How To Smoothly Transition To A Plant-Based Diet


An increasing number of people are switching over to a plant-based diet thanks to its tried and tested wellness and ecological benefits. In the U.S itself, more than a third of customers are actively trying to eat even more plant-based foods.
Additionally, with the help of solid celebrity backing and also popular social media sites campaigns like Meatless Monday, plant-based eating has come to be the biggest dining trend of 2018.

So, what constitutes a plant-based diet?

"A plant-based diet is one that centers on whole plant foods, namely vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices," says Julieanna Hever, California-based nutritionist, founder of Plant-Based Dietitian.
While plant-based eating is often used synonymously with the vegan diet — the two aren't the same.

"The word 'vegan' represents a food or diet that is devoid of animal products, but it doesn't specify what exactly the diet is composed of. One place this can be confusing is that a vegan diet is known to be healthy. But French fries, Oreo cookies, and plant milk-based ice creams are also vegan, however, they don't count as healthy food," explains Hever.
Bottom line: "A vegan diet can be plant-based, but a plant-based diet is not necessarily always vegan" tells Hever.

Here are five simple strategies to help you easily transition to a wholesome, plant-based diet:

1-Start slow 

Pick a few plant-based meals and rotate them through in a week. "Start with meals you have always enjoyed that just happen to be plant-based, such as oatmeal, pasta primavera, jacket potatoes, veggie stir-fry, bean and rice burrito, lentil stew, or three-bean chili. Then build on those meals," suggests Hever. "Since we're creatures of habit, we tend to stick to fewer different dishes, so start slowly and learn this new language of food without any pressure to be perfect," says the nutrition expert.

2-Cut down meat and processed food intake 

Instead of going cold turkey from the beginning, start by changing the proportion of plant and animal-based foods on your plate. This will give your mind and body time to accommodate to the new diet. Make simple changes like adding a large portion of salad or a fresh fruit bowl to your daily meals. Next, get rid of meat and dairy products you don't like much anyway. And gradually work on swapping animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives in your favorite recipes. For instance, if you love beef chili, trade meat with dried bulgur or portobello mushrooms.

3-Watch your protein 

"While the average protein we require is about one gram per kilogram of our body weight, most people overconsume it by doubling or even tripling the recommendations in the incessant quest to get 'enough'," notes Hever. This is why it's important to remember that just because something is good doesn't mean more is better. "Excessive consumption of protein is not only unnecessary but can also be harmful," she adds."We actually don't need to consume protein per se. What we need is to meet our requirements for the nine essential amino acids which our body cannot synthesize on its own," explains Hever. "All plant foods contain amino acids in different proportions and there is plenty of protein in plants to meet all requirements," "As long as you are eating enough calories to sustain yourself and are focusing on whole foods instead of refined foods, it would be impossible to become deficient in protein," adds the nutritionist.

4-Go for plant-based breakfast

Once you've tested the waters, you can take the next step by committing to eat at least one plant-based meal every day. A wholesome, vegetarian breakfast is a good place to start. If you're looking for some quick inspiration check out these delish (and totally healthy) recipes for breakfast muffins, toasts, waffles, pancakes, parfaits and smoothie bowls. Next, work on vegetarianizing your lunch, followed by snacks and dinner. Here are a few simple lunch and dinner recipes to try.

5-Know your food

"You can eat Oreos and drink Diet Coke and call yourself a vegan. Understanding how to make your food taste great while still being healthy and wholesome is extremely important," says Purple Carrot’s Founder and CEO Andrew Levitt. "Most of the commercial products on the market, like faux meat and cheese, are highly processed and contain the same nutrients as animal products which make them health-damaging, think saturated fat and excessive amino acids," Hever points out. Also, these foods are often packed with highly refined oils, flours, sugars, and salts. Therefore, it's better to indulge in these foods only once in a while. In general, it's best to stick to whole, intact foods as much as possible, says Hever. Other than that, educate yourself on nutrition and ways to prepare different ingredients. Alternatively, you can hire a plant-based dietitian "for one-on-one guidance on making the transition and familiarizing yourself with the lifestyle," she suggests.

Lastly, keep in mind that any transition takes time. Much of this is about trial and error, finding out what works for you and what doesn't. So be gentle with yourself as you find your rhythm to incorporate plant-based foods.