition to a plant-based diet is to make slow changes to plant-based alternatives for animal products.
  • Start by making one meal a day completely plant-based and get used to consuming more fruits and vegetables.
  • To reap maximum benefits from plant-based meals, avoid processed vegan foods and stick to fresh plant ingredients for the best nutrition.

Introduction – What Is A Plant-Based Diet?

Plant-based diets have become popular worldwide due to their health benefits and lower environmental burden. A plant-based diet essentially means that you stop consuming animal products and only eat foods derived from plants.

Most people following a plant-based diet cut out animal products from their meals completely, while some may have them sparingly. A subgroup of this is a whole food plant-based diet, where people only consume plant-based whole foods and eliminate all processed foods from their meals as well.

Plant-based diet benefits include weight loss, better health, and protection from inflammatory conditions. Additionally, they reduce cruelty towards animals and lower the environmental burden generated by the meat industry. So, if you want to reap the various benefits of a plant-based diet, here is everything you need to know.

What Are The Health Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet?

Health Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet

1. Weight Loss

According to studies[1], those on a plant-based diet are more likely to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Furthermore, a plant-based eating may also help with weight loss, provided you choose a healthy meal plan. So, if you are looking for a healthy weight loss diet, switching to plant-based foods may help.

2. Nutritional Benefits

A plant-based diet plan supplies ample fiber and phytonutrients to the body, which a meat-based diet may lack. Fiber boosts your digestive health while phytonutrients improve the immune system. Furthermore, plant-based foods offer essential vitamins, which are necessary for optimal physiological health. Hence, they can help you maintain a well-balanced, nutritious diet.

3. Anti-inflammatory Benefits

Processed meat and animal fats may cause inflammation in our bodies. Additionally, those who do not follow a whole food plant-based diet consume various inflammatory processed foods like white bread and sugary snacks. All these food items may contribute to chronic inflammation in the body. Which, in turn, may cause cardiovascular diseases, Type-2 diabetes, acne, and other health conditions.

A plant-based diet food list contains anti-inflammatory foods and minimizes the consumption of inflammatory ingredients. Thus, a plant-based diet might reduce inflammation and protect your body against inflammatory diseases.

How To Start A Plant-Based Diet As A Beginner?

Switching to a plant-based diet for beginners may be daunting, especially if your diet includes many animal products. Here are some tips that can make the transition easier for you:

1. Start With One Plant-Based Meal A Day

The best way to slowly transition to a plant-based diet plan is to take baby steps. Start with switching to one plant-based meal a day, whichever is easiest for you. Plan for the meal a day or even a week in advance, so that you are stocked up on all the ingredients you will need. Once consuming one plant-based meal becomes a habit for you, do the same for two, three, and eventually all meals.

2. Switch Certain Food Items

Instead of throwing out all animal products from your kitchen, slowly switch certain food items to plant-based alternatives. For example, switch to plant milk instead of cow milk, tofu instead of cheese, and hummus instead of mayonnaise. You may begin to notice plant-based diet weight loss when you make these switches, encouraging you to further transition to plant-based meals.

3. Eat More Fruits And Vegetables

Fruits And Vegetables
If you are wondering how to start a plant-based diet, the first step is to begin loving fruits and vegetables. If you are a meat-eater, you may have to evolve your taste buds to appreciate plant-based foods. So, while transitioning to a plant-based diet, start by including more fruits and vegetables in your meals. Your body will slowly begin enjoying plant-based meals and will stop craving meat.

The Best Foods To Eat On A Plant-Based Diet

  • Plant Protein – A plant-based diet for beginners and even old-timers should include plant protein. Proteins are the building blocks of our body and help with muscle growth. So, when switching to a plant-based diet, replace animal proteins with soy products like Tofu. You may also add chickpeas and lentils to your diet as sources of plant protein.

  • Foods Rich In Iron – A plant-based diet must include iron because it is an essential blood component and contributes to growth and development. According to studies[2], the bioavailability of iron in plant foods is lesser than in animal products, but you can get iron through kidney beans, spinach, tomato juice, cabbage, and soybeans. So, include these foods in your diet for optimal iron intake.
  • Fruits And Vegetables – Your plant-based diet food list must include a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Consuming vegetables and fruits of different colors ensures that you get adequate quantities of different vitamins and micronutrients. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, which will improve your digestion.
  • Whole Grains And Legumes – Whole grains and legumes offer essential amino acids. Additionally, whole grains contain iron and zinc, whereas legumes offer plant proteins. Plus, both these food groups offer energy through carbohydrates, without the inflammatory side-effects of processed grains. Therefore, you must include these ingredients in your diet to reap all the plant-based eating health benefits.
  • Nuts And Seeds – Nuts and seeds should be a part of your shopping list if you are wondering how to start a plant-based diet. They contain healthy fats that are great for skin, hair, and organ health. Plus, they are rich in micronutrients that improve overall health. So, use nuts and seeds in your plant-based meals or as mid-meal snacks.

Top Meals To Consume On A Plant-Based Diet

Top Meals To Consume

  • Salads – Salads are a great way to achieve plant-based diet weight loss. Plus, they are easy to make if you are a beginner. Simply chop up different fruits and vegetables, throw in a bit of tofu and nuts, and add a low-fat plant-based dressing. You may switch up the ingredients every day for variety in your meals.
  • Smoothie Bowls – Smoothie bowls are also a good option for a plant-based diet for beginners. They are easy to make and delicious too. To prepare a healthy and tasty smoothie bowl, first, blend some frozen bananas and berries into a thick paste. Top up the paste with oats, nuts, chopped fruits, and chia seeds for a healthy and wholesome meal.
  • Whole-Grain Pasta – How to start a plant-based diet when you are accustomed to heavy foods? A simple whole-grain pasta recipe may satisfy your taste buds and stomach. Use red tomato sauce with herbs and replace meat with tofu. Also, make sure to avoid white pasta and choose less-processed options. This meal will offer familiarity along with plant goodness.
  • Lentil Soups – Lentil soups are comfort meals that must include in your plant-based diet plan as they are rich in protein. First, boil or slow cook unpolished lentils in salted water till they soften. Mash the lentils and add more water if you want a thinner consistency. To this lentil soup, add spices and herbs, as well as vegetables like broccoli, beans, or carrots. You can experiment with different ingredients to make the soup as fancy or simple as you like.
  • Stir-Fried Dishes – Stir-fried dishes are another great way to add variety to a plant-based diet food list. Drizzle some plant-based oil on your pan and stir fry chopped vegetables and tofu. Add any plant-based sauce of your liking, such as a homemade one would be better. You can also add some steamed brown rice to the stir-fry for a wholesome meal.

Top Foods To Avoid On A Plant-Based Diet

Top Foods To Avoid

  • Meat And Eggs – The first step on how to start a plant-based diet is to eliminate all types of meat and eggs from your diet. It includes beef, pork, chicken and fish, or any other animal or bird meat that may have been consumed earlier. Some of these food items are inflammatory, and removing them from your diet may offer health benefits.
  • Dairy Products – Dairy is another thing that you should remove from your plant-based diet food list. You must eliminate all dairy products, be it milk, cheese, or yogurt. You can find various plant-based alternatives for the same, such as almond milk, tofu, coconut yogurt, and other plant kinds of milk.
  • Honey – You may not realize it instantly, but honey is also a food item derived from animals, in this case, bees. So, a plant-based diet plan must not include honey. You can use alternatives like jaggery, date syrup, or fruits if you wish to add some sweetness to your food.
  • Sauces And Dips With Animal Products – Many readymade sauces and dips contain animal products. For example, mayonnaise usually contains eggs, and fish sauce is a common ingredient in some sauces. So, read the labels of these products and opt for vegan sauces and dips like hummus instead. You can also try to make vegan dips at home to further enhance your plant-based diet benefits.
  • Highly Processed Vegan Foods – Plant-based diet weight loss is possible only if you replace processed food with whole foods. White bread, white pasta, refined sugar, and sugary snacks may cause weight gain, even if they are plant-based foods. So, avoid heavily processed foods altogether if you want to stick to the best foods for your health.

What Is A Good Plant-Based Diet Plan For Beginners?

Good Plant-Based Diet Plan
If you are worried about how to start a plant-based diet as a beginner with limited cooking skills, this simple diet plan can get you started.

  • Breakfast – Overnight Oats – Soak some oatmeal in almond milk and store it in your fridge overnight. The next morning, it will be soft and mushy. Top it up with fruits, seeds, and nuts, for a healthy breakfast with all the plant-based diet benefits.
  • Morning Snack – Apple With Almond Butter – You must include apples and almond butter in your plant-based diet food list. Chunks of apples dipped in almond butter are a delicious and filling snack for your mid-meal cravings. You can enjoy them even when you are on the go.
  • Lunch – Squash & Lentil Soup – If you are following a plant-based diet weight loss plan, this squash and lentil soup will make a low-calorie, hearty lunch. Slow cook squash and lentil together and then mash them to a soupy consistency. Add any seasonings of your choice, and enjoy.
  • Evening Snack – Carrot Sticks With Hummus – Carrot sticks with vegan hummus is an excellent evening snack that is nutrient-rich and light-weight. Preparing hummus from chickpeas at home is also fairly simple, and you can make a large stock in one go for your plant-based diet plan.
  • Dinner – Brown Rice With Vegetables – Stir-fried vegetables with brown rice are an excellent option for a plant-based diet for beginners. Keep steamed brown rice and chopped vegetables handy so that you can prepare this meal in a jiffy. You can top it up with a plant-based sauce for more flavor.
  • Dessert – Date & Quinoa Pudding – This is a delicious yet healthy dessert for post-dinner indulgence. Cook some quinoa in warm almond milk and sweeten it with date syrup. This dessert is comfortable in a bowl when served hot or chilled as a part of your plant-based diet food list.

FAQs About Plant-Based Diets

Yes, plant-based diets can be good for you if you choose the right strategy on how to start a plant-based diet. If you replace animal products with unprocessed whole foods obtained from plants, it will improve your health. It is because unprocessed plant-based foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients.

Yes, plant-based diet weight loss plans may offer good results. It is because many plant-based foods like vegetables and soy products are lower in calories than their animal-based alternatives.

Plant-based diet benefits include reduced inflammation, possible weight loss, and better digestion. It is because unprocessed plant-based foods are rich in nutrients and low in calories and inflammatory compounds.

A plant-based diet can be healthy if you choose a whole food plant-based diet for beginners instead of simply switching to processed vegan foods. Replace animal products with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, soy products, and lentils for better health.

Conclusion

Plant-based diet benefits include lesser inflammation, lower BMI, higher nutrition, and lesser environmental burden. Hence, many individuals across the globe are switching to this lifestyle.

Additionally, plant-based diet weight loss plans are gaining popularity because whole foods obtained from plants are rich in nutrition without being calorie-dense.

If you are confused about how to start a plant-based diet, take small steps towards this big change. Start by switching certain animal products with plant foods and make one meal of the day completely plant-based. Avoid heavily processed vegan foods and stick to unprocessed plant-based meals.

Therefore, your transition to a plant-based diet will be smooth and effective. So, if you have been on the fence about a plant-based diet, now is the time for this healthy switch. Start with a plant-based diet for beginners and unlock your healthiest self.

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