Beginning a whole food plant based diet can be a daunting and overwhelming prospect if you are used to eating the Standard American Diet. But really, it can be easy if you keep it simple – especially in the beginning.
I know when I first began trying to eat WFPB several years ago, I gave up after 3 months, even though I had lost weight and was feeling great! I was trying to make it too complicated and felt like I had to be perfect all the time. NO! Making changes takes time and you have to go easy on yourself. Just do what you can and then do a little more and keep it simple!
Here are 5 tips to help get you started.
1. Start with swaps
Start with swapping out your refined grains for the whole grain version. One of the big differences between being vegan and whole food plant based, is that vegans just avoid meat & dairy, while those eating wfpb eat the whole, unprocessed foods. In this way, a vegan could still be compliant by eating white rice, white bread, and even Oreos, but that is clearly not healthy.
It is really easy to find whole grain versions of just about everything that you eat these days at any grocery stores.
Whole intact grains are so much more nutritious and have much more fiber. The majority of Americans do NOT get enough fiber in their diet.
Make sure that the breads & tortillas say 100% whole grain and that is the first ingredients. If it says, enriched wheat flour that is NOT whole grain – even if they tried to add some of the fiber back in, it isn’t the same and doesn’t contain all the nutrients like whole grain does.
Be careful to read the back of the package and choose the one without added oils and low salt and sugar content.
Here are some simple swaps to get you started
- Instead of white rice –
- brown rice, wild rice, black rice, red rice, or quinoa
- Instead of white pasta –
- 100% whole grain pasta or bean pastas like chickpea, soybean, black bean, brown rice and others
- Instead of white breads –
- 100% whole grain bread & 100% whole grain pitas
- Instead of white tortillas –
- 100% whole grain tortillas & whole grain yellow corn tortillas
- Instead of quick oats –
- steel cut oats & old fashioned oatmeal
- Instead of sugary breakfast cereals –
- choose whole grain & no added sugars like Cheerios (original only), Grape Nuts (not flakes), Post Shredded Wheat (unsweetened), and Ezekiel Brand Cereals.
Switch to Plant Milk
It’s also very easy to switch to a plant milk instead of cow’s milk. There are so many delicious varieties and brands. Unsweetened soy or almond milks are my favorite and I try to choose the ones that have added Vitamin B12.
There are also vegan cheeses that you could use to make a vegan pizza without mozzarella cheese.
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2. Learn how to make your favorite dishes plant based
What are your favorite recipes and how could you change them up to make them whole food plant based? Spaghetti marinara is super easy! Use whole grain or bean pasta, add a marinara sauce and any chopped veggies and you have an easy meal!
Instead of meat tacos, you can use a couple cans of beans and the same spices to make vegan tacos. Load up on the veggie toppings and use whole grain flour or whole grain corn tortillas.
Want to make a WFPB Lasagna? Check out this Spinach Lasagna recipe to teach you how to make a tofu ricotta.
Make a simple, LARGE salad and just leave off the meat and cheese. Instead of oil based dressings, use fat free or just some Balsamic Vinegar. Add lots of colorful veggies & beans for a very filling salad.
Do you like Peanut Butter Cookies as much as I do? Here is a great whole food plant based recipe so you can still enjoy your dessert with no guilt! Click here for the Peanut Butter Cookies recipe made with lentils and sweetened with dates.
3. Search Pinterest for recipes
Pinterest is the BEST place to find so many healthy vegan recipes. There are more and more whole food plant based bloggers who post their recipes to Pinterest.
However, some vegan recipes may not be whole food plant based, so be sure to read the ingredients. Oil is also a processed food and not on a whole food plant based diet, so you will need to learn how to cook without oil. It’s really easy actually – you can saute with broth or water instead. Use parchment paper or silicone pans for baking to release foods easily.
Need dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less with ingredients you already have in your pantry?
4. Don’t rely on “vegan junk food”
Going from meat based junk food to vegan based junk food is not really that much of a change. Vegan processed food is still loaded with oil, sugar, and salt. Stay away from or limit vegan chicken nuggets, vegan hot dogs, vegan mayo, etc. You want to focus on eating real, whole foods. Tofu is minimally processed and very healthy!
There are some bean burger patties that are ok to eat, but not many. Read the labels and make sure you know what all the ingredients are. If it sounds like a chemical, then it is highly processed. If all the ingredients are whole foods or spices, then it is safe. Again, check for added oils – they need to be extremely low (less than 10% calories) or better yet – none at all. You also don’t want a bunch of added sugar or high sodium content.
You need to stick to whole fresh or frozen foods that have not been processed and not had oil, sugar, or salt added to them. Herbs & spices become the flavorings and low sodium vegetable broth for soups. Have no idea how to do that? Read on to number 5!
5. Read books & watch documentaries to learn the all the research-based science
Since this diet style is new for you, you will need to learn as much as you can, without getting overwhelmed. It can be very daunting to change to a whole food plant based diet at first! Especially when it feels like everything you have ever learned is wrong!
Read books like Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman or Undo It! by Dr. Ornish to teach you the science and basics of eating whole food plant based. There are SO many great doctors and whole food plant based programs. They are all mostly similar, but have a few differences. However, at the end of the day its all about eating more plants and less or no meat, dairy, and processed food. Other, great books are Dr. Esselstyn’s “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” and Dr. Greger’s “How Not to Die”.
I also especially enjoyed “The China Study” by Dr. Colin T. Campbell – I’ve read the book AND listened to the audiobook on a recent road trip. After reading the China Study, it inspired me to complete my Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate through Cornell University and Dr. Campbell’s Nutrition Studies program, which I just finished and learned so much!
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