Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet
Back in 1980, Cornell University biochemist Thomas Colin Campbell coined the term “plant-based.” He wanted to promote a healthy diet that wasn’t laden with ethical or strict food guidelines often associated with vegan or vegetarian eating. Today, Campbell has refined the term to “whole food plant-based diet.”
If you have noticed plant-based diets springing up everywhere, as well as the often-touted health benefits, you may wonder how you can start. Here are some simple tips to get you on the road to nutritious, plant-based eating.
Start with simple switches. Instead of setting a date and going meatless suddenly, you’ll likely find more success with gradual change. Begin with trades like avoiding enriched breads and opting for whole grain, foregoing starchy non-nutritious pastas for veggie-based types and scrapping soft drinks for infused water. If this is a steep climb, then don’t do a total change over. Just try a few healthy substitutions for your usual fare.
Update family favorites as plant-based recipes. Try tacos prepared with cauliflower shells, stuffed with beans, rice and assorted grilled veggies. Enjoy chili featuring your choice of beans, chopped walnuts, and puréed carrots and sweet potatoes. Instead of spaghetti with ground beef and Italian sausage, use a marinara sauce with plant-based meatballs consisting of brown rice, quinoa or chickpeas plus the usual spices. By starting from a family fave, the recipe will feature a familiar base that’s more likely to appeal to their palates.
Scour magazines and websites for appealing plant-based recipes. Find a few that sound particularly tasty and simple to prepare, and experiment. Expect to tweak new recipes a bit for your family’s preferences until you find a winning combination.
Before ordering delivery or take-out food, be sure to go online and see what vegetarian or vegan options they list. Many restaurants today have symbols on their menus to indicate such options. If you don’t see any, make a call ahead of time to see what they can do for you. Often plant-based alternatives aren’t listed but are readily available upon request.
Take it slowly. Start with maybe one meatless meal a week for the first month, then try for one plant-based meal a day. That may be the comfort zone for your family, and that’s fine. Or if it’s a hit, you may find your family transitions to mostly plant-based eating every day.