Nutrition

7 Easy Steps To Go Plant-Based: A Fresh Start

If you’ve been doing some research on how to be healthier and adopt smarter nutrition, you may have come across some information about going plant-based.

It’s often been found that those who consume their protein from plant based sources – eliminating animal meats from their diet tend to have a lower risk factor for heart disease and possibly even cancer.

That said, if you choose to go plant-based, you need to do so correctly. You cant just eliminate all meat, eating whatever you please that isn’t animal derived and expect to be healthy.

Let’s go over the seven steps that you need to take to successfully move to a plant-based diet.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Primary Protein Sources

sources-of-plant-based-proteinThe first step is to make yourself aware of which protein sources you will be using in your diet plan. Which foods will help you get your needs met?

Remember that you will need around 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight – possibly more if you are very active, so you need to find ways to get this protein in.

Some terrific plant-based sources of protein include beans and legumes, lentils, soy, tempeh, nuts and seeds, along with hemp protein powder. Depending on the type of vegetarian you are choosing to be, you might also consider including eggs along with dairy products (or even fish) in your plan as well. Having these added choices can definitely help make it easier to meet your daily protein needs.

Step 2: Cut All Refined Carbohydrates

Cereals in wooden boxThe next step is to remove all refined carbohydrates from your menu plan. One of the biggest mistakes many people make when moving to a plant-based diet is filling their diet full of refined carbohydrates. This must be avoided.

Remember, if it wasn’t healthy before you went plant-based, it isn’t healthy after. Refined carbohydrates may not contain any animal products, but they are still going to spike blood glucose levels, leading to increased risk of diabetes and weight gain.

Your diet should strictly be focused on wholesome carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, sweet potatoes, along with the protein sources noted above.

Step 3: Know Your Calorie Targets

Balanced diet based on raw organic vegetablesThe third step is to figure out your calorie targets. Some people make the mistake of eliminating meat and choosing to go ‘veggie’ by simply feasting on salads all day long.

While salads are definitely healthy, if you aren’t careful, they won’t provide you with the calorie support you need to stay energized and healthy.

Vegetables themselves are very low in calories, so you need to add other non-meat foods to bulk up your diet plan. This means adding in some wholesome grains, beans, lentils, and legumes, along with healthy fats from oils, nuts, and seeds.

Fruit should also be added in larger amounts when going plant-based as it’ll help provide all the antioxidants you need to function optimally.

While everyone will have their own calorie intake recommendations, remember that on average, you’ll want to consume about 14-16 calories per pound of body weight per day to sustain your energy level.

Step 4: Seek Sufficient Variety

The next step in going plant-based is to make sure that you are taking in sufficient variety with all the foods you eat. The more variety – assuming healthy food choices – the better.

This will help ensure that first, you don’t get bored on the diet plan, resorting to food you shouldn’t be eating and second, it’ll help ensure that you are getting a mix of amino acids in to provide complete proteins.

While there isn’t any need to really focus too hard on ‘food combining’, you do need to make sure that you are eating many different foods throughout the day. If you do, you’ll have no problem getting your protein needs met.

Step 5: Evaluate For Micronutrients

Vitamin C tabsAnother step to take as you get ready to go green with your diet is to evaluate for micronutrients. Plant-based eaters do have a higher risk of falling deficient in some key vitamins and minerals, so by looking at those specifically in your diet, you can best determine if you should perhaps consider supplementation.

If you aren’t eating plant-based foods rich in these sources, taking a vitamin is well-advised.

Some of the key micronutrients to be aware of include iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12. As these are primarily found in meat-based sources, it’ll be much harder to take them in through plant-based foods instead.

Iron can be consumed by eating foods such as beans, spinach, and oatmeal, however you’ll also want to note that tea, coffee, and too much dietary fiber can inhibit iron absorption, so steer clear of eating your iron-rich foods with these. This nutrient is very important for those who are engaging in regular physical activity as it’s responsible for ensuring that sufficient oxygen gets delivered to the working muscle tissues during any sort of exercise.

Zinc on the other hand can be found in foods such as soybeans, cashews, and sunflower seeds, so putting more focus there will be critical.

Calcium, which is often found in dairy rich foods, can be found in spinach, broccoli, and other leafy greens in the plant-based diet. Load up on these to boost your intake.

Finally, vitamin B12, commonly found in meats doesn’t really exist in any vegetarian based foods apart from those that have been fortified, so this is one vitamin that you will strongly want to consider supplementing with.

If you ever start to feel symptoms such as ongoing fatigue, a weakened immune system, or like you are losing your breath quite easily, consider whether a deficiency may be getting the best of you.

With proper care, you can certainly eat a plant-based diet without worry, but without planning, your risk of deficiency is still very high.

Step 6: Plan Your Meals For The Week

The next step to get into place is planning your meals for the week. By coming up with a game plan, you do two things.

First, you ensure that you are getting adequate protein and nutrients into your day. You can quickly see how you are standing in terms of food variety, protein at each meal, and sufficient total calories.

Second, this also helps you stick to your plan better as well. When you know what you’re eating for each meal, this will reduce the chances that you have to hit the drive-thru and order something that isn’t part of a plant-based diet.

The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to stay the course on your plan.

Step 7: Find Delicious Recipes

Spices and old recipe bookFinally, the last step is to seek out some delicious recipes. Just because you’re eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to resort to the same meals over and over again.

You can find plenty of healthy and very delicious plant-based recipes out there that will help you get your needs met all while making the diet that much more enjoyable to stick with.

If you enjoy your plan, you’ll want to keep carrying out for years to come, which is perfect as most of those who are going plant-based are doing so not just for health reasons, but for personal belief reasons as well.

If you start looking for a new recipe to try out at least once per week, by the time a year is up, you’ll have a full recipe book of greater meals that you can cook from then on forward.

So there you have the key steps to know and remember if you want to adopt a plant based diet. It is a big decision to make and will take a bit more work on your parent to ensure you are eating correctly, but once you get going, you’ll likely find that all the effort is very much worth it when you see how much better you feel.

Looking to enhance your knowledge of nutrition? Join our top-rated professional diploma in nutrition today!

Shaw Academy

Updated: Jul 22, 2015

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