8 easy ways to get started on a plant-based diet
Vegan vs plant-based
It’s important to note that there is a difference between being ‘plant-based’ and ‘vegan’. Plant-based is primarily talking about diet and the foods we consume, many people adopt a plant-based diet for health reasons. Where as being Vegan goes much deeper than our food choices, it’s a way of life. It’s about trying to live as ethically and compassionately as possible, without causing harm to animals, for example by not not wearing leather, not buying products tested on animals, etc.
Plant-based meals include not only fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. It doesn’t mean that you are strictly vegan, it simply means that you are choosing most of your foods from plant-based sources.
Turning vegan, or incorporating plant-based food in your diet can dramatically improve a persons health. Even more so if they were previously eating a poor diet. Nutrition research has shown that plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet, which has a foundation of plant-based foods, provides a much healthier eating pattern. Studies have revealed that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and depression, along with providing a better mental and physical function. Plant-based diets have also been shown to support our health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity.
A well planned and balanced plant-based diet offers us all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fibre and nutrients. Source: Harvard Health Publishing.
Here are some quick and easy tips to help you get started on a plant-based diet.
1. Eat lots of vegetables
Try filling half your plate with vegetables for lunch and dinner, and be sure to include plenty of colours when choosing your vegetables.
2. Reduce the amount of meat you eat
Begin to reduce or eat smaller portions of meat or replace it with legumes or beans.
3. Add whole grains to your meals
Oats, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, couscous, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, these are all great sources of whole grains to start introducing to your meals. Start with breakfast with oats, then add some fresh fruit and nuts or seeds.
4. Go green
Start to include a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collards, Swiss chard, and other greens to your meals. Alternatively, fill a bowl with salad leaves such as romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale, then add other vegetables along with beans and tofu.
5. Introduce healthy fats
The fats found in extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts, nut butters, flaxseeds, hemp seeds and avocados are all healthy plant-based options.
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6. Have at least one meatless day per week
Introducing one meatless day a week helps to make the transition easier. Build these meals around beans, legumes, whole grains and vegetables. Visit MeatlessMonday for more inspiration.
Related post: 10 Reasons To Go Vegan
7. Get into smoothies.
Smoothies are a great way to introduce more fruit to your daily diet. Experiment with different flavours such as almond milk blended with blueberries, raspberries and banana, or blend kale with apple, melon, lime juice and water.
8. Eat fruit and veg as snacks
Apples, bananas, peach, watermelon, strawberries, these are all great for satisfying hunger in between meals. Or eat raw peeled carrot or celery dipped in hummus or guacamole.
Inspiration for your plant-based meals
Once you begin eating a plant-based diet, knowing what foods to choose will become like second nature. Here are easy some ideas to get you started:
Warm oats with banana, almond nuts, and a little ground cinnamon.
Granola with almond milk, blueberries and raspberries
Whole-wheat bagels topped with avocado and fresh tomato
Peanut butter on wholegrain toast
Burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla wrap filled with homemade falafel, wholegrain rice, peppers, onions, and a garnish of salsa or hot sauce.
Buddha bowl with couscous, chickpeas, avocado, lettuce, fresh tomato, olives, and with a tahini or hummus dressing
Homemade carrot and coriander soup.
Quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, cucumber and avocado and fresh salsa.
Whole-wheat pasta with cannellini beans and cherry tomatoes, with a vegan pesto sauce. Add an optional side salad of romaine lettuce or rucola, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
Vegetable chilli with wholegrain rice, black beans, guacamole, fresh salsa and baby spinach.
Stuffed sweet potato with kidney beans, peppers, kale or spinach, and a hummus dressing.
Vegetable curry with chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, pumpkin, onion, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, served with with brown rice.
There's never been a better time to try plant-based
With such a wide variety of food choices available, there's never been a better time to switch to plant-based eating. And as demand grows, more and more options continue to appear in supermarkets and restaurants. Looking for inspiration comes easily in the form of Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, where you can find endless recipe ideas and tips on how to transition to plant-based eating.
There are so many delicious plant-based dishes to choose from, I've really loved exploring different flavours and meal ideas, some of my favourites include my Carrot and Coriander Soup, this easy Vegan Red Pesto - perfect on pasta, or try this Quick and Easy Falafel. (All shown below)
Find more of my vegan recipes here.