What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a diet that is quite different than the standard British diet, which is generally based around meat and animal products.
Think about the traditional breakfast; eggs and bacon, right? What about lunch? That’s probably a sandwich with some type of lunchmeat. And dinner… well, if there isn’t meat on the plate then it’s probably not dinner.
A plant-based diet focuses on vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds. And there are so many different foods to choose from. You’re going to be amazed at the variety. Many people feel like a plant-based diet is going to be restrictive. The opposite is true. When you come around to eating foods that are grown, rather than born, your mindset shifts and you realise the bounty that surrounds you.
Follow a plant-based diet for 30 days
Why 30 days? Why not just one week, why not forever?
The truth is that we are all raised within a certain culture of food. And, for most people, this means that we are very used to eating meat. It can be quite daunting to think about completely giving it up forever, but at the same time it takes some time to adapt and get a real feel for a new diet.
This is why we recommend 30 days: it’s long enough to make a difference and help you see results, and it’s short enough not to be too daunting for those who have never tried this kind of diet before.
However, you are free to set your own rules. Perhaps you’ll start with just a few plant based days per week and go from there, maybe you’ll only eat plant based at home and still eat a standard diet when out. Whatever works for you!
Many people even find that they want to continue once the 30 days is up. That’s great too and can be a great benefit to your health and environment, so just see what feels right.
Above all else, we hope that the information and diet tips in this article will set you up for a more varied diet, now and in the future.
Types of Plant-Based Diets
It’s important to take a look at some different types of plant-based diets to fully understand the lifestyle and approach. For example, pasta may be okay to one person on a plant-based diet, but not okay to another because pasta usually contains eggs, which are not from plants.
We’re going to look at the four most common types of plant-based diets. You can decide which approach is right for you. There is no right or wrong answer here; it’s really just about what you want to accomplish by changing your diet, and why you’re changing it. Some people choose this lifestyle because they want to feel healthier, while others have moral reasons for their choices. Do what’s best for YOU.
1. The Vegetarian
The vegetarian diet is often a catch-all term for someone who doesn’t eat meat. We’ll talk a bit about variations on this approach. For example, some people don’t eat meat, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese and so on. Some do. Generally speaking, however, a vegetarian simply restricts meat from their diet. The benefit of this type of approach is that there are some easier protein alternatives.
A vegan is a strict vegetarian. They don’t eat any animal products at all. No eggs, no cheese or milk from cows. It also means that you have to pay close attention to the labels on some products. You might be surprised what food products contain animal-based elements.
For example, gelatin is made from the bones of animals. Gelatin is in marshmallows, which you might otherwise believe are purely sugar. A pure vegan won’t eat honey because it comes from bees. A vegan is the most challenging of the plant-based diet approaches. However, as you’ll see, there is still an abundance of options.
The lacto-ovo vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, but does eat eggs and dairy products. If your diet is heavy in these elements right now, or if you’re an athlete who needs a good deal of protein in your daily diet, then this approach may be the right choice for you. You can have whey protein drinks, eat eggs for breakfast, and have the occasional piece of cheese.
You might be surprised just how many vegetarians eat seafood and fish. So they don’t eat beef, pigs, chickens, or any other two or four legged animal, but they do eat fish. If you love seafood or want to occasionally have an option to eat “meat” then this may be a good option for you.
Here’s where it can get a little more comfortable for many people. A flexitarian is someone who occasionally eats meat. So maybe you’re a vegetarian 29 days of the month, but one day each month you eat meat. Or maybe you eat meat on Saturdays and you’re a vegetarian the rest of the time. Again, the choice you make depends very much on what your goals and motivations are.
Finally, let’s say that some vegetarians eat fish, eggs and dairy. They’re still vegetarians. And let’s also admit that as you begin this path toward a different way of eating, your approach may be different than how others approach it. You may decide to go all in and completely eliminate all animal-based products.
Or you might decide that that Friday night fish fry isn’t something that you want to give up, so you eat meat once a week. Think about how you tend to set goals that you’re successful at. Are you the type to go cold turkey or do you like to ease into transitions? Think about your current lifestyle. Does it support you to go cold turkey or should you adapt gradually?
Finally, it’s okay to slip up. Forgive yourself and move forward. On that note, let’s take a look at your new food groups. Meat is gone and there’s a whole huge world of foods just waiting for your attention.
Your New Food Groups
You might think that you’re limited to a few fruits and veggies. You’re not. We’re going to look at 10 different food groups, starting with nuts.
Nuts are packed with fiber and protein. They’re super filling, which makes them great as a snack. However, you can also use nuts for protein drinks. You can add them to salads and veggie wraps. You can make a delicious pesto sauce with pistachios (or pine nuts) and a little olive oil and parmesan. If you aren’t eating dairy, then you can skip the cheese. Add some garlic and enjoy with pasta.
Nuts to consider adding to your pantry include:
- Peanuts (they’re actually a legume or bean, but we’ll put them here)
When you think about seeds your thoughts probably head straight for the sunflower seed. Sure, that’s a great one, but there are also many others. Again, they’re super high in both fiber and protein, which means they leave you feeling full and satisfied. And both seeds and nuts have good plant-based fats in them.
Seeds to consider include:
- Quinoa (it’s often considered a grain because of how it’s cooked, but it’s a seed)
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
Both flax and hemp are often used to make protein powders, and you can find them in the health food store. Seeds are great for adding to salads. Quinoa is extremely versatile and can be made into a meal. You can sauté veggies and serve them on a bed of quinoa. You won’t feel deprived, it’s delicious. Chia is amazing in granola mixes and you can add it to your yogurt (soy yogurt or dairy depending on your approach.)
This list is extensive. Grains will likely take up a good amount of your plate when you’re meal planning. They’re also quite versatile. You can make a cold quinoa salad for example, or you can enjoy faro in a garlic sauce. The sky is the limit. So here is a good list of your whole grain options:
- Brown Rice
- Bulgur (Cracked Wheat)
- Wheat Berries
Brown rice is on the list; you may ask why not white rice.. It’s kind of like choosing a piece of white bread over a piece of whole wheat bread. The white bread is okay, but not as good for you as the whole wheat bread. As a rule if possible always choose wholemeal version first.
Starchy veggies are things like corn, sweet potatoes, yams, and potatoes. They are high on the glycemic index and have more glucose than other vegetables. They’re also not as high in protein as most other options. However, as you transition to a plant-based diet they can really be useful.
Sweet potatoes and yams are particularly useful. They’re a little lower than corn and potatoes on the glycemic index. They taste great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and they make a great snack. You can even slice them thin and make chips. If you really need help getting through cravings, and if you’re hungry, then they are a nice treat. Here are a few more starchy veggies to consider:
- Green Peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Squash: winter, butternut squash, or pumpkin
The fun begins. You know, if you stand in the center of your grocer’s produce section, there is a seemingly endless variety of vegetables. From peppers and tomatoes to spinach and collards, you have a ton of choice. And of course you can steam, sauté, puree, or eat them raw. You can make sauces from them. Get creative. You can make noodles from a lot of vegetables. Try it with zucchini!
And here’s a short list of some options to enjoy:
- Bok Choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (red, green, Chinese)
- Green beans (There are other beans too, white, long, French etc.…)
- Hearts of palm
- Peas (sugar snap, snow and good old green peas)
- Peppers (red, green, yellow, jalapeno, orange)
- Swiss chard
Fruits will play a role in your plant-based diet. There are literally hundreds of different fruits to try, so listing them would take too much time. Think about berries, pit fruits, dried fruits, tropical fruits and so on. Add fruit to non-dairy yogurt, puree, or make an awesome morning smoothie.
Like fruit, there are literally hundreds of different types of beans. Beans have protein and fiber, like nuts. And beans combined with rice makes a complete protein. This is important for strict vegans who are unable to get complete proteins any other way.
Complete proteins are found in animal products. They’re important to your health at the cellular level. They’re also delicious and versatile. You can puree them to make spreads, dips and sauces. For example, chickpeas are the base of hummus. Lentils are amazing, and soybeans can be eaten steamed with a little salt.
Fats and Oils
Most oils are plant-based. Canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil too. They can be a tasty and healthy alternative to butter, lard, and bacon fat. There are also “butter” substitutes that are plant-based. Don’t avoid fats and oils.
When they’re plant-based they’re good for you. They also aid in digestion, cellular metabolism, and your immune system. Use plant-based fats and oils in baking, in your sautés, and any other recipe.
Dairy is one element of a plant-based diet that many people struggle with. Getting rid of cheese and milk can be difficult. However, there are a large number of great alternatives. Soy has been a dairy alternative for a while. Soy milk, soy cheese, and soy ice cream are all options. You can even find chocolate soy milk.
Coconut milk, hemp milk, almond milk, and even rice and cashew milk are all options too. And you can find ice cream made from those ingredients as well. Keep tasting and find one that you like. You can use them in baking, on cereal, and to enjoy on their own.
Meat alternatives get a bad wrap. Tofu, tempeh, quorn and veggie burgers are all options. There are burgers made from beans and grains. Quinoa, as mentioned earlier, is a seed that is rich in protein. If you find yourself craving meat, and that can happen, consider trying a meat alternative. Add tofu to a stir fry or fry it until it’s crisp. Try different veggie burgers until you find a flavor and consistency that you enjoy.
Now that we have a long list of plant-based foods, so much so that your head may be spinning, it’s time to talk about the next step. Choosing your approach – how are you going to embrace a plant-based diet?
Choosing Your Approach
In the very beginning, when we started talking about different types of plant-based diets, we mentioned that there can be a variety of approaches to making the transition. We’re going to focus on three of those options. We’ll share the pros and cons as well as a little bit on what to expect and how to get started.
Cold tofurky, aka cold turkey, is the approach that works best for many people. It’s akin to ripping the band-aid off or jumping right into the cold pool water. It works best because there’s no overthinking it. You just do it. And there’s no turning back.
If you choose to go this route with a plant-based diet, the first thing you’re going to want to do is eliminate all non-plant-based foods from your home. You don’t want any slip-ups or mistakes. It’s also really important to get clear on your goals and motivations.
Know why you’re taking this route and what you want out of it. This will get you through any of the tough times. So that brings us to one of the cons – there can be some difficult times with this approach. By not giving your body time to acclimate to a no meat or animal products lifestyle and diet, you may feel cravings – and it’s even possible to experience some withdrawal.
On the plus side, once you’re through the difficult period the rest of the 30 days should be smooth sailing.
Easing into It
There are many other folks who prefer to ease into a change. They dip their toe into the cold water and allow their body to acclimate. You may wish to do the same with a plant-based diet. There are many different options for this approach. We’ll offer a few, but you may think of a different one that works better for you.
One Day at a Time – With this approach you might go all plant-based for one day each week. The next week you’d add a day and be meatless for two full days each week. Then three days, and so on. Yes, it’ll take you seven weeks to get to a completely plant-based diet. However, if you plan on making this a lifestyle changes rather than a 30-day weight loss plan then it can be a good approach.
Meal by Meal – Another option, and a slightly faster one, is to start with breakfasts. Make all your breakfasts plant-based. Then add lunches to your plant-based diet. Then, a week later, add dinners. If you tend to have meat and animal products for snacks (yogurt for example) then you may want to add that into your schedule as well.
One Day Off – Finally, a third approach is to allow yourself a “cheat” day, so to speak. One day a week, maybe Friday, you eat meat and/or animal products. The rest of the time you’re 100 percent committed to a plant-based diet.
Before you get started with your 30 days diet, decide how you’re going to approach it. Keep your personality and lifestyle in mind as you make your plan.
What to Expect
It’s often easier to stick with a lifestyle change, especially a major one, when you know what to expect. You can then make preparations to manage the challenges and look forward to the rewards. So let’s explore what you can expect with a plant-based diet.
Some people may experience a bit of withdrawal. It’s not common, but when you completely eliminate something from your diet, your body can have a response. The most common side effect or withdrawal symptom is likely to be a little low energy or some digestive issues. Animal protein takes a lot of energy and time to digest. Plant-based protein and nutrients do not. You may experience more frequent trips to the bathroom. If you feel low energy or you are going to the bathroom too often, try adding some starchy vegetables to your diet. They can slow things down a little bit.
If you are a huge meat lover and your meals center on this food group, then you may have cravings. When you smell meat or see someone eating meat you may feel some urge to cave into your cravings. It’s not common. Chances are you’re going to feel so awesome and you’ll be eating so well that you won’t care.
However, if you do have cravings then find a food that you love and keep it with you. When you have cravings you can turn to your favorite food. For example, avocados are a treat. Spread half of one on a piece of whole wheat toast, sprinkle a little salt on it and enjoy.
One of the biggest adjustments from a plant-based diet is the meal planning that’s initially required. You’re shifting to meals and food groups that you’re not used to. After a week or two of eating this way, you’ll find that meal planning is no longer a problem. Get a great cookbook or find a good vegetarian recipe blog to support you.
Some people just won’t understand why you’re not eating meat and you can expect a lot of questions about your choice. Decide, in advance, what questions you’re willing to answer and what your answers might be. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and you certainly don’t have to convince them that your way is right.
However, if you focus on the positive aspects and share how diverse and delicious your diet really is, then you may enjoy the conversations. One common question is, “Is there anything you can eat?” Which of course the answer is, “I can eat everything that you eat with the exception of animals’ product. My diet is varied, delicious, and nutritious.”
You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of a plant-based diet. It’s why you’ve chosen this challenge. As a quick refresher, the rewards for a plant-based diet include but certainly aren’t limited to:
- More Energy
- Better Sleep
- Improved Health (And Skin)
- Weight loss
Do you want see how this diet influence your health ask your GP for various blood tests or use online service Thriva ( you take samples of your blood at home- 50% off of your first blood test if you click through my link) and repeat after few months on plant-based diet. You are going to be surprised how your result will improve especially if you are in that risky 40 -55 age bracket.
Taking It to The Next Level
Once you’ve completed your 30-day challenge you may decide to not only stick with it, but take it to the next level. There are many opportunities to embrace a lifestyle that doesn’t involve animals and using them for our consumption.
For example, you might switch to organic cruelty-free skincare and cosmetics. These products used plant-based ingredients to make their products.
Join our new created group for people who want to start a Plant – based diet. You can get support there and access useful information like shopping list etc. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/plantbaseddiet2b/