Beginners guide to a plant-based lifestyle + Meal plan
A predominantly plant-based diet and lifestyle can deliver long-term health benefits that go beyond weight management. Studies point out that plant-based diets reduce risk factors associated with chronic health conditions like heart diseases, diabetes and improve one's overall quality of life. This explains why the diet is so trendy, with all the top celebrities and influencers pushing it.
However, as a beginner, the influx of information on plant-based diets can get very overwhelming. It's also very easy to get confused because different blogs may provide contradicting information on some issues. For instance, do you know that you can follow a plant-based diet and not necessarily be a vegan? Yes, there is a very distinct difference between a plant-based and vegan diet. It's a very fine line, and sometimes the two are even used interchangeably, but it's important to understand the difference before getting started on this very exciting journey.
What’s a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a diet completely free of animal products and byproducts. This means no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. A true vegan will even go as far as to avoid gelatin, and that's why we have vegan capsules as an alternative.
What’s a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet, on the other hand, is a flexible plan that focuses on plants. This means you can either commit to the diet plan fully or adjust to it gradually. In other words, you can focus your diet on plant-based foods and also include a few animal products or byproducts once in a while. Therefore, following a plant-based diet should be a lot easier, even for a complete beginner.
There are tons of plant-based recipes and eating plans that can give you a smooth and fun transition into this lifestyle.
From the description, it’s clear that a plant-based diet does not necessarily have to be a vegan diet.
What are the Benefits of Plant-Based Diets?
Here are some of the top benefits of following a plant-based diet:
It promotes weight loss.
Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of a plant-based diet in weight loss. This is due to the exclusion of certain foods, mostly processed, which are known to cause weight gain. Plant-based diets are also high in fiber, a nutrient that is very useful in weight loss. By following this diet, you will essentially experience weight loss and keep weight gain at bay even in future.
The best part? You don’t have to stick to plant foods 100% to enjoy this benefit. Sure, you will manage your weight better and faster if you can stick to plant-based foods alone, but it is not an absolute necessity. Some people merely reduce meat, eggs, and dairy consumption, and they still get an amazing waistline.
It reduces the risk of chronic conditions.
A plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, stroke, cancer, respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's, etc.
Plant foods benefit your heart by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. This has been shown in several trials, but the experts caution that you must also eat the right foods within this diet. Make sure veggies, whole-grains, legumes, nuts, and fruits are always included.
A plant-based diet is also recommended for people with diabetes or those at a predisposed risk of developing the condition. These foods enhance your body’s ability to control blood sugar. It’s, therefore, good for managing and reducing the risk of diabetes. Oh, and studies show it does so regardless of your BMI!
Excluding animal products may also boost your longevity and overall quality of life since it limits the amount of harmful saturated fats you are taking.
It is good for the environment and the planet.
A plant-based diet is good for animals and the environment. This sustainable diet minimizes environmental footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and land use for factory farming, as reported by this study. The trial even reported that sustainable dietary changes involving plant-based foods could reduce water use by 50%.
Plant-based diets also support wild animals by reducing animal agriculture, which has been linked to mass extinction.
What foods to eat and avoid on a plant-based diet?
Foods to eat:
- Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, carrots, and cauliflower
- Whole grains like brown rice, brown rice pasta, quinoa, rolled oats, and farro.
- Fruits such as bananas, pineapples, pears, citrus fruit, berries, and peaches
- Legumes like black beans, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts
- Seeds and nuts like pumpkin seeds, natural peanut butter, cashews, walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts
- Healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocadoes
- Plant-based proteins like tempeh, tofu, and vegan protein powders
Make sure to eat some starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut, and squash. Spices and seasonings like turmeric, rosemary, basil, and curry are also okay.
As a beginner, you'll probably want to start slow. This means supplementing your plant-based diet with a few animal products and some processed foods. That's okay, but it's best to limit how much of these foods you are eating. You also want to try and eat healthy animal products. A few examples here are wild seafood, pastured beef and pork, organic dairy products, and organic poultry. If you must eat refined carbohydrates like bread and white rice, make sure to limit the quantity.
Foods to avoid:
- Animal by-products like gelatin and lard
- Processed foods
- Refined sugars
- All Fast foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed vegan-friendly foods like faux cheeses
Plant-Based Diet Meal Plan
Here is an example of a 2-day plant-based meal plan:
Breakfast: Oatmeal, nuts, and some fruits.
Lunch: A salad with some avocado and pumpkin seeds
Dinner: Corn burritos and black bean
Breakfast: Eggless tofu scramble
Lunch: Veggie wrap and hummus
Dinner: Quinoa veggie burgers with some spicy pinwheels
For snacks, you can have veggie hummus, veggie pinwheels, or peanut butter with apple slices.
Is a Plant-Based Diet Expensive?
Your bill will depend on several factors, but generally, a plant-based diet should be affordable. The trick here is ensuring you stock up your kitchen by buying the veggies, fruits, and other foods in bulk. This will even save you more cash than eating meat and dairy.
Is a Plant-Based Diet Right for Me?
A plant-based diet can help you achieve your vital health goals like weight management if you give it a chance. It also reduces the risk of developing serious health conditions, as pointed out earlier on. In addition to benefiting you, the diet will also save other animals and the planet at large. So yeah, this diet is most probably right for you.
As a beginner, I will encourage you to start slow and build up from there. You can start with adding some veggies to your breakfast. Or have a plant-based dinner at least once every week. You may slip up once or twice, but that's fine. We’ve all been there, so don't let guilt consume you. Just try and maintain your consistency as much as possible. You should also make the journey more fun by trying out new things like making fruit desserts or snacks. You can also take vegan alternatives to some of your favorite foods.
In need of extra protein to support your plant-based diet? Check out our vegan protein blends here.