Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores) – Part 3

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Plant-based diet - Part 3

It may not seem like it at first, but you’ll be eating more than grass on a plant-based diet

Ed: This is part 3 of a five-part series, be sure to check out part 1 (which includes our ‘take it with a pinch of Himalayan salt’ disclaimer) and part 2 as well.

More and more of our readers have been asking us what eating a plant-based diet entails. While we try our best not to be militant when talking about our food choices, we love it when people express an interest in moving away from meat, eggs and dairy. So, it gives us a ridiculous amount of pleasure to present: Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores). Enjoy!

Couple of notes before we dive in. When I set out to tackle the topic I had no idea it would unravel into something in excess of 4000 words (in blogosphere terms that’s like the extended version of War and Peace).  I’ve therefore decided to break it up into installments (probably four five) to avoid the risk of information overwhelm. Plus, it’ll give you guys the opportunity to weigh in with questions and observations along the way. (Because, collaboration.)

How to Make the Switch

Plant-based diet - How to make the switch

Making the switch to a plant-based diet is relatively simple (especially if you have an umbrella)

Okay, I’ve rambled on ad nauseam about what a plant-based diet is, what it isn’t and why it’s important to think about making the switch. Now it’s time to look at some practical steps to make the jump from the SAD side of the fence to the happy healthy side.

In this case, the grass really is greener on the other side. I’m just sayin’.

I guess how you make the transition from omnivore to barefoot hippie plant-based hero depends on your personality. Some people do better by going all in from the get-go. They make the decision, set a date by when they’ll do it, and then from that point on they’re vegan.

Others, like Sporty and I, need to get into the water one toe at a time. For whatever reason the ‘all or nothing’ method just seems like too big of a concept to comprehend in one sitting. If you’re like us, then you could try this approach instead.

Ditch the Meat

I really can’t remember how we went about it, but I’m pretty sure there was no real plan involved. So let’s approach this on a month to month basis. I was listening to a podcast with self-improvement guru, Jack Canfield, the other morning and he’s a huge proponent of the 30-day approach (apparently that’s how long it takes to break old habits and build new ones).

With that in mind, we’ll start by ditching red meat and move on from there. Using this approach, you’ll be meat-free (including fish and seafood) in four months. I’m going to assume you don’t eat venison, but if you do it should be lumped into month #1.

Here’s how it will look:

• Month #1 – no red meat
• Month #2 – no pork
• Month #3 – no chicken
• Month #4 – no fish or seafood

Simple, right? 😉

Ditch the Eggs

During month #5 you’ll stop eating eggs (i.e. fried, scrambled, omelettes, etc.) and then in month #6 you’ll extend that to include anything that’s made with eggs. Here’s where it starts getting tricky, because now you need to be vigilant about reading labels. A neat little trick we learnt is to skip straight to the allergens. That’s where they list things like eggs, cow’s milk, gluten, shellfish, etc.

A lot of things are obvious. For example, pretty much anything baked (e.g. muffins, cakes, croissants, cookies, etc.) will be made with eggs. Interestingly, bread is the one thing that’s usually not made with any animal products. That said, don’t just make a blanket assumption about bread, because some varieties are made with eggs and some also contain other animal products like buttermilk and/or honey.

Ditch the Dairy

In month #6 you’ll bid farewell to all things dairy. If you’re really struggling (apparently cheese is addictive) you could draw the dairy phase out over two months. Here’s a list of some of the more obvious dairy products, but there are plenty of others that you may not be aware of.

• Yoghurt
• Cheese
• Cream cheese
• Ice-cream
• Cream
• Buttermilk
• Whey Protein

Ditching Everything Else

In the final stages of your defection from the dark side transition to a healthier lifestyle, you can get rid of the itty-bitty not so obvious stuff, like gelatine, honey and so on. It’s a learning curve —and a pretty steep one at that— so don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.

Sporty and I are five years in and we still make rookie mistakes, like not double-checking the ingredients of something when we’re at the market, for example. Only once we’ve stuffed the muffin (or, whatever) into our mouth will we remember that we didn’t ask if it contained honey. Doh!

So, like I said, don’t flagellate yourself when you mess up. Just get back up, dust yourself off and chalk it up to a lesson learnt.

What Do I Eat Now I’ve Ditched Everything?

Plant-based diet - What to eat

Eating a plant-based diet can be as easy or as complex as your desires and kitchen capabilities. I enjoy hanging out in the kitchen (it’s my happy place), but for the most part Sporty and I eat relatively simply.

What your typical day will look like once you’ve made the switch will depend on your likes and dislikes, your budget, your time constraints and your willingness to experiment and try new things.

Pro Tip: You’re going to have a lot more fun if you’re open to new ideas, as opposed to just sticking with what you know.

It also about expanding your skill-set. You might have a few disasters in the process, but eventually you’ll be producing some really delicious and innovative meals. It’s also a lot harder to mess up when your ingredients are all plant-based.

Breakfast

There many schools of thought out there, but Sporty and I are old school. We believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your body has had nothing to eat since dinner and so it’s in the perfect position to take on nutrients.

Sporty generally has a smoothie bowl, which is made up of 1-2 frozen bananas, 2 cups of spinach, 1 tbs hemp powder, 1 tbs flax seed powder, some coconut oil or a sliver of avocado (and these don’t make it in every day – mostly after a longer work out) and finally, a pinch of vanilla or cinnamon for flavour.

She blends everything with half a cup of water and then dumps it in a bowl. Her favourite topping by far is goji berries, although coconut flakes or fresh berries will also suffice. *sigh*

I find drinking breakfast to be way more appealing. I also like to mix things up, so I’ll either have half a cup of oats, half a cup of berries (when they’re in season), a frozen banana and 1 tbs hemp powder or I’ll swap out the oats for spinach if I feel like I need more greens. Both options are blended with a cup of water.

Pro Tip: Adding 1-2 frozen bananas to a smoothie will make it super creamy and sweeter than unfrozen ones! You definitely don’t need milk.

Lunch

We almost always make our own lunch, because finding plant-based meal options that are healthy and don’t cost a fortune can be tricky. Plus, we like to know what goes into our food. And that includes the energy with which it was made. Hippie much?

Our lunch meals are mostly identical, because we take turns doing food prep in the evenings. They usually consist of a carb (e.g. bulgur wheat, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato), beans of some kind and either cooked veg or salad, depending on what we feel like and what time of year it is.

We’ll make a batch of grains and a dressing or two on the weekend to make food prep easier during the week. In our opinion dressings are the key to a plant-based diet. They’re easy to make and can turn even the most blah bowl of steamed vegetables into something delicious.

Pro Tip: Always make sure you have nutritional yeast flakes and at least one tasty sauce/dressing in the house. If they’re in season, an avo (or six) won’t go amiss either.

Dinner

Our evening meal is usually our simplest one. We prefer not to eat anything too heavy at night, so we’ll avoid eating carbs. However, when we do manage to get our hands on a couple of tempeh rounds (which have to be eaten on Helena’s essene bread) or a package of corn tortillas, we’re certainly not averse to bending the rules.

On a regular evening we’ll eat vegetables in whatever form appeals to us e.g. stir fry, salad, steamed, etc. We’re all about ease of preparation on work nights, so supper is often a pretty boring affair. It makes us happy though, and ultimately, that’s what matters.

Snacks

Our snacking habits vary depending on how militant we’re being about our diet. When we’re in ‘watching the weight’ mode we’ll stick to fruit and raw nuts and when we’re in ‘don’t give crap’ mode we’ll opt for toast with peanut butter.

Sporty will sometimes have hummus and crudités as well. Some people enjoy hummus and crudités as a snack, but we don’t really see the point. Snacks are supposed to be fun, aren’t they?

Some Plant-Based Inspiration

Google vegan blogs and you’ll get in the region of 17 million search results. The blogs listed here are ones I enjoy visiting for inspiration, recipes and so on. I’ll probably add to the list whenever I find new ones. Who am I kidding? I never remember to update old blog posts.

Minimalist Baker

Dana aka the Minimalist Baker’s mission is to create simple, delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. She’s 95% plant-based, but always makes sure to offer vegan substitutes whenever she does include something like butter or egg (which is hardly ever).

She has a lot of sweet recipes on her blog, but don’t be fooled by the name. Dana is definitely waaaaay more than a baker, she has bunches of healthy meal options to choose from as well.

The Happy Pear

I luuuuuurrrve the Happy Pear. I originally ‘met’ Stephen and David Flynn on Rich Roll’s podcast (where else?) and was instantly smitten. Aside from being seriously cute, these Irish twins are also down to earth and really inspiring. They’re all about making eating a plant-based diet easy and accessible. Their YouTube channel has loads of quick and easy recipes to try.

Forks Over Knives

Billed as ‘the film that’s changing the way people eat‘, it’s little wonder Forks Over Knives has expanded into a full-blown movement. The website has hundreds of super tasty plant-based recipes to choose from. There’s also a cooking course, a meal planner and a what to eat section that’s chockfull of useful tips and information.

What About Supplements?

Plant-based diet - Supplements

Ang holding a glass of green juice on the juice/yoga retreat she went on at the end of last year

Aside from the protein question (yawn), the other thing we get asked all the time is perhaps a little more pertinent. People want know where vegans get their B12. We get ours from chlorella and nutritional yeast.

Aside from the chlorella tablets, the only other supplement we use on a daily basis is MSM, which used to taste disgusting but doesn’t anymore. Proof that taste buds do evolve over time.

We also consume a fair amount of superfoods, While not vital, they certainly add much in the way of flavour and nutritional value to our diet.

The ones we use most frequently are cacao powder, hemp powder and maca powder. There are plenty of others as well; if you’re keen to find out more you should check out Rawlicious Superfoods: With 100+ Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle.

Okay, enough information for now. In next week’s post I’ll be addressing many of the myths and misconceptions around farm animals and how they’re raised. I promise not to get preachy, but this particular set of undies does need to be aired (to coin a phrase Sporty hates).

Finally, please leave your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comment section below. We’re keen to make this series as user-friendly and helpful as possible, so if there’s anything you’d like us to add, we’re definitely up for that!


*We’re keen to earn passive income to fund our coffee habit, but we’re definitely not going to be shifty about it. This means we’ll only ever link to something if we’ve personally used it, eaten it, read it, or whatever, and are 100% impressed. Also, it won’t cost you anything extra if you purchase something via our link. The vendor has to cough up our commission fee, not you. 😉

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4 thoughts on “Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores) – Part 3

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful series of posts, and for speaking up for the animals 🙂

    I wanted to offer a few thoughts on B12. I have been vegetarian for 37 of my almost 50 years, and was vegan for many of those years. During my vegan years I believed that I could get my B12 from nori, miso, etc…but of course we have since learned that this is not correct.

    Low B12 has some serious health effects, and I was unfortunate enough to experience some of those. For some time I used supplements to pick up my B12 but eventually even the injections didn’t do the trick. For me the bottom line is that supplements and fortified foods are not what nature intended, nor should we be relying on possibly iffy sources like chlorella. I am also not certain that chlorella is a really clean source of B12, coming as it does from our ever more polluted oceans, and also question it’s sustainability – if many of us relied on it how sustainable would it be to harvest, process and ship it to those wanting it? Surely it is most sustainable to find a source of B12 closer to home that doesn’t involve killing/harming animals?

    I am at a point where I want my diet to be natural and sustainable – and this means as local and organic and home made as I can get it. For me this means I use small amounts of local eggs and goat’s cheese/milk to supplement my diet – ultimately my goal is to keep chickens once again and to maybe even have a couple of goats. I know a lot of vegans don’t eat honey but I feel that it is much kinder to the earth to harvest honey from our backyard (or perhaps our neighbor’s) than to ship coconut sugar, agave, maple syrup etc.. from some far flung place. And of course one leaves enough honey for the bees to have for themselves.

    I came to these conclusions after reading extensively about traditional diets, macrobiotics and the Blue Zones. In 4 of the 5 Blue Zones people are eating a plant based (not always vegetarian) LOCAL diet – not some new-fangled diet full of ‘super foods’. To my mind a ‘super food’ is the peaches I grow on my own fruit trees, or the Bok choy and onions I’ve just picked from my garden. I believe part of what makes people so healthy in the Blue Zones is their contribution to growing their own food – fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and good organic food that hasn’t hurt the environment to get to their plates! The food that grows in your environment is the food that supports your health and the health of the planet – coconuts and pineapples cool the body down in the tropics, for example, but do not suit a very cold climate where some hearty root vegies would be better. They often have to travel long distances to reach us, and as we are learning this is a disaster for the planet.

    I hope these thoughts are somewhat helpful. I do believe that we should be close to 100% plant based, but question whether 100% is really sustainable for our health.

    Madeleine

    • Hi Madeleine

      Thanks so much for your very considered and thought out comments, we love getting these cos they make our brains work 😉

      To respond to your comments on the harvesting and contamination of chlorella – after having done some research I found that commercially harvested chlorella is grown in isolated ponds and not in the sea, therefore not harming any sea life in its production. The contamination differs in varying degrees depending on where it comes from. I have included a link to an interesting article on it. This leads me to a point that we re-iterate time and time again in our musings that everyone should make it their business to research where their nutrition comes from and/or how it is made.
      http://www.naturalnews.com/039145_chlorella_heavy_metals_lab_tests.html

      We are those vegans that don’t use honey and totally agree that shipping alternatives across the globe is not the answer. We have been working on eradicating using sweeteners wherever we can and if in a pinch use dates or raisins.

      The question of being 100% plant-based or not is one that everyone has to answer for themselves dependent on their beliefs and circumstances. The concept of being in touch with the food that you eat from it’s source to your plate is the ultimate, awesome goal but city dwellers (amongst others) are somewhat challenged in that regard and have to do the best we can with community gardens etc.

      Your comments have been incredibly stimulating and we really appreciate you taking the time to send us your thoughts on the matter.

      Love
      Sporty

  2. Hello! I just discovered your blog, and I’m enjoying this series. Currently, I’m in the process of transitioning to a plant-based diet. Instead of eliminating one category at a time, though, I’ve adjusted one meal at a time. I started with just making sure breakfast was plant-based, then added lunches, then weekday dinners. That’s where I’m at right now. It’s very difficult to make a complete shift over, because my husband adamantly refuses to join me in this. We tend to eat out a lot on the weekends, and it is a struggle sometimes trying to find restaurants that appeal to both of us. For now, for marital harmony, I leave my options more open when we dine out. Thanks for the helpful resources.

    • Hi Sunny,

      Welcome to our corner of the interwebs, we’re thrilled to have you visit with us! Sporty and I think your idea of adjusting a meal at a time is super smart!

      We’re realise how fortunate we are to be on the same ‘eating’ page as a couple, but hopefully you won’t let your husband’s lack of interest deter you from staying the course. It’s tough, but we need to respect that everyone is on their own journey. Hopefully he’ll see how happy and healthy you are with your new way of eating and make the shift at some point.

      Dining out can be tricky. I’m not sure what sort of restaurants you both enjoy eating at, but we’ve found that Thai and Indian restaurants are the safest best as they always have vegan options. They might now necessarily refer to it as such, but you’ll be able to figure out from the ingredients whether you can eat something. Sushi is also a good option, although the wasabi often has milk in it, so just be aware if you decide to be more strict in the future.

      Good luck with your transition phase and please feel free to get in touch if you need help, inspiration, advice, etc. We’re by no means experts, but we’ll do our best to help! 🙂

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