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How to Start a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners: 7 Helpful Tips

Perhaps you have asked yourself, how you could transition into a plant-based diet or are interested in doing so. I got you! This blog post contains seven helpful tips that assist your diet-changing journey. It's not only a plant-based diet for beginner guide, but it includes also basic nutrition tips for everyone!


It took me a long time to figure out what is best for me.


Long story short: During my teenage years I was a strict vegetarian eater. While traveling to the Philippines in 2014, I started eating meat due to the lack of food options. I struggled to find the right balance since I liked eating meat and ended up eating meat 3 times a week. In 2021 I joined the Veganuary challenge to explore the vegan diet and ended up being something between vegan and vegetarian (as a Swiss I can't live without cheese). In the end, I found a diet that works for me, and follow a plant-based diet now. Want to know how? Let's dive right in.


Tables of Content:

Vegan vs. Vegetarian vs. Plant-Based

Before we start with the main topic, I would like to enlighten the difference between being vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based because those terms can be quite confusing.

What's a Vegan?

A vegan person abstains from all animal products. The person who follows a vegan diet doesn't eat any meat or fish, nor wear animal-made products. They abstain from everything that comes from an animal. As a vegan you don't sweet your granola bowl with honey, nor will you eat your avocado toast with eggs. You don't wear any leather and surely any fur. Vegans also pay close attention to the ingredients because products that contain whey, gelatin, casein, and many more are not vegan either. In a nutshell, a person who follows a vegan diet abstains from any product that has an animal origin.


What's a Vegetarian?

On the contrary, the vegetarian diet is more "relaxed" about what is allowed to eat. Some still eat milk products, eggs, and honey. For more clarity, here's a list of the three versions of vegetarian diets:

  • Flexitarian: Eats meat occasionally but follows mostly a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet

  • Pescetarian: Doesn't eat meat but eats fish and other animal products

  • Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: It's the most common type of vegetarian who doesn't eat any kind of meat, but still drinks or eats milk products, eggs, and honey.

What's a Plant-Based Diet?

Lastly, the plant-based diet. Someone who follows a plant-based diet means that focus on plant-based and whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It doesn't necessarily mean excluding all meat and animal products.


As mentioned above, my humble self follows a plant-based diet with a big focus on eating balanced and healthy. I exclude meat and fish from 95% of my dishes and only eat them on special occasions, such as trying out a dish to get to know the culture of a country. I call those special occasions a "cheat day".


Tip 1: Educate Yourself

Nothing can be changed without self-education. This is the very first starting step if you want to change your diet. There are so many great books about nutrition and diet out there. By reading books you can dive deep into what your body needs to function. Without that, you might suffer from iron deficiency (like I did) or have any other issues. This is not the goal.


Yes, changing your diet to a plant-based one can be harmful to your body. That a body needs meat to function, is probably something you’ve heard about before. This is not always the case but can be true if you don’t get all of your micronutrients.


It doesn't matter what diet you follow, there are some main nutrition rules every dietician or epidemiologist recommends. I summed up five simple main rules here:

Please note, that the tips mentioned above do not replace any further education. No matter what diet you follow, knowledge about nutrition, gut health, and many more are essential for living a healthy life.


Tip 2: Set Clear Goals

By reading this blog post you tend to be interested to rethink your diet. However, you must set yourself clear goals, and by that, I don’t mean goals like:

“I don’t want to eat any meat for one year.”
“My goal is to lose weight.”
"It sounds cool to call myself plant-based."

It is more about the “Why?”

Most important: What is your internal aim? Are you rethinking your diet because you don’t want to cause any harm to living species? Perhaps because of the environmental damage you could cause with doubtless consumption? Or to adopt a healthier lifestyle? Maybe you would like to feel in good shape, have more power, and be more energized.


No matter what reason you have, the most essential thing is, that you figure out which one is your personal goal. A personal goal is a basic component for changing your eating behaviors.


Don’t do it because it is fancy, or someone told you to do so. Only if it’s intrinsic you will see results!


Tip 3: Start Slowly

You must start the journey at your own pace. A pace that’s comfortable for you.

“Big things often have small beginnings.”

Begin your transition by reducing your consumption of meat moderately. You could consider beginning with a vegetarian Monday or select any other day that suits you. Or just replace a meal with a vegetarian one. Another course of action is to begin your plant-based journey by experimenting. Starting with a cooking evening where you try out new recipes for example. Have fun in learning new things. Eventually, you find yourself attending something like the Veganuary (like I did) and challenging yourself. You could also create your challenge and find comrades who would like to participate.


After all, it's not about being fully vegetarian at any time, more about reducing your general meat intake. The outcome for yourself and the environment is everything but disadvantageous. Never forget your own goals! And choose the pace that's right for you.


Tip 4: Explore Plant-Based Foods

Every change in life is uncomfortable and confronts you with something new, which can be overwhelming. Pinterest, for example, is a great platform to discover new vegetarian-friendly meals. It's my number one site for getting inspiration in general.


Down below are some plant-based meals I've eaten:

Also, I have created a board with many vegetarian-friendly meals. If you like, you can check it out here.


One more way to explore plant-based foods is by participating in a vegetarian or vegan cooking class. Here you have the best opportunity to also ask any further questions your teacher.


Lastly, go the old-school way and simply buy a cookbook. Just head to your favorite bookstore and browse through.


Tip 5: Learn Cooking Skills

A major cooking skill for plant-based eaters is the knowledge of replacing animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives.


One great option to do so is buying meat substitutes. They look like the meat in your favorite meals and contain protein and sometimes micro-nutrition like B12 or iron. The perfect replacement for any vegetarian newbies!


Another great cooking skill is called “protein balancing.” That means, understanding how to include plant-based protein sources into your diet. Plant-based protein sources are lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seed. Besides that, protein balancing is also the knowledge about how to combine different protein sources. It's the key to creating nourishing, balancing, and satisfying meals.


Tip 6: Planning Balanced Meals

I’m more the spontaneous cooker, and if planning meals are nothing for you - I'm with you! Yet, in the beginning, it’s crucial not to plan your meals beforehand. Due to that, many find themselves clueless in front of their fridge and tend to throw over their intention. Some will return to their previous eating habits.


Accordingly, you need to figure out your go-to meals first. Discover dishes that are easy to prepare and don’t need too many ingredients.


Speaking of go-to meals, I'd like to share my favorite go-to meal which is a no-brainer when preparing something for lunch or dinner. In my opinion, it's the perfect plant-based dish for beginners. The Buddha Bowl is a nourishing and diverse dish. You can choose a base, a few veggies, a protein, and a healthy fat. Add my sauce or any other sauce you like and you're ready to go.

I'd really love to see some of your creations. If you try it out, please don't forget to tag me with @sustainablenomad.blog on Instagram!


Tip 7: Seek Support

Sharing your journey with others is the best way to start your plant-based journey. You can take part in like-minded groups, follow influencers who share tips and tricks or share the whole journey with someone you know.


Seeking support might be the most important step because your environment has a great impact on you.


It would be great to find someone that accompanies that veggie path with you, where you can share recipes and struggles. Additionally, I would like to share three of my favorite vegetarian/vegan influencers, general pages that focus on nutrition, and Facebook groups to join:

Conclusion

Wow! Thank you for reading this far and I hope that you had a great insight into how to adapt a plant-based diet to your lifestyle. If you don't want to miss any blog posts from me, subscribe to my blog down below. It would mean the world to me.


Thank you,


Shila

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