Getting Started on a Plant-Based Lifestyle

So you’ve heard about all the benefits of eating plant-based and you’re ready to give it a go, but you’re not sure where to start. We understand that getting started on a new lifestyle can be rather intimidating, since there’s a lot of information out there that can be very confusing. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and we want to give you two simple ideas to help you get started on a plant-based lifestyle. The first method is to use your recipes but simply do a swap of the animal products for a similar plant based alternative, and the second is by creating mix-and-match plates.

Kimchi fried rice with Trader Joe’s Vegan Korean beef bulgogi

Even Swaps

The even swap method is geared a bit more towards those of you who love to cook and have lots of recipes that you love. Some of your recipes may be traditional foods that have been in your family forever, and you want to keep those recipes, but you just want to make them plant-based. With this method all you do is simply swap out the animal protein you’re using in your recipes for a plant-based protein. There are so many options in the stores these days. You can find plant-based butter, yogurt, ice cream, fish, all kinds of meats, cheeses, eggs…the list goes on and on.

Even swap examples:

Let’s say you want to make pasta with Bolognese sauce. You will make the recipe exactly like you do, except when it comes time to throw in the minced meat, you substitute that with something like Beyond ground “beef”, or for healthier option, some cooked lentils. Everything else the same.

Another example is fish tacos. Again, you make your recipe as usual, but you swap out the fish with something like Gardein’s F’sh Filets, which you can find in almost any supermarket in the frozen section. For a healthier option, cut up a block of tofu into bite size pieces, toss them in some cornstarch and season with salt and some Old Bay seasoning (for that seafood taste). Then crisp them up in a little bit of oil, and toss them in your fish tacos. Everything else is the same.

Mix-and-Match Plates

The second method is a bit more flexible, in the sense that you don’t necessarily have to have a recipe in order to create a healthy and versatile meal. With the mix-and-match plate, you are simply going to fill half your plate with vegetables/fruit, one quarter grains or starches, and one quarter plant-based proteins.

You can choose any vegetables and fruits you like:

  • broccoli
  • kale
  • asparagus
  • artichokes
  • mushrooms
  • berries
  • microgreens
  • spinach
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • brussels sprouts…etc

The starch and grain portion could be:

  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • rice
  • buckwheat
  • farro
  • couscous
  • quinoa
  • barley
  • pasta
  • oats…etc

The last third of your plate will be the plant-based protein. You can pick from:

  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • seitan
  • beans
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • alternative meats or fish

Finally, to spice up your plate you can add:

  • BBQ sauce
  • hot sauce
  • salsa
  • guacamole
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • herbs and spices

You can also add a sprinkling of nuts like walnuts, almonds or pine nuts, or seeds like hemp, flax, or chia, which will give your meal a nice crunch and add even more protein and some healthy fats and omegas.

Mix-and-Match ideas:

  • barbecue tempeh, or plant-based sausages, with mashed potatoes and garlicky green beans
  • Beyond Burger, or a black bean burger, with fries and a salad
  • chickpea curry with vegetables and Jasmine rice
  • rice and beans with tomatoes, greens, onions, cilantro and guacamole
  • oatmeal with berries, nut butter and chia seeds

With either method, you can opt for either the healthier whole foods, or the more processed vegan alternatives. The alternative foods, will be a little bit more expensive and not quite as healthy, although still better for you than the eating meat and dairy. Although not the healthiest options, these foods are good for when you are just transitioning from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. They are also a nice treat every once in a while, even when you are a seasoned vegan.

Of course if you do choose to go for the more whole food options, they will be healthier and less expensive. Some of the cheapest foods are things like rice, beans, lentils and tofu. If you’re choosing mostly (about 80%) whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and you’re eating enough calories for you, you will get all the nutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – that you need, without the bad stuff like the hormones, antibiotics and saturated fats in animal products.

Vegan supplements

There is one supplement that every vegan needs to take – vitamin B12. Many people think that B12 comes from animals and that eating animal products will provide the B12 you need. But that’s not entirely accurate. B12 actually comes from microbes found in soil.

Back in the day, all animals, including humans, used to get their B12 from drinking water and eating vegetables with a bit of dirt on them. These days, however, everything we eat is triple washed, and purified so we no longer consume the B12 microbes from the soil. And since 99% of animals are raised in factory farms, they don’t get grass, they don’t eat dirt either, so they also need to get a B12 supplement.

So when a person is eating meat thinking that they are getting their B12, they are just recycling a supplement through the animal. It makes a lot more sense to simply take your own supplement.

There are also many plant-based products that contain B12, such as cereals, milks, tempeh, nori, nutritional yeast, chlorella, marmite & vegemite.

Adjusting to a plant-based diet

During the first couple of weeks of your transition, it is possible you may experience some digestive discomfort. The reason for this is that a vegan diet is a lot higher in fiber than your typical omnivore diet., and all the plant foods you are now eating, have to get broken down by your gut bacteria. When you are first getting started you will possibly not have enough good bacteria in your gut to deal with all the fiber. Your body will adjust, however, and you will produce more healthy bacteria. This will depend on how processed your diet is right now, and how many vegetables you’re eating, but things usually work themselves out within 2 to 4 weeks for most people.

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