Food & Drink Magazine

Starting a Plant-Based Diet

By Chuck Underwood @brandnewvegan
plant based diet

USDA Market Potatoes by MrTinDC courtesy of Flickr

Starting a Plant-Based Diet is not easy for some.

I’ve heard some people say it’s too extreme (but yet willingly go to the hospital to have their chest spread open or insides cut up.)

There’s nothing extreme about it really  – it’s just deciding to take control of your health and realizing your food choices are the first step in doing that.

Decide to eat different.  That’s all there is to it.

Make a choice.  

And by eating different, I mean giving up a lot of your favorite foods.

  • Foods you may have spent your entire life eating.
  • Foods your family and friends may still eat.
  • Foods you may not consider to be bad for you, even though they are probably what brought you here in the first place.

Hard?  It’s not as hard as you think.  There are MANY alternatives to meat and dairy that are plant-based that taste every bit as good as the real thing.

The first step though, before even thinking about food, is figuring out what your motivation is.

Why do you want to start a Plant Based Diet to begin with?

Once you figure out your WHY, you’re well on you way.

Finding Your Why

No matter what your reason is for starting a Plant-Based Diet, remembering your WHY will make it easier.

Is it for your health?

That was my biggest motivator.  I was pre-diabetic, my blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was high, and I smoked.  I had all the ear-markings for an early heart-attack so I made the decision right then and there to do something about it.

Oh sure I could have went to the doctor and brought home a ton of pills, but that’s something I really wanted to avoid.  And I’ve seen way too may friends go that route, and most are still taking those pills, or worse,  and it’s not pretty.

So whenever I think about falling off the wagon, or saying “this is too hard”, or “I’ll just eat this one whatever it is and go back on plan tomorrow”…..I remember my why.

  • I remember my friends who have had heart attacks already.
  • I remember the ones that have died much too early.
  • I remember the faces of my family, my wife, my children, and my grandchildren.
  • I think about how my life would be so different if I was struck down from a major disease….

That’s my why.

Does This Mean I’m Vegan?

Maybe, but not necessarily.

It’s true both groups eat a plant-based diet, but Veganism goes a lot deeper into animal rights and preventing animal cruelty than just improving one’s health.

Although if you’re like me, the longer you are on a plant-based diet – the more you end up leaning towards Veganism anyway.  Factory farms are horrible places and no living creature should have to live or be tortured like that just to satisfy someone’s crazy fast-food cravings.

So yes, I am Vegan too – but that’s entirely up to you.  You can enjoy a plant-based diet and not be Vegan if that’s your choice.

Do I Have to Go Cold Turkey?

Some do and find it easier than trying to ease into it.  Others like to take it slow and steady.

Just know that eating a plant-based diet even part of the time can still benefit your health.

  • People who avoid meat even just part of the week often have lower rates of obesity and often weigh 5 to 20 percent less than those who eat it every day.
  • Plant centered diets on the whole are linked to lower BMIs, reduced risk of Type II Diabetes, and lower incidents of Cardiovascular Disease (the #1 killer in America).
  • Lastly, the increased fiber from all the fruits and vegetables lowers certain risks from cancers, especially Colon Cancer.

So even if you don’t think you can do it all the time, just start somewhere.  Chances are you’ll feel different almost immediately and may even lose a pound or two.  You’ll soon realize how much better you feel.

And before you know it, you’ll want to be 100% plant-based, because you’ll be saying – Hey this works!

Where Am I Going To Get My Protein?

Regardless of what your friends tell you, you’ll get plenty of protein.

The fact is, as long as you are getting enough calories – you’re getting enough protein.

There’s enough protein in fruits, grains, and vegetables to meet all our needs.

Beans, Quinoa, Spinach, Kale, Peas, Corn, Almonds, Broccoli, Oatmeal, Lentils, Brown Rice, Couscous, Potatoes…..  see anything unappetizing here?  All full of protein.

Just eat a variety of different foods and you’ll be fine.  Even a plain Baked Potato by itself has 5g of Protein.

Don’t stress the protein.

Isn’t Vegan Food Expensive?

Maybe – depends on where you shop.

If you shop at stores like Whole Foods every day – then sure.   But there’s a ton of good healthy foods right in your grocery store.

Fruits, Vegetables, Beans, Rice, Canned Foods, Bulk Foods, Frozen Foods.  Even stores like Target and Walmart carry a wide variety of foods we can eat.

At this point in the game if you’re not used to eating vegetables at all ….  don’t worry about Organic –  time enough for that later. Just start adding more vegetables to your diet first – then we’ll worry about pesticides.

I normally stock up on Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, Green Onions, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Celery, Cabbage, Oranges, Apples, Bananas.  Keep it simple and stick to produce you know you’ll like –  and eat.

The Frozen Food Cooler is my next stop – frozen veggies are pretty cheap.  I like the Peas, Carrots, Corn mixes while the wife like the Broccoli, Cauliflower mix.

Speaking of cheap – rice and beans are always cheap – and in every store I’ve ever been to.

In the canned aisle stock up on canned beans and tomatoes, and try to get the Low Sodium brands if you can.  Watch the soups as they are usually full of sodium.

Starting a Plant-Based Diet
If you’re shopping for the ‘convenience’ meals – those frozen Vegan all-in-one dinners WILL be expensive, not to mention full of fat and sodium.  It’s so much better to buy the raw ingredients and cook your own.

And be prepared to cook.  Even if it’s just one day a week, cooking your own foods will save you a LOT of money.  Buy a Crock Pot or Instant Pot if that will help save time.

Instant Pots are the latest craze among Plant-Based Dieters.  They are programmable pressure cookers that cook just about anything – and very quickly.  I added a link to one on Amazon if you’re interested.  It is an Affiliate Link so I will make a buck or two if you purchase one – but from what I hear they are very handy kitchen gadgets.

A good Rice Cooker is a must have too –  and will also save you a lot of time.

But What Do I Cook?

What do you like?

Stir Frys?  Soups?  Chili?

Try to find just 2 or 3 recipes you really like, and make those until you’re an expert at them.  Once you got a few core recipes down, you can branch out and experiment with others.

Many simply meals can be made very easily and very quickly without a lot of fuss.  Beans and rice.  Rice and veggies.  Rice and mushrooms.  Pasta and sauce.

Any starch can be made tasty by adding a simple sauce on top.  I have a whole section of recipes dedicated to fat free sauces and gravy, perfect for pouring over rice, pasta, or potatoes.  Add some steamed veggies and you got a quick nutritious meal.

Cheese Sauce, pizza sauce, marinara sauce, brown gravy, country gravy, mushroom gravy…’s all there.

And just remember, there’s nothing wrong with eating the same thing over and over.  I make a huge pot of chili before I start my work week and it lasts me all week for lunches.

Find what you like, learn how to make it, perfect it, and enjoy!

That’s the beauty of a starch based diet.  There are SO many recipes to enjoy.

Find a Support Group

And lastly, any diet will be easier with friends and family that support you.  But when it comes to a plant-based vegan diet – there may not be much support at home.

Just know that there are MANY of us out here, and most of the groups I’ve joined on Facebook are very supportive of each other.  I have made a ton of new friends since switching to this lifestyle.

Got a question?  Having a bad day?  Drop me a line on my Facebook page.  That’s what we’re here for.  To encourage and support each other.

You’re never alone.

Good luck!


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