Plant-Based Diet for Beginners: What is it, Benefits, How to Start the Diet (With Meal Plans)

What is a Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet is defined as any diet that emphasizes on foods obtained from plant sources. These foods mainly include vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, nuts, legumes, and soy products. While vegan diet plans do not include any animal products like eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin, whole food plant-based diets further cut out processed foods like refined sugar, oil, and white flour in addition to animal-based products

Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet: How to Start

You do not have to rush into the new lifestyle. Take your time and get familiar with vegetarian foods before trying them more often.

Plant Based Diet for Beginners

  • Drink a green smoothie once each day: It will give you plenty of energy and inspire you to make healthy, plant-based eating a lifestyle. You may experiment with ingredients and flavors by trying any one of these easy smoothie recipes.

Plant Based Diet Green Smoothies

  • Start gradually cutting out meat from your diet: Try swapping meat products for an extra amount of veggies for one day a week. Once you get used to the vegan recipes, you will crave for them and will not miss the meat.
  • Have unsweetened almond milk and give up dairy milk: Switching from dairy milk to almond milk is probably the easiest way you can change your diet. A good source of calcium, almond milk is low in calories and sugar while rich in Vitamins D and E.

List of Whole Foods for Plant-Based Diet

Plant Based Diet Pyramid

  • Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, eggplant, leafy greens, zucchini, etc.
  • Starchy vegetables: Legumes (beans and lentils), potatoes (sweet potatoes), quinoa, whole corn, etc.
  • Whole grains: Oats, brown rice, 100 percent whole wheat, etc.
  • Fruits: Whole fruits (not dried or juiced)
  • Beverages: Unsweetened plant-based milk, green tea, water, decaffeinated tea, and coffee
  • Omega-3 sources: Ground flax seed, chia seeds

Other whole foods that may be sparingly taken include peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, coconut, avocados, dried fruits, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, wheat and refined soy protein, and tofu.

What to Eat on a Plant-Based Diet: Easy Meal Plan for Beginners

With all the above information, now you know what kind of foods you need to focus on, and thus you can freely mix and match. Here, is a sample seven day plant-based diet plan for beginners:

Plant Based Diet Breakfast

  Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Sunday Oats with nuts and fruits Whole grain pasta with veggies and tomato sauce Brown rice with avocado, broccoli, and beans
Monday Whole grain bread with 1 tsp. almond butter, fresh fruits Rice with fresh veggies rolled into a burrito Stuffed winter squash, roasted veggies, tofu
Tuesday Hash browns with tofu scramble Roasted veggie sandwich with hummus Veg curry over rice
Wednesday Quinoa, chia oatmeal mix with unsweetened soymilk Green salad with a cup of shelled edamame and shredded beets Chickpea curry, cooked quinoa
Thursday Vegan pancakes with blackberries Chickpea curry with whole-wheat toasted pita Stuffed sweet potatoes, hummus
Friday Toasted whole-wheat bread with peanut butter Toasted bread topped with beans, hummus, cucumber, sunflower seeds Chickpea and cooked quinoa, mixed with avocado, tomatoes, and cucumber
Saturday English muffin with peanut butter Green salad with a cup of shelled edamame and shredded beets Spicy-grilled tofu and veggies

Snack Options

There are many delicious snacking options as well. You can have some nuts, roasted chickpeas with chili and lime, or treat yourself with some vegan brownies.

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet: How is it Healthy

If you have considered Paul McCartney’s on-stage performances, or Bill Clinton’s gracefully slender body post-heart surgery, it may seem that plant-based foods are responsible for preserving their health and energy. Research supports the belief that vegetarian diets can help boost your immune system, decrease the risks of diseases, and maintain a healthy weight. Therefore, switching to a plant-based diet may help in:

  • Preventing chronic diseases like heart disorders, type 2 diabetes, and cancer: Since a vegetarian diet is useful for improving blood lipid levels and decreasing about 15% bad cholesterol, people following a plant-based diet are 20% less likely to have stroke or heart disease than those who consume meat and dairy products.
  • Providing healthy nutrients: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. Moreover, foods from plant sources are full of phytochemicals, including anthocyanins (in berries), flavonoids (in apples), carotenoids (in carrots), and isothiocyanates (in Brussels sprouts).
  • Promoting gut health: Plant-based whole foods including grains, legumes, and seeds are particularly high in fiber and resistant starches that increase the number of healthy bacteria in your intestines, thereby improving gut health.
  • Controlling weight: Plant-based, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, as well as plant-based proteins like soy, legumes, quinoa, and farro give you fewer calories as compared to dairy and meat products. Therefore, opting veggies, fruits, and whole grains will leave to you feel fuller while cutting down the calories, facilitating weight loss.

Tips for Beginners for Sticking to a Plant Based Diet

  • Keep a food journal so you can track the meals liked by you, your partner, and kids. It will also help you to know how much time or effort they require.
  • Start with simple recipes that have 3-4 ingredients and do not require much cooking skills. (Check some easy plant based diet recipes here)
  • Keep collecting simple yet interesting recipes, and try something new every week.

Plant-based foods are some of the most affordable things you can buy, and with a little creativity, flexibility, and planning, you will not have a hard time in creating meals around these items. So, make the decision and take control of your health.

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