So you have made the big decision to take control of your health and join the whole food plant-based lifestyle movement. Congratulations! You have just made one of the best decisions of your life! This plant-based guide for beginners should help you get started.
Some people become interested in plant-based nutrition after watching documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Eating You Alive, What the Health, PlantPure Nation, and others. Their interest is piqued after learning that the food hanging on the end of their fork can play a big roll in determining whether they develop chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Others are interested in helping save the planet or reducing the suffering of animals.
Regardless of the reason you found yourself here, well done! Beginning a plant-based diet and lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for your health and our planet.
But now you may be wondering where in the world to begin.
Starting a new way of life and health is like beginning a journey, so it’s helpful to have some guidance as you embark on this new adventure. To help you get started, I have pulled together some of the best resources available. Remember to stay positive. This is a lifestyle of vitality and quality of life, not deprivation.
One of the best motivators for people transitioning to plant-based eating comes from how great they feel and how much more than can do in their lives once they’re feeling healthier.”–Dr. Craig McDougall
Eating plant-based, whole foods means fueling your body from the following food groups:
WHOLE GRAINS – This group includes brown rice, millet, oats, barley, corn, bulgur, and all products made from whole grains including bread, cereals, pastas, and more. Whole grains are filling but have very little fat. In countries where whole grains are staples, such as rural Asia, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, are much less common than in the States and Europe.
LEGUMES – This group includes beans, peas, and lentils. They are hearty, high protein foods that are rich in calcium, iron, cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, and even traces of omega 3 fatty acids.
VEGETABLES – These foods are loaded with vitamins and minerals, are very low in fat, and like all plant foods, have no cholesterol at all.
FRUIT – These are vitamin rich and have no cholesterol. They do have natural sugar but are low on the glycemic index, except for watermelon and pineapple.
Recommended foods do NOT include meat, dairy products, eggs, added oils, or most processed foods.
For more information visit Forks Over Knives to checkout this article, What is a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet.
Not Ready to go in 100%?
Some people are not ready to go cold turkey right off the bat. In that case, a useful recommendation is to add in as many vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes as you can. This will help keep you full and crowd out the less healthful foods. For more tips with getting started, take a look at this article, A Doctor’s Top Tips for Transitioning Smoothly to a Healthy Plant-Based Lifestyle by Dr. Craig McDougall.
Focus on the big changes like switching from meat, milk, and eggs to whole-plant foods. Such changes dramatically improve the nutritional composition of the foods you are eating, so this is where you will find the most noticeable and measurable improvements in your health.” Dr. Brian Wendel–founder of Forks Over Knives
Frequently Asked Questions for Plant-Based Beginners:
Question #1: Isn’t eating healthy expensive? I’m on a budget.
Dr. Neal Barnard, President of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says to remember two words, “Greens & Beans.” Plant-based bulk foods are much less expensive than meat, cheese, and dairy products.
- Eating Healthy on a Budget (3-minute video from NutritionFacts.org)
- Plant-Based Nutrition is Affordable– Feed a Family for Less than $130/Week
- Plant-Based on a Budget
- Nutritionist’s List: Healthy Low-Cost Staples
Question #2: What about calcium and protein?
When this question comes up in the Food for Life classes I teach, I ask people to name the largest land-dwelling mammals they can think of off the top of their heads. They say things like elephant, rhino, hippopotamus, giraffe, cow, and horse. What do these animals eat exclusively? Plants! If plants provide enough calcium for those massive muscles and bone structures, we should have no problems getting enough.
There are even a number of professional plant-based athletes like NFL defensive lineman David Carter, prominent tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, Ultra Athlete Rich Roll, professional boxer Mike Tyson, Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, and Patrik Baboumian, Strongest Man in Germany.
- 10 Modern Day Vegan Body Builders that are Changing the Way People View Protein
- Five Protein Myths
- The Protein Myth
- The Great Protein Fiasco
- Calcium and Strong Bones
- Scientific Research Suggest, Milk Does NOT Do the Body Good
Question #3: Will any of the food taste good?
Let me make a few suggestions from this very website. These are some of my favorite recipes. I’ve even included a link for those who don’t like to cook.
- 10 Simple & Healthy Plant-Based Recipes in 20-Minutes or Less
- Black Bean Burgers
- Vegan Nacho Supreme
- Cauliflower BQ Wing Bites
- Lentil Pasta Dinner for Five People in 10-Minutes and Less than $15
- Creamy Vegan Cheese Sauce
- Hot Fudge Cake
- Glazed Carrot Cake
Question #4: What about eating at restaurants, traveling, or away from home?
It does take a little more planning and creativity, but traveling and eating at restaurants does not have to be difficult. Most restaurants have dishes you can eat. The important thing is to ask….and ask respectfully without demanding. We have been pleasantly surprised at the amazing and tasty foods we have been able to get in restaurants. Many servers and chefs are very happy to guide you through their options, and some will even make special meals just for you. The key for us seems to be the attitude with which we ask. This article, Guide to Dining Out on a Plant-Based Diet, will help.
- Plant-Strong on the Road
- Vegan ROAD TRIP! (Whole Food, Plant-based & Oil-free)
- 7 Keys to Success on a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
- Travel Tips for Healthy Snacks & Meal Planning
- How to Mix Travel With Plant-Based Eating
Question #5: Where in the world do I even begin finding the foods I will need at the grocery store?
I am SO glad that you asked! This Beginners Guide to Plant-Based Grocery Store Shopping should be all you need.
Question #6: So what do you keep on-hand in your kitchen to stock your pantry and refrigerator?
Guess what! I even have pictures of my stuff for you in this article, What’s in My Plant-Based Medicine Cabinet?I Mean Pantry? Come on in and See!
Your choice of ONE of the following books, plus all of the materials listed below the books. $37
- The 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart
- Reversing Diabetes
- The Cancer Survivors Guide
- Power of Foods for Your Brain
Also included in this kit with your choice of book:
- DVD set (2 disc) with seventeen 10-15 minute Food for Life lectures from Dr. Neal Barnard, President of Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Food for Life Healthy Basics booklet (31 pages)
- Healthy Eating for Life / Food choices for cancer prevention and survival booklet (19 pages)
- Vegetarian Starter Kit booklet (15 pages)
- Diabetes and Diet Recipes for Success booklet (4 pages)
- Nutrition for Kids booklet (25 pages)
- Four weekly newsletters from EatPlant-Based.com that include recipe ideas and other handouts; PDF copy of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Cancer Survivor Guide with 245 pages (an excellent resource for everyone, not just cancer survivors); Fact Sheets from Physicians Committee on subjects like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and women’s health; and some of Terri’s favorite success stories and articles.
These articles will also be very helpful:
- What is a Plant-Based Whole Food
- Jeff Novick’s 10 Simple Recipes in Less than 20-Minutes
- What’s in My Plant-Based Medicine Cabinet? I Mean Pantry!
- Beginners Guide to Plant-Based Grocery Shopping
- Guide to Dining Out on a Plant-Based Diet
Other Great Plant-Based Resources:
- The China Study
- Cholesterol and Heart Disease
- Diet and Diabetes
- Healthy Eating for Life: Food Choices for Cancer Prevention and Survival
- The Vegetarian Starter Kit
- Nutrition Rainbow
- Type 1 Diabetes Fact Sheet
- The Cancer Project: Nutrition and Prostate Health
- Healthy Gut Prebiotics and Probiotics
- Foods for Arthritis
- Food and Mood: Eating Plants to Fight the Blues
- Ingredient Substitution Chart
- Other Physicians Committee Fact Sheets
- Recommended Books & DVDs
What Diet Should Physicians Recommend?