12 Tips on How to Start a Plant-Based Diet

by Alena
Sep 10, 2019
woman rolling a collard wrap filled with millet, chickpeas, carrots, red cabbage and radishes with her hands on a white speckled plate next to the ingredients

Chances are you’ve come in touch with one or more benefits of a plant-based diet at this point. Recent media coverage, as well as some major documentaries, have shed light on how shifting towards more wholesome vegan meals not only heals our bodies but also the planet as a whole – while saving countless innocent lives.

If any of these arguments for starting a plant-based diet have intrigued you, one of your next thoughts might probably be:

“wow but this seems so overwhelming, how do I even start?”

At least, that’s what it’s been like for us back 8 years ago.

Make no mistake, we went through all of the yucky plant-based milk and cheese options (they do exist!) to find our favorites… but we were dedicated to making this shift for ourselves and the animals.

And if you find a strong reason to start taking this journey, we’re sure that you can endure some trial and error along the way, too.

From finding some new favorite recipes to accidentally eating something with milk powder (they put this stuff everywhere nowadays!) and having to explain to your friends and family how you can actually survive without cheese – all of these wonderful moments can become reality.

The vegan trend is no secret anymore and we believe that now it’s easier than ever to make the switch. Especially since so many others have carved a path for you to follow and navigate things with ease.

How To Start a Plant-Based Diet

Although we could have written so much more in this article, we decided to just stick to these following 12 tips on how you can start a plant-based diet! Come on board – we promise it’ll be easier and more fun than you might think.

1. What’s Your Motivation?

Since you made your way to our website, you are probably in a stage of your life where you are ready for some major changes.

Now, just take a second and become very clear about the goals you want to achieve by hopping on this plant-based lifestyle. What is important to you? 

Top Reasons To Go Vegan

Maybe you want to get rid of some kind of disease, stay at a healthy weight effortlessly, increase your energy, help save the planet or animal lives – it doesn’t matter. Anything that excites you to take further steps towards a plant-based diet is great.

Keep it close to your heart, write it down, research it regularly to stay in touch with your motivation and learn something new along the way… because the reasons for not eating animal products are endless and you might resonate with more and more over time.

You could watch some documentaries or YouTube videos to keep focused even when things get a little harder.

Best Vegan Documentaries

2. Eat a Lot of Food

This is something that confuses many in the beginning and can be different to everyone. Depending on what you were used to eating, the size of your meals will increase a lot!

Especially if you come from a diet high in animal products and processed foods, you really have to up your quantities when switching over to a plant-based diet.

That’s because fruits, veggies, grains and legumes are less calorically dense compared to butter, cheese, eggs and meat. This is true especially when you focus on whole foods and lower fat plant-based foods.

Vegan Food Pyramid (Free Download)

So, load up on baked potatoes, quinoa, beans, salad and fresh fruit! If you struggle to eat larger portions, replace some of the veggies (especially raw veggies) with things like nut butter, seeds, avocado, pasta, bread or tofu to ensure you get enough calories and nutrients.

If you tend to have an insatiable hunger, then a whole food plant-based diet really is for you! Due to the high fiber and water content, it’ll be hard to gain a lot of weight. Especially for those who come from a restrictive eating background, it’s important to remember to eat to your heart’s content and never deprive yourself.

Eat a Lot & Lose Weight

This isn’t about ‘everything in moderation’, it’s about living abundantly off the good stuff. Over time, your body will get used to these kinds of volumes.

Remember that everyone needs a different amount of calories each day and although we’d love for you to free yourself from tracking your intake, it can be a good idea to do so in the beginning to get a feel for plant-based foods – and to see how much you can actually eat!

Try to get rid of the 1200-1600 calories per day mindset and rely more on your natural hunger and satiety cues.

3. Surround Yourself with Healthy Foods

Guess what, you cannot eat what you don’t buy or have around you! Simple but true. Create a supportive environment by keeping your home as clean as possible.

This means browsing your kitchen in search of any food that isn’t beneficial to you or that you plan on not eating anymore – either give it to someone else who’d like to eat it or simply toss it to not be tempted (we like to use local food sharing groups to donate the food we don’t want to consume).

Don’t keep it just because you’ve already bought it and think it’d be a waste not to use it. Your body is not a garbage bin!

The next step in helping yourself change your ways is to buy heaps of fruits and vegetables, potatoes and rice, beans, or nuts, so you’re always able to prepare healthy meals and easy snacks.

Starches like whole grains, potatoes, pumpkin and legumes are your number one source of energy, so make sure you always have plenty of those within reach.

Produce can also be bought frozen instead of fresh to prevent food waste – plus you always have something in the freezer to whip up a quick and well-rounded meal.

All of these foods, although they are healthy and unprocessed, have a pretty long shelf life which makes them very convenient.

Full Vegan Grocery List (Download)

4. Prepare for Being on the Go

It’s one thing to eat plant-based at home but what if hunger hits and you’re out and about? Instead of ravenously looking for something that you could eat and being tempted to just grab a highly processed or animal-based option, you could make sure to always have some kind of snack with you.

This could mean some fresh fruit, nuts, energy balls or vegan bars – but also homemade wraps, sandwiches, grain-based salads or simply leftovers.

Other tips here would be to eat before you leave the house and know of a few locations you can grab some good plant-based meals or snacks. Here’s an article on many common fast food and restaurant chains and what you can order there!

5. Make Food Swaps

Our advice is generally to take a gentle approach and slowly but steadily add more plant-based foods into your diet. We don’t restrict, we replace!

Swap some of your favorite processed or animal-based food for a healthy alternative. For instance, to veganize your meals you could use avocado instead of butter, tofu instead of chicken and black bean burgers instead of beef.

To make more wholesome plant-based choices, have dates instead of white sugar, use whole grain instead of white flour spaghetti and have fruit as a snack.

Increase the amount of healthy vegan ingredients in your meals until you’ve crowded out the bad stuff.

14 Easy & Tasty Food Swaps

6. Start With a Plant-Based Breakfast

Three vegan main meals per day can seem a bit daunting when you’re just starting out. But how does loaded chocolate oatmeal for breakfast sound? It’s just one delicious, easy and healthy way to start your day.

Usually, breakfasts are the easiest meals to veganize. Think pancakes, chia pudding, peanut butter and jelly sandwich or savory options such as tofu scrambles with potatoes or avocado toast.

And there are a lot more vegan breakfast options out there such as our easy recipes for:

These easy plant-based breakfasts will inspire you to move on to a healthy vegan lunch, which is the next meal you can tackle. Once you feel confident to have a fully plant-based breakfast and lunch, move on to dinner.

Continue until you have all meals and snacks transformed into plant-based ones. Tip: Our favorite lunch is just leftover dinner!

7. Educate Yourself

There is a lot of misinformation out there and you will run into more than just one conversation about how unhealthy, complicated or useless a vegan diet is.

We’ve all been taught that animal products are part of a proper diet and it’s understandable that people around you are opposed to the idea of eating only plants. Whether it’s real concern, curiosity or being offended on their part, having a few facts on hand is always a good idea

Lots of huge organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have stated that properly planned vegan diets are healthy for all stages of life, lots of doctors and dietitians recommend eating a plant-based diet for the prevention of chronic diseases – plus there are anecdotes and real-life examples of people thriving on plants.

On top of the aforementioned documentaries and YouTube videos, you can also grab some wonderful books about veganism and plant-based eating. Or just start by browsing our blog for some informational articles!

Top Vegan Books (Full List)

8. Find Like-Minded People

Human beings are social creatures. We’re highly impacted by the people we surround ourselves with and one of the most common reasons for why vegans go back to animal products again is social pressure.

Feeling alone in your quest and having to justify, organize and explain yourself over and over again can become so tiring, and, in the end – not worth it anymore.

As much as we want to inspire not-yet-vegans to try plant-based eating for a while and take a look at the reasons behind veganism, we also want to prevent more ex-vegans.

We often hear from our readers that they don’t have any support at home from their families – which is why we highly recommend reaching out online and joining a virtual vegan group somewhere. 

A good place to start would be Facebook (you’re always welcome in our private group here) where you can search for vegan or plant-based groups – some of which might even be in your local area!

Having someone to talk to about delicious plant-based food and have the opportunity to rant, or ask for help if you’re looking for a specific product, is invaluable. There are many other platforms like Meetup to get in touch with like-minded people in real life.

After a while, you might even influence some friends or family members to try more plant-based meals and get an ally that way – who knows. Let the results speak for themselves and people will become curious at some point. We definitely are a growing movement, so let’s all connect!

9. Equip Your Kitchen

Similar to stocking up on plant-based staple foods, you should also make sure to have some basic kitchen tools at home.

From things like a cutting board, sharp knives, baking sheets, pots and a nonstick pan to a small immersion blender or personal blender, pressure cooker and spiralizer – these tools will open up a huge world of meals you can create.

No need to spend a ton of money, you can ask around if someone has a spare tool or can lend you a specific one to see if you’d become a regular user.

Sometimes, you can also get a good deal over at Amazon or other online stores if you keep an eye on an item you’d love to get. See our article below for more details!

Full List of Kitchen Tools

10. Gently Create New Habits

Be loving and kind to yourself. If you haven’t reached your goals yet or feel like you’re not doing things perfectly, don’t beat yourself up. Keep your dreams and visions in mind and work towards them, but accept where you are right now and take it step by step.

Your thoughts have a bigger impact on your perception and reality as you might think. It all just comes down to creating new habits so eating a plant-based diet feels like second nature to you.

Putting yourself down or under pressure can cause a spiral of negative beliefs and events, so don’t forget about the big scheme of things and adjust your expectations according to your own pace. When you become your biggest fan and supporter, your success is much more likely.

Go back to some of the tips above and take things meal by meal. Find some tips on creating healthy habits here and check our article below!

Stop Junk Food Cravings (Download)

11. Keep Things Fun & Exciting

Once you have dabbled in vegan waters and tried to make plant-based versions of your favorite meals, you can take it one step further. There are probably quite a few dishes you’ve never even heard of or foods you haven’t tried.

During your next visit to the supermarket, pay attention to all the different types of fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds and choose one or a few that look interesting and which you have never eaten before.

Browse the internet for ideas on how to cook amazing new meals that you can implement as a weekly dinner option.

And if you’re more of a snacky convenient type of person: so many packaged food options these days are plant-based and can be sent to your doorstep, should you not find them at your local store.

The Best Vegan Subscription Boxes & Food Deliveries

12. Make a Solid Commitment

Now that you have created a good foundation for your plant-based lifestyle, it’s time to commit. Choose a few weeks or a month during which you’ll try to put everything into action and really follow through.

Clean out your kitchen or kitchen space, have all kinds of plant-based staples on hand, keep a list with your favorite plant-based meals and snacks around, and enjoy every single bite!

Maybe following some fellow vegans on social media could give you some additional inspiration and help you feel less alone.

It’s only when you decide to make this happen that the transformation will take place and you’ll be able to recognize all of the amazing benefits of living this way.

Bonus: Free Vegan Transition eCourse!

Jumping into a 100% whole food plant-based diet overnight may work for some, but it takes a lot of improvising and willpower to stay on track. The change can be so overwhelming that many fall off the wagon after a couple of days and head back to animal products and junk food.

Of course, this is highly dependent on where you’re coming from! For example, the transition won’t be so bad if you are already on a diet that is rich in fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes.

Both our own experiences and stories from countless other people in the movement have proven time and time again that a gentle approach to changing one’s diet is much more sustainable. Because we want you to succeed and reach your personal goals, we put together a free 6-part course where we give you even more guidance and hands-on advice.

From all things vegan nutrition to the most important reasons for living vegan, a full 3-day meal plan and real-life tips – we’ve got you covered. See you on the inside!

Which of these tips have helped you move forward and include more plant-based meals into your diet? What are the areas you need to work on the most? Share with us in the comments below.

Alena enjoying a bowl of fresh plant-based food and coffe in a restaurant
Alena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.
dark grey spotted bowl with a variety of vegetables next to small bottle of green smoothie isolated on light background

Free Vegan Transition Course

become fully plant-based.

Our free transition eCourse teaches you how to meet your nutrient needs easily and create simple, tasty meals. You’ll also get a free 3-day meal plan, education on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle and how to navigate social situations.

58 thoughts on “12 Tips on How to Start a Plant-Based Diet”

  1. husband who is morbidly obese is not on board with any dietary changes and our son follows suit and turns his nose up at any veggies what so ever. I also take care of my 78 yr old mom who is set in her ways. my almost 2 yr old grandbaby loves fruit and a few veggies. I am the only one in the house who would be making this change. I have food addiction and worry about my abilty to do this although I want and need the change. I dont even know where to start. I have been reading all day and trying to take in all the info I can. I guess Im just scared of change

    Reply
  2. Hi, I have recently been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, after much research I have decided to take on a plant based diet. My support nurse is not on board and thinks it’s in healthy – I would really like to know your thoughts on this? Many thanks!

    Reply
  3. I just watched a video on YouTube by DR. William Schnoebelen called “Swallowing Big Fat Lies: Weston Price and Paleo debunked.” I just started a keto-like diet a week ago and lost 3 lbs, but now I am thinking of going the opposite way of keto. Both keto and plant based diets utilize lots of veggies and no sugar, which is probably why both can be successful for weight loss. This video has got me thinking that I should not be having oil, dairy, and meat. The video is from a bit of a biblical standpoint, but it is also backed by science, so it is convincing whether you are religious or not.

    Reply
  4. I am just starting transitioning to a plant based whole foods diet. I am doing it because the evidence is overwhelming that this is better for overall health. My question is regarding total calories for the day. You state to shoot for 2000 kcal per day which is really a lot for me. I do not want to gain weight. In fact, I need to lose between 10-15 pounds. What is your advice about maintaining and losing weight while eating this way.

    Reply
  5. I’ve been reading through some of the information on the site and through the replies and like how the information is given in a positive way. I am interested in starting a plant based diet, however the person I live with is not. Any advice on how to handle the transition when not having complete control of what is available in the house?

    Reply
  6. This is such a helpful post. I am trying to move toward a plant-based diet – I have several reasons for wanting to fo this but the biggest is that I have an ongoing cough caused by allergies. I’m not a fan of taking daily medication and to be honest, it really doesn’t do that much good. I want to see if eating a plant-based diet will make a significant difference. Many thanks.

    Reply
  7. I was on a plant based whole grain, whole food diet for almost a year despite this I had hypertension (135/88), IBS, GERD, and impaired glucose intolerance along with high fasting blood glucose (108) and reactive hypoglycemia episodes. I am also allergic to wheat, oats, soy, rice, and corn. I switched to a very Low carb (less than 20 grams of carbs per day) and no more GERD, IBS or reactive hypoglycemic episodes. Fasting blood glucose (87) and BP (115/65). ] HDL on planted based 36, and 39 on low carb. LDL 100 PB and 135 low carb. Tryglycerides 100 plant based and 80 low carb.

    Is there any hope for me to get plant based with the same results as low carb?

    Reply
  8. I watched “what the health” on netflix yesterday. I then had my partner watch it with me tonight. Thankfully he is as shocked as I am about what is happening on a global scale and more relevantly to our own friends and family.
    I am hoping to link up with like minded people who are close to us geographically to share advice, give support and help each other out. We live in NSW Australia.
    I will also be joining the courses to broaden my knowledge of a PBD.
    Is the there anyone who can offer advice or support regarding this dietry change with someone who has had WLS?
    Cheers Deb :)

    Reply
  9. I am starting the process of transitioning vegan i really want this for health reasons the red meat especially i just feel so tired and weighed down after i eat dairy and red meat especially…but! it seems so overwhelming anyone have any tricks they did to help them along with transitioning? I am doing lots of reading which is giving me much info but like i said i am just feeling overwhelmed at this point.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated as i want this more than anything.

    Reply
    • Cold turkey works for some and transitioning is best for others. I think the best thing to start with is to educate yourself about what nutrition you need to thrive, (It sounds like you have done a lot of reading already) But if not Dr Gregger is a great starting point, he has an app called the daily dozen, that is a good way to make sure you are getting everything you need, you can tick off certain food groups throughout the day. I think it is important to do it the right way so you can maintain it.
      Another great thing to do is to check out some blogs (such as this one) to read experiences and to get some recipes you will enjoy, learn a few staple dishes that fit in with your lifestyle. You can get help with free meal planner sites such as lighterworld.com, that gives you recipes and a grocery list based on your kitchen appliances, how many people you are cooking for, what foods you like and what foods you must avoid. I hope that helps Julie.

      Reply

Leave a Comment