Transitioning to a plant-based diet can seem daunting and almost close to impossible. You may even think there’s no way you can get all your nutrients and be satisfied with every meal.
Luckily, that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Plant-based diets are not only becoming more and more popular, but they’re also becoming much easier to follow.
There are numerous benefits to eating a plant-based diet; however, there are a few things you should understand and keep in mind when transitioning to a plant-based diet.
What Is a Plant-based Diet?
A plant-based diet is an eating style that focuses on consuming plant-based whole foods. This can include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.
A plant-based diet can be followed for various reasons, including improved health, weight loss, and environmental sustainability.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet also means reducing your consumption of processed and refined foods.
Naturally, this is can be quite difficult for people who are used to eating a standard North American diet, which is typically high in processed foods, hence why it is necessary to have a complete understanding before making any sudden changes.
Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet can be a great way to improve your health.
Studies have shown that plant-based diets can help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
In addition, research has also shown that consuming fewer animal-based products in the diet can reduce the risk of obesity.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet can be extremely beneficial; however, it does not have to be all or nothing.
If you’re not ready to commit to an entirely plant-based diet, that’s okay!
Start by taking baby steps toward the overall goal. Taking small steps ensures that you will not be overwhelmed and increases the likeliness of achieving your goal to go plant-based.
With that said, it’s important to remember that transitioning to a plant-based diet does not have to be done in one day (unless you want to, of course).
Making a big change will take time and effort, but the benefits are always worth it.
If you’re thinking about making the switch but are feeling daunted, here are five small and easy steps to help get you started:
How to Transition to a Plant-Based Diet
1. Commit To Your Decision to Change
This should go without saying, but this is actually the most important and the hardest step when making the transition.
Depending on how many years you’ve been eating a traditional North American diet (or anything outside of plant-based), transitioning to a plant-based diet can require a lot of willpower and dedication.
When you actively make the decision to change and commit to your change, you are more likely to follow through and achieve your desired goal.
Hence why it’s important to make the decision to commit to this new journey, you need to want this change for yourself and be willing to put in the work.
So be sure to understand why you’re switching over to a plant-based diet and remember your “why” when you don’t feel like following through. Cause it will happen.
2. Eat More Fruits and Veggies
This is probably the easiest and most obvious step when transitioning to a plant-based diet.
Aim to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. This will help ensure that you get the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs, before replacing any foods.
If you’re not used to eating many fruits and vegetables, start slowly by adding an extra serving or two per day.
Eventually, you’ll be eating the recommended daily intake with ease!
3. Experiment and Learn
A plant-based diet can open you up to a whole new world of foods you may have never even heard of before. As you incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet, you can use this time to learn about the wide variety of plant-based foods and meals.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new plant-based foods and recipes. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!
One thing you can start to learn about is plant-based protein options, which is a concern for many when making the switch. Learning about plant-based protein sources can help you feel more prepared and confident to make a smooth transition and remain healthy.
If you’re not sure where to start, a few plant-based protein sources include:
- Legumes: lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans
- Nuts and nut butters: almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanut butter, almond butter
- Seeds: chia seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Grains: quinoa, barley, oats
- Plant-based milk: almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, etc.
You’ll need to be aware of a few key nutrients typically found in animal products, such as vitamin B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
You can get vitamin B12 from fortified plant-based milk, iron from dark leafy greens, and omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
Eating a plant-based diet can be extremely healthy and beneficial, but it’s important to educate yourself on plant-based nutrition before making a complete transition.
This way, you can be sure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.
4. Make Gradual Changes
Once you’re comfortable with the variety of fruits and veggies you’ve started to incorporate, you can start swapping your animal-based foods with plant-based foods.
Aim to swap your animal-based food products with a plant-based alternative once a week. For example, you can have meatless Mondays, where you only consume plant-based foods and milk alternatives until you feel comfortable and confident to switch to two days and eventually every day of the week.
The goal is to move at a pace that works for you.
5. Reduce Processed Foods
One of the main goals of eating a plant-based diet is to reduce your intake of processed foods.
Processed foods are typically high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and empty calories. They provide very little nutritional value and can actually be quite harmful to your health.
When cutting out processed foods, you might be surprised at how many of the foods you typically eat are actually processed.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that comes in a box, bag, or can.
Stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.
Making any sort of dietary change can be difficult, but it’s a lot easier when you have support.
Find friends or family members who are also interested in plant-based eating and cook together, go grocery shopping together, or simply share recipes.
You can also look for online communities where you can share recipes or look for plant-based meetups in your area. It can be helpful to talk to others who are on a similar journey and can relate to your experiences.
Eating a plant-based diet has many benefits, but it’s important to do it in a way that’s sustainable for you.
There will be roadblocks along the way, and there will be many times when you might feel like you’re “failing,” and that’s absolutely okay as long as you’re making the effort to keep trying and continue on your journey.
It’s important to remind yourself that you won’t get it done in a week, especially if you’re transitioning from a diet that you’ve been following for years.
Making the transition to a plant-based diet can be daunting, but it’s definitely doable with a bit of planning and preparation. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to plant-based eating in no time!
Toshoya McEwan is a CSEP-CPT and entrepreneur, with a bachelor’s in Kinesiology. She loves to keep active and enjoys really long walks outdoors. When she’s not working out, she loves to embark on new experiences and spend her time learning new self-help techniques that she can implement and share with others.
Rob is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. For the past 10 years, Rob has been navigating the health and fitness landscape to better himself and those around him, focusing on tools such as calorie and macro counting, intermittent fasting, and HIIT training techniques.