Plant-Based Diet Beginners Guide

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So you have made the big decision to take control of your health and join the whole food plant-based diet movement. Congratulations! You have just made one of the best decisions of your life! This Plant-Based Diet Beginners Guide should help you get started.

Avocado toast with tomatoes on cutting board with title

Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Beginners Guide

Some people become interested in a whole food plant-based diet 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 at the end of their fork can play a big role in determining whether they develop chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Let’s face it, we all know that we need to eat more vegetables.

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 whole food plant-based diet plan 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. Our plant-based starter kits are a great way to begin because they include a book, a set of DVD lectures from Dr. Neal Barnard, and a folder full of helpful literature from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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, we 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. This plant-based diet guide for beginners should help get you going.

If you are looking for more information on nutrition and science, check out our list of the top 20 plant-based diet books of all time.

Whole food plant-based resources

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

What is a Plant-Based Whole Food Diet?

plant based diet plan

The Four New Food Groups:

  • WHOLE GRAINS – This group includes brown rice, millet, oats, barley, corn, bulgur, and all products made from whole grains including bread, cereals, pasta, 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.

Power Plate

For more information visit Forks Over Knives to check out 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. Maybe even consider trying Meatless Mondays at your house.

For more tips with getting started, take a look at this article, How to Start a Plant-Based Diet: Fast Way vs Slow Way

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

FAQ for Plant-Based Beginners

Question #1: Isn’t eating healthy expensive? I’m on a budget.

Dr. Neal Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says to remember two words, “Greens and beans.” Plant-based bulk foods are much less expensive than meat, cheese, and dairy products.

Useful Links:

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 an 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.

This article, The Protein Myth: Vegan Athletes, will help encourage those concerned about not getting enough protein with a plant-based diet.

There are 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, the Strongest Man in Germany.

Question #3: What does the science say about a plant-based diet?

Remember when your mom used to tell you to eat your fruits and vegetables? It turns out she was right! Nutritional science continues to crank out peer-reviewed research that demonstrates the nutritional value of eating a plant-based diet.

Plants are full of health-promoting antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They even have calcium and protein.

This website has a number of physicians and scientists who are our Expert Guest Authors. They include cardiologists and diabetes specialists who share important information about the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet on our Scientific Research Category Page. These are some of the articles they have shared with our readers.

Question #4: 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 with some plant-based diet recipes for beginners.

There are plenty of plant-based cookbooks that can help you get more comfortable preparing healthy meals in your kitchen.

Question #5: 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 do 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.

And, for those traveling by car this article, Best Healthy Road Trip Snacks, will be a great asset.

Question #6: 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. It even has a PDF file you can print. If you need a little help in the kitchen, take a look at our cooking tips and essential kitchen tools.

Question #7: 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!

For those of you new to the whole food plant-based lifestyle, we’ve created a FREE 7-Day Plant-Based Menu Planner to help you get started!

These articles will also be very helpful:

Other great resources:

These free Fact Sheets are from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

  • 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?

About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…


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  1. In your vlog you mentioned you told your husband you were going to try plant based eating after watching Forks Over Knives. How did you start and what did you fix for those 10 days?
    I have enjoyed your videos, vlogs, and blogs so much and feel with a little help in the recipe
    area I can do this and get my husband to do so also.
    Thank you for sharing your farm video also – I love that part of NC, we have a home in Charlotte but 15 years ago moved to CA and have been trying to get back ever since!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Teresa- I’m betting that some of the Beginner Guides in the link below can help answer your questions. The one titled Plant-Based 101 talks about how easy it is to make a meal plan. One of the guides is a Grocery Shopping Guide with a shopping list, and the PB on a Budget one has some great meal plan ideas. I hope some of the information will help, and thanks so much for following along on our journey! Click the link in MY BIO for the recipe or full article.

    1. You’re welcome, and congratulations for the changes you are making with your health. Keep up the good work!

  2. Terri. This is a fantastic resource for beginners. I will share it regularly.
    You are generous and enthusiastic, and provide fundamental, welcoming information.
    Sincere thanks.

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