Are you looking to transition to a plant-based diet? Here are five easy steps to take to make your journey a successful one.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or health professional. If you suffer from any condition and are looking to make a drastic lifestyle change, please consult your medical doctor first.
On January 1st of this year, my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves and go plant-based for a hundred days. We had been on one giant slippery slope eating a ton of comfort food as a way to occupy our minds and cope with the never-ending (covid) lockdown.
Plus, I had been struggling with hormonal imbalances and other related health issues this past year and I knew that the solution was in changing our diets.
‘No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means’ Maimonides.
So, 6 weeks ago, we embarked on a plant-based journey committed to improving our health along with our energy levels and moods.
In this post, I write about the steps we took to transition to a plant-based diet hoping this can help you in your own transition!
If you are looking to transition but don’t know where to start, you can download my Plant-Based Pantry Staples / Essentials list at the bottom of this post.
Tips for a smooth transition to a plant-based diet
1. Write down your goals
‘Prepare to plan or plan to fail’
There are countless reasons to go plant-based. Listing your ‘why’ before you make the change is a surefire to stay motivated and on track.
Here is some inspiration:
- Heal from a chronic condition and turn your health (and life) around
- Lose weight sustainably / long term
- Beat chronic fatigue and increase your energy levels
- Elevate your mood
- Out of compassion for the animals
- To support a family member who is sick
Personally, I went plant-based to heal from a hormonal imbalance, increase my energy levels, improve my mood and because it ‘felt’ right for me.
Write it down and pin it somewhere where you can see it every day.
2. Have a plan
If you have been eating a pretty ‘standard’ diet up until now, I strongly recommend having some sort of plan in mind before you take the jump. The reason why I am saying this is that transitioning to a plant based diet can be a little tough if you are used to your daily coffee and cream and dairy laden pastries.
Knowing what and how you will eat will help you stick with it when the going gets tough. It takes a few days (or weeks) for your taste buds to adjust to the taste of ‘real’ food. And it takes as long for your brain to form new habits and reach for fruits instead of bread.
If your pantry and fridge are empty when you go ‘hangry’, your instincts will overrule your head and your resolutions will fly out the window.
If, on the other hand, you have planned ahead and filled up your kitchen with all kinds of plant based foods (fruits / veggies / hummus, etc.), you’ll have an easier time staying on track.
3. How to plan your transition
Define how you will transition
How will you transition to a plant-based diet? Will you go cold-turkey? Will you transition slowly? Here are a few examples on how to transition:
- Replace one meal at a time
- Eat plant based one day a week, then 2, then 3, etc.
- Cut out meat first, then dairy, then eggs
- Cut out dairy first, then meat, then eggs
- Start with a one or two-week detox or cleanse before transitioning to plant-based eating
- Go 100% plant-based as of day 1 (cold turkey)
There is no right or wrong here. This is a personal choice and I can’t really tell you what’s best. I chose to go cold turkey because I felt ready and 100% committed to this new lifestyle.
You need to feel what’s right for you and be mentally prepared for the change. If you’re not, I suggest taking baby steps such as starting by adding in more veggies and fruits and then slowly cutting out animal products from your diet.
Define your starting date
Define when you will start transitioning and commit to a date. Make sure you make space in your agenda for the first few weeks and stay away from restaurants and take away foods while you adjust to your new lifestyle.
Meal Planning + Staples
Meal planning takes a bit of time and effort but it’s such an important step in making your transition a successful one.
The best way to meal plan is to scroll through Pinterest and write down meal plan ideas / recipes for the following week.
Keep it simple. Once you find recipes you love and that are easy to make, make them your go-to during weekdays and repeat them every week. Ideally, you want to have 3 or 4 go-to meals and leave room for a couple of new recipes each week to keep it fun and interesting.
I love cooking so, for me, the only way to make this transition work was to keep having fun and stay creative in the kitchen. I started following plant-based bloggers and vloggers for inspiration and made sure I had a couple of new recipes that I could try every week.
Once you have been on this plant-based journey for a while, meal planning won’t be necessary anymore. Eating and cooking plant-based will become like second nature to you.
Here is some inspiration
4. Prep Your Kitchen
- Clean up your fridge and freezer from all animal products, animal by-products (dairy: milk, yoghurts, creams, ice-creams etc.) and processed foods (highly processed sauces, jams, pizza, etc.)
- Clean up your pantry from processed foods (e.g if you plan to go sugar free for a while, then give away the refined sugar and foods containing refined sugar, etc.). We chose to go gluten free for the first 100 days so we gave away all our wheat flours.
- Based on your meal plan, write down your shopping list for the following week
- Fill your fridge and pantry with densely nutritious plant based foods. You can download my Plant-Based Pantry Essentials list (15+ plant-based must have for your pantry) at the bottom of this page.
5. Do your research
As you progress on this journey, you will notice that everyone has an opinion on what goes in your mouth and body. Your friends, family and even people you barely know will question your choices and challenge your decision to go plant-based.
They’ll probably ask you:
- Where do you get your protein from? Aren’t you worried you’ll lose muscle mass?
- What about calcium? Where will you get it from if you cut out dairy from your diet?
- Isn’t eating plant based really bland?
There is so much misinformation out there that it’s easy to get confused when it comes to what’s the best nutrition for your health. Once you start doing your research though, you will find out that whole grains, vegetables and legumes are all excellent sources of high-quality protein and that calcium is aplenty in a plant based diet.
Knowing the science behind it will help you stand firm in your convictions and make you feel confident about your choices.
Here are books and documentaries I recommend reading / watching:
Books to read
The China Study – Colin T. Campbell
The Starch Solution – John McDougall
How Not to Die – Michael Greger
How Not to Diet – Michael Greger
Whole – Colin T. Campbell
Eat and Run – Scott Jurek– the inspiring story of plant-based fueled ultrarunner, Scott Jurek
Documentaries (plant-based + vegan) to watch
- Forks Over Knives
- What The Health
- Plant Pure Nation (free on Youtube)
- Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
- The Game Changers
- The Healing Effect
Here are a few Youtubers who vlog about plant based recipes and tips:
Youtubers to follow:
Transitioning to a plant-based diet is a pretty big change in the current world. It takes planning and effort to adjust to a healthier lifestyle. But it’s worth it.
When I decided to transition to a plant-based diet, I thought I’d do it for a few months, just the time for my body to heal. But after 6 weeks, I have come to love the food and the way it makes me feel and I don’t see myself going back.
Are you ready to give it a go?