The plant based diet. A phrase that either strikes fear into the hearts of hardcore carnivores, or (unearned) virtue into the minds of the veg lovers. Some people gravitate towards this eating philosophy for health reasons. Others have strong ethical opinions that cause them to swear off meat. And yet others avoid these plant shenanigans like it’ll bring on the plague. Regardless of your motivation, you’re here, and you’re reading this. So maybe you’re a little curious about what a plant based diet actually looks like. Or you’re wondering how you’d even go about following one. Or possibly, you’re wondering what the hell a plant based diet even MEANS.
We’re here to clear up some of the confusion, and to give you the quick and dirty about starting a plant based diet. No, we’re not here to convince you. It’s not our job to judge you or guilt you into anything. If you are interested in learning more about some of the benefits of this diet, we suggest checking out some of these documentaries: Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Hungry for Change.
(And no, they’re not the PETA versions that shows you horrible images of tortured animals. They’re actually crazy informative and interesting as hell).
We’re simply handing you the guide to get you there if you choose. Even if it’s only one or two days a week. And don’t worry, we won’t tell your meat eating friends you were here…
Start With a Why
Before you begin any diet philosophy change, you need to ask yourself why you’re even doing it. Perhaps you’re curious to see if all the physical benefits that the plant heads hype up is valid. Maybe the person you’ve got your eye on eats like this and you want to impress them. Or maybe you’ve just received a scary-as-hell health diagnosis that’s put your survival instincts into overdrive.
There are honestly endless reasons that people approach a plant based diet. And the truth is, it’s a deeply personal decision. So ask yourself why you’re doing this, and what you’ll receive from it. Doing this will help make this a more lasting decision and drive you to be more committed.
Depending on how radical of a change this is for you, you need to educate yourself on some of the changes you’re about to make.
While we can provide a few points, it’s a good idea to do some of your own research too. We highly recommend the book Thug Kitchen – Eat Like You Give a F*ck. This book is easy to read, hilarious, and is jam packed with delicious recipes that require zero animal products. We own every single one of their books and we use them constantly.
Now get your brain ready for a quick information dump.
What is a plant based diet? Basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The foods you eat are plant based, which means no meat, and for some people, no animal products at all. We like to stress that the degree of this is YOUR choice. If it’s easier to imagine dumping meat but not your dairy products yet, that’s fair. Making this a manageable change makes it a whole lot easier to follow through with.
What can I eat? Like we said above, a plant based diet usually entails mostly plants, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, etc. Anything that comes from the ground is basically fair game. Some people still eat eggs and dairy products while following a plant based diet.
Anyone who sits here and tries to say you’re not plant based if you don’t strictly adhere to ONLY plants is kind of an ass. This is your decision, your eating philosophy, and your food. While we don’t think it’s fair to eat steaks every week and say you’re plant based, we also don’t think you should let the overly virtuous plant followers to make you feel any certain way for doing what works for you.
What nutrients do I need? Well, if you’re following a balanced plant based diet, you’ll receive pretty much all of the essential nutrients that you need. YES, even protein (insert eye roll here). The catch here is the word ‘balanced’. No, you cannot survive on a diet of Oreos and potato chips (both of which are vegan, BTW). But if you’re consuming meals that are balanced and healthy (think beans, quinoa, nuts/seeds, and plenty of produce), you’ll get almost every nutrient you could possibly need.
The only supplement that you may want to take is B12. However, you can even get that through nutritional yeast. Some women also like to take an iron supplement, but that’s also not necessary if you’re loading up on leafy greens. You know what you’re eating, so you make the call.
Make a Plan
After you’ve established why you’re switching to a plant based diet, and educated yourself about it, now you need to make a plan. What are you going to eat?! Again, we suggest turning to some books that might help you restock your kitchen, and give you killer meatless meal ideas. Some of our personal favorite meals are the Meatless Stuffed Puff Pockets and a Chia Pudding.
Pinterest is another place you can load up on meal ideas. Make this FUN for yourself, and start enjoying experimenting with the recipes.
We suggest making it VERY easy on yourself in the beginning. Don’t get too crazy buying all kinds of stuff you’ve never eaten before. If what you’re familiar with is burrito bowls, then veg it out by replacing your usual meat with extra beans and grilled veggies. In love with burgers? Find a veggie burger that’ll blow your mind. Experimenting with these easier recipes will ease you into the more hardcore plant based meals that you’ll eventually dive into.
Another thing you need to do is plan before you hit the grocery store. Check out our Plant Based Shopping list for some hints on must have items that are staples in our kitchen. Even if you’re only going plant based for half the days of the week, you’ll want to know exactly what meals you’re making, so you don’t buy a bunch of stuff that’ll get forgotten in the fridge.
Even though we’ve said this before, we’ll say it again. This is your decision and it’s your life. Don’t stress about putting a label on it, and drop the all or nothing mentality. See what you like, and what makes you feel good. The rest will come after that!
Happy nomming Dreamers!