Basics of a Plant-Based Diet

Last updated November 15, 2023

So, you’re thinking about focusing your diet around plants or even going plant-based. Just like with any other lifestyle change, switching to a plant-based diet can seem overwhelming and difficult. But it doesn’t have to be.

The best way to approach a switch to a plant-based diet is to take it one step at a time.

What Is a Plant-Based Diet?

A plant-based diet is one that focuses on the consumption of foods from plant origin.

This is a diet based on grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts and seeds. Adopting a plant-based diet means excluding meat, fish, seafood, dairy products and eggs.

What’s the Difference Between Plant-Based and Vegan?

These two terms are often confused and used interchangeably.

Veganism is more of a lifestyle choice. It concerns the practice of minimizing cruelty and harm to animals in all aspects. Vegans won’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs but they also won’t eat honey, gelatine-based products or wear leather, suede or wool. 

Being plant-based on the other hand is more concerned with diet.

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re vegan even though animal compassion might be one of the reasons for your switch.

The recent coining of the term plant-based also allows for more flexibility. You might be plant-based but allow yourself to eat meat once a year at a family barbecue or you end up eating a slice of cake that actually did have egg in it.

Life isn’t black and white and neither is diet.

What Are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?

Turning plant-based is a personal decision with many reasons surrounding it. It’s a known fact that fruit and vegetables carry many essential nutrients for our bodies and we need to consume enough in order to experience optimal health. 

In recent years, there have been countless studies that demonstrate the negative effects of meat and dairy on the body.

The book, The China Study, The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted by Thomas Campbell, illustrates how people who eat a whole foods plant-based diet will escape, reduce or reverse numerous diseases.

Other benefits include potential weight loss, reduction in illnesses like heart disease or cancers and higher levels of energy in your day-to-day.

7 Tips to Start Your Plant-Based Diet

So, how can you transition to a plant-based diet without feeling overwhelmed? Here are seven ways to get started on this diet slowly and without any pressure:

1. Limit Meat and Fish Consumption to Once Per Week

If you do eat meat and fish and are trying to transition to the plant-based diet, cut down your consumption to eating it once a week.

This way you can have the best of both worlds, a plant-based lifestyle some of the time, while also enjoying your favorite non-vegan dishes.

If your reasons for becoming plant based are for animal and environmental compassion, then even with a reduction of eating animal products once a week, you’ve already done a world of good.

2. Go Vegetarian First

A good stepping stone to starting on the plant-based diet is to go vegetarian first. This is the first step to being more aware of what you eat.

Cutting out meat and fish but still consuming eggs and dairy may seem like a great first move before going 100% plant-based. It may seem a lot less overwhelming finding substitutes for just meat and fish at the beginning.

3. Read Food Product Labels

One of the overshadowed benefits of going plant-based is becoming a lot more knowledgeable about what is in your food.

Unfortunately packaged foods nowadays are filled with milk derivatives, eggs and sugars and they can be found in the least suspecting places. Reading labels is something you will have to do to make sure you aren’t consuming things you don’t want to be.

Choose a product you normally buy, read the label and if it’s plant-based, keep it. If not, you might want to switch to another brand or make a complete change and over time you will remember which brands to buy.

4. Cook What You Know

Focus on eating and preparing what you know.

If you love chili con carne and can make it really well then continue to do so, just switch the beef for beans. If you love making tacos then keep making them just with beans or even jackfruit instead of chicken, beef or fish.

You don’t have to give up on what you love and know when becoming plant-based.

We are often overwhelmed by what we don’t know and this also goes for new dishes and recipes. Stick to what you already know and make your life much easier.

5. Start By Going Fully Plant-Based for 1-2 Days a Week

If you’re not ready to go fully plant-based yet then there is nothing wrong with simply exploring more of that idea.

Go plant-based for one of two days a week to try it out. Reflect on your experiences and discover what you would cook or order in a restaurant and you would feel after.

If one or two days work out well for you, continue to increase until you get to six or even seven days a week. 

6. Change Your Mindset

It’s important to approach this new lifestyle change with a positive attitude and open mind.

Rather than feeling as though you are missing out on certain foods or experiences, focus on what you’ll be gaining from this diet.

It might be helpful to even sit down and make a list of the things you will be gaining and the reasons why you’re doing this.

The plant-based diet isn’t about deprivation or missing out on anything. It’s wholesome, abundant and you will see that you still will be able to consume all your favorite treats including things like pizza and ice cream. 

7. Understand Your Reasons Why

It’s really important to reflect on your “why” before embarking on this journey. Your “why” is what will keep you on track towards your goals when things get difficult when embracing this diet.

Some of the most popular reasons why people adopt a plant-based diet are:

  • Reducing the impact on the environment
  • Reducing fat and cholesterol intake
  • Compassion for animals and ending animal cruelty
  • Improved overall health
  • Losing weight
  • Preventing disease

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