Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Helpful tips for transitioning to a plant-based diet

I thought I'd put together a few helpful tips on transitioning to a plant-based diet. Probably most of you that read this already eat this way, but perhaps a few of you don't know exactly how to get started.

I've been vegetarian for several years now. At first, I still ate fish, but dropped that about 3-4 years ago. And now, I've dropped all animal products from my diet and have eaten this way for almost 2 years! It wasn't really that difficult, though it may seem so at first. The hardest part about a plant-based diet is eating out, and even then, once you know what to look for/order, it's not really all that difficult. And besides, there are more and more vegan restaurants popping up all over the place these days.

When I became a vegetarian (there was no "transitioning"...it was just cold tofurkey for me), I ate a lot of processed veggie foods, because they were easy. Easy to find, easy to cook up, and fast. I ate a lot of faux veggie meat slices in sandwiches, veggie dogs, etc. And I still ate regular yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, so there was plenty for me to eat. But perhaps this wasn't the healthiest way to go about it. Now there are even more "quick" and "easy" fake meat sources. Just go to Whole Foods and you will see a whole refrigerator and  freezer packed with the stuff. Veggie meals galore, from Amy's (not all of their items are vegan), Candle Cafe, Gardein, Kashi, etc. They are not cheap either. I won't say not to buy them, because I do occasionally, when I need something quick and it's on sale.

Becoming vegan (or eating a completely plant-based diet), is more of a challenge. I used to love cheese and yogurt. And now I don't really crave them anymore. Your body gets used to it. Besides, if you really want it, the non-dairy industry has really changed a lot in the past few years. There are several non-dairy yogurts you can buy (yes, they've got the cultures!). Some made with soy, others with coconut milk. There's even non-dairy ice cream! And that stuff is delicious. Mind you, I don't eat it all the time. It's high calorie, high fat, and high sugar, like regular ice cream. Though it's made with healthier ingredients. I was never really an egg person, but there are substitutions you can make when you're baking. As for eating, lots of vegans make scrambled tofu. It's very popular.

There are so many non-dairy milks out there, I couldn't possibly name them all. They're made from nuts, hemp, rice, oats, soy, etc.

So you see, there's not really a lack of food out there for those of us on a plant-based diet! And in time, you'll learn to make your own foods too, instead of buying them pre-packaged in the store.

Here is a list of staples that I keep (not all of them all the time, I try to vary the fruits and vegetables) in my kitchen.

Watch out for the "dirty dozen" in the case of fruits/vegetables. Those items you'll want to buy organic, if you can.

Vegetables: kale, spinach, zucchini, carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, cucumbers, ginger, beets, cabbage, peppers, there are limitless options!

Fruit: apples, pears, lemons, limes, frozen berries, bananas, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, avocados, dates, dried fruit, also limitless options!

Other items:

Nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
almond butter or sunflower seed butter (there are many other nut butters out there too)
pureed/strained tomatoes in a jar
Pasta (I use brown rice pasta, but there are lots to choose from)
Oats (quick cooking, steel cut,  and whole oat groats)
Buckwheat (raw, hulled groats)
Brown rice
Flax seeds, ground
Chickpeas, black beans, etc. (I buy Eden Organic in a BPA-free can)
Earth Balance "butter"
Daiya shredded cheese (I keep it in the freezer), great on pizza
Teese Mozzarella
Rice Vegan Cheddar slices and vegan cream cheese
Almond milk, soymilk, and hemp milk-all unsweetened (Silk, Almond Dream, Tempt)
Sprouted grain English muffins and tortillas (Ezekiel)
Corn tortillas
Nutritional Yeast (great for B-12, tastes cheesy, sprinkle on top of pasta, etc.)
Non-dairy yogurt (Silk, WholeSoy,etc)
Non-dairy ice cream (So Delicious, Coconut Bliss, etc)
Lots of spices

This is not a complete list, but you get the idea. If I forget something, I'll come back and add it to the list.
Most of these things are easy to cook. I highly recommend a rice cooker (Zojirushi) for cooking rice and whole oat groats. You can set them to be ready at a certain time.....breakfast or dinner! There are great recipes out there for raw, soaked buckwheat or oat groats as breakfast oatmeal. Though you can easily cook up quick oats for breakfast too (S eats those every morning).  Other handy appliances are: a food processor, juicer (Breville), and a highspeed blender (Vitamix).

Many products contain dairy ingredients. See here for a pretty good list of ingredients that are made from dairy. Even some cheeses that are made from soy or rice have CASEIN in them (this is a dairy product!). Watch out for those. Some soy yogurts also contain casein. Read the label!! (don't worry, you'll eventually learn what products you can eat, without looking at the label single every time)

I've learned to read labels. A lot.

Whatever the reason is.....you love animals, you'd like to be healthier.......choosing a plant-based diet is an amazing choice! Good for you for even thinking about it.

I lost about 50 pounds after becoming vegetarian. And after transitioning over to a totally plant-based diet, I lost another 30! That's 80 pounds lost!!! So yes, that's another plus. My cholesterol numbers went down too! You can do it.

There are so many vegan cookbooks out there now. Just go to Amazon....they are all listed there.

PS-if you are also gluten free, or have other allergies, there are also tons of blogs out there for you!

Tomorrow: Easy first vegan meal/snack ideas.

PLEASE don't hesitate to ask questions if you need help with your transition. I'm here to help, since I've already been through that phase.

Eat smart,


  1. Hi,
    I am also a vegetarian blogger who is now a vegan ( 8 weeks). Congratulations on your weight loss and healthy way of eating. Great post and very helpful.

  2. It is hard to adopt a healthy way of eating. Great for you!



Vegetarian Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory