Plant-based diets are the talk of the town, but they’re frustratingly vague. Is it a raw diet? A vegan diet? The newest fad or a lasting lifestyle change?
If you’ve ever wondered what a plant-based diet is, what it’s for, and how to start one, you’ve come to the right place. This beginner’s guide to plant-based eating will help you with every burning question you’ve ever had regarding plant-based diets, but for a deep dive, you’ll want to check out our plant-based ebook for all the information you could ever want about plant-based eating.
Get our Plant-Based Vegan Guide to help you get started on your leaner, greener life.
Beginners Guide to Plant-Based Eating: What You Need to Know
- Why Embrace a Plant-Based Diet?
- Do You Have to be Vegan to be Plant-Based?
- How to Start a Plant-Based Diet
- Plant-Based Diet Macros
- Potential Plant-Based Deficiencies
- A Day of Plant-Based Eating: Recipes for Meals, Snacks & Dessert!
Why Embrace a Plant-Based Diet?
Chances are you've been hearing a lot about how incredible plant-based diets are. But when you boil down to why you should adopt this lifestyle, the reasons start to become a little murky. There are a ton of reasons why a plant-based diet is a great change to make, but the two key reasons are that it benefits both your body and the planet.
When it comes to our planet, the fact is that the meat industry is a major contributor to climate change. The unnecessarily high demand for meat is causing massive surges in greenhouse gas emissions and also harming the environment by cutting down swathes of important rainforests to make room for farming land. By simply reducing your meat consumption (not even cutting it out completely!), you can majorly reduce your carbon footprint and help protect the planet.
Most of us want to protect the planet, but we also want to protect our bodies. Adopting a plant-based diet can do wonders for your health, such as helping you with weight loss by eating fewer processed foods and more fiber, helping you prevent illnesses by consuming more vitamins and minerals and less and fats, and overall improving your nutrition by eating better foods.
These are just two of the main reasons to adopt a plant-based diet, but there are a million other reasons that might coincide with your lifestyle, your values, and your outlook on life. If you’re curious about what else might drive a plant-based lifestyle, check out our plant-based ebook.
Do You Have to be Vegan to be Plant-Based?
This is a hugely popular myth, but it is in fact a myth. A plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re vegan, or vegetarian. A plant-based diet simply means your diet is based on plants, but not only plants. You can follow a mainly plant-based diet while still occasionally eating meat, and that’s a very balanced and achievable lifestyle for most. You don’t need to cut out animal byproducts completely to still reap the incredible benefits of a plant-based diet.
How to Start a Plant-Based Diet
Like with anything new or daunting, the best way to start a plant-based diet is to simply start. You don’t have to go cold-turkey right off the bat and cut out animal byproducts completely, start by making small changes in your day-to-day. It could be as simple as one plant-based meal out of three a day to start, or cutting out all highly processed snacks and switching to fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead. These easy swaps can help you ease into a plant-based diet without even noticing.
Making these small shifts are a lot easier than completely eliminating meat and dairy at once, and make it a lot more feasible to adopt this lifestyle shift long-term. Small, consistent changes are the key to success, just like when developing any habit or goal, and information is power. Arm yourself with all the information you can by checking out reliable sources like our plant-based ebook.
Plant-Based Diet Macros
You’re probably already very familiar at measuring your macros, and the idea of a plant-based diet probably throws off your macro game in an overwhelming way. But it’s completely doable, and pretty simple once you get the hang of it. You still want to get the same amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats, they’re just coming from food sources that you might not have ever really thought about.
Learn more about macro-measuring for plant-based diets in our Plant-Based Vegan Guide.
Other than where your macros are coming from, nothing else really changes. Your particular body type still needs the same percentages of macros. Carbs are fairly easy to figure out when moving to a plant-based diet, but fats and protein are what trips people up.
While plant and animal protein are very different, you can absolutely maintain your macro intake of fats and protein on a plant-based diet, you just need to get good at understanding what plant-based foods include. For example, beans are an incredible protein source, while nuts are a go-to fat source.
Calculating your protein macros is a little trickier, and a lot of vegan bodybuilders use protein supplements to ensure they’re getting enough protein. But if you’re not bodybuilding, you can probably get enough protein from what you’re eating.
As a benchmark, you should aim for at least 1.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight, but if you have a more active lifestyle, shoot for 1.8g/kg. If you weigh 135 pounds (61kg), lead an active lifestyle, and are trying to lose fat, you’d want to eat 110 grams of protein per day. But beware, a lot of plant-based protein is high in carbs so you might accidentally overshoot your carb macro.
Potential Plant-Based Deficiencies
While a plant-based diet has so many benefits, it’s not always for every lifestyle and body. Before switching completely, you should understand the potential deficiencies that your body can develop due to a plant-based diet. Understanding these potential risks can help you mitigate them, if you’re determined to go completely plant based.
Some nutrients you’ll miss out on from a completely plant-based diet are omega-3s (mainly found in fatty fish), iron (mostly absorbed from animal products), vitamin B12 (found in meat), iodine (mainly from seafood, dairy, eggs), zinc (highest levels in meat and shellfish), calcium (mainly from milk and dairy), and vitamin D (mostly in fish, dairy, eggs).
For most of these nutrients, you can still manage to get a healthy intake from plant-based foods or supplements, but you have to know what you’re missing and how much you need to consume. Otherwise, you can accidentally become deficient in them and experience a variety of issues from low energy to immune weakness.
Find out more on these potential deficiencies and how to eat to avoid them here.
A Day of Plant-Based Eating: Recipes for Meals, Snacks & Dessert!
Once you get the hang of it, following a plant-based diet is so much easier than you might think. It does involve a little meal prep, but then so does following any other meal plan.
If you’ve ever wondered what a day of plant-based eating looked like, you’re about to find out. Keep reading for some key recipes for every meal of the day, chosen specifically for how simple they are to make, and the fact that they’re probably not all that different from what you’re already eating.
They’re all from our plant-based vegan guide, which you can grab here.
Millet Porridge with Nuts & Dates
Makes 1 serving. Calories: 386 Fat:11g Carbs: 63g Protein: 10g
- ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ⅓ cup millet
- 1 tsp pecans, coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup water
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp dates chopped
- 1 tsp ground flax seed
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and combine millet, water, milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes without stirring.
- Stir in flaxseed and chia seeds. If the liquid is not completely absorbed, cook for 3-5 minutes longer.
- Remove from heat. Serve porridge in a bowl and top with pecans & dates.
Kale, Black Bean and Avocado Burrito Bowl
Makes 4 servings. Calories: 300 Fat: 20 Carbs: 40 Protein: 23g
- 1 cup brown rice, rinsed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Lime marinated kale
- 1 bunch curly kale, ribs removed and chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Avocado salsa verde
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced into big chunks
- ½ cup mild salsa verde (any good green salsa will do)
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves (a few stems are ok)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
Seasoned black beans
- 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 4 cups cooked black beans)
- 1 shallot, finely chopped (or ⅓ cup chopped red onion)
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Cherry tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Cook the rice: Bring a big pot of water to a boil, dump in rinsed brown rice and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, drain the rice and return it to the pot. Cover and let the rice steam in the pot for 10 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork and season with ¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste.
- Make the kale salad: Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chopped jalapeño, cumin and salt. Toss the chopped kale with the lime marinade in a mixing bowl.
- Make the avocado salsa verde: In a food processor or blender, combine the avocado chunks, salsa verde, cilantro and lime juice and blend well.
- Warm the beans: In a saucepan, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallot and garlic until fragrant, then add the beans, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Cook until the beans are warmed through and softened, stirring often, about 5 to 7 minutes. If the beans seem dry at any point, mix in a little splash of water.
- To serve, spoon generous portions of rice, beans and kale salad into a bowl along with a couple spoonfuls of avocado salsa verde. Garnish with chopped cherry tomatoes.with finely chopped kale or peas (about 1 ½ cups). If you omit it, you might not need to use all of the sauce.
Asian Tofu Shiitake Stir-Fry
Makes 2 servings. Calories: 267 Fat: 17g Carbs: 18g Protein: 13g
- 1 ½ cups shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- ½ cup broccoli
- ⅓ cup edamame beans
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- 150 grams firm tofu, cubed
- 1 cup carrot, grated
- 1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced
- ¼ red onion, sliced
- In a large bowl, mix together ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame seeds and sesame oil.
- Add tofu to the bowl and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum.
- Add tofu to a fry pan and cook over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Add all vegetables and edamame beans and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Serve and garnish with fresh coriander.
Rice Cracker & Almond Butter with Apple or Pear
Makes 1 serving. Calories: 170 Fat: 9 grams Carbs: 24g Protein: 7g
- 1 small apple or ripe pear, sliced thinly
- 2 large brown rice crackers, plain
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tbsp dark chocolate shavings (preferably 75% dark chocolate or higher)
Spread the almond butter on the rice crackers, and then top with ripe pear slices and dark chocolate.
No-Bake Brownie Bites
Makes 32 bites, 3 bites per serving. Calories: 113 Fat: 6g Carbs: 10g Protein: 4g
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup raw cashews or almonds
- 8 dates, pitted
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ripe banana
- ¼ cup applesauce
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Place oats, cashews, dates, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth and floury.
- Add banana and applesauce and blend until a dough forms.
- Grease a 7x11 pan.
- Push the mixture into the pan using the back of a spatula. Top with chopped walnuts, pushing them into the mixture.
- Place pan in fridge for at least an hour or until firm. Cut into 32 pieces.
The best part? All these delicious recipes are from our plant-based ebook, and there are so many different recipe options for meals, snacks, desserts, and smoothies. When you first move to a plant-based diet, these recipes can be lifesavers and help expose you to cooking with plants that you might never have otherwise.
Investing in the guide to plant-based eating can help you navigate the lifestyle shift that can otherwise seem daunting and overwhelming, but that’s truly a healthy, eco-friendly option for many people.