When I first started toying around the idea of a plant-based blog, there was a very particular problem I wanted to help solve: I wanted to talk about the “no-pressure approach” to plant-based eating that’s helpful, open, and accessible.
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I didn’t want to make it about perfectionism, just about making better choices with what we have.
As mentioned in an earlier blog post about how I changed my eating habits, I also mentioned the shift in food trends. The term “plant-based” might still be walking in the shadows of “veganism” and “vegetarianism,” but I wouldn’t doubt it’s growing popularity.
According to Google Trends, the term “plant-based” started picking up traction late 2011. It has been on a steady incline since then, with a peak in July 2017. Needless to say, we’re all a little curious about it.
This new challenge of navigating the world of plant-based eating can get complicated fast. Just a quick search on Google and you’re being pulled into an never-ending wheel of what-you-should-or-shouldn’t-do content.
But I want to make it easier. Here are my no-frills guide to going plant-based:
Do What You Can
Be realistic about the goals you can achieve – considering your budget, dietary needs, and access. You can transition slowly. That pressure you’re feeling to be the perfect plant-based eater? Toss it. Do the best you can, whenever you can.
Start Jotting Down What Works
You know those recipes you like? Start to bookmark them and find similar recipes out there. Some base recipes can also help open a door to other cooking ideas. For example, a simple bean burger can be a great base to tacos, burritos, or rice bowls. Learned how awesome vegan ice cream is? Take those bananas and make other desserts out of them.
Join A Local Plant-Based Community
Whether that’s through a local MeetUp, or an online community, find a community that can help you with getting started on a plant-based diet. Although blogs and articles can be helpful, it’s also nice to hear from a variety of voices who have their own tips & tricks to eating healthy on a budget.
Write Out A Grocery List
There are a lot of options in the produce aisle, but take it easy. Grab your grocery list and buy what you came for. If you spot something on sale and in season – experiment. However, if you’re striving to eat plant-based on a budget, make calculated purchases and think about the foods you’d like to prepare for the week.
Start Reading The Ingredients List
This is totally not a hard rule, nor do I want it to be. But, it’s important to start getting familiar with food labels and the ingredients list when transitioning to a plant-based diet. Ideally, you’ll want to purchase foods that contain a single, or a few ingredients.
The produce aisle is usually the sweet spot for all things one-ingredient. For example, apples, oranges, kale, spinach, and broccoli are all considered one-ingredient foods.
The reason why reading the ingredients list is important is because it’ll tell you all of the food items that are included in what you’re purchasing. This is essential if you’re choosing to omit certain ingredients or have an allergy. There are a quite a bit of sneaky ingredients in foods that you’ll discover once you start getting into the habit of reading the back of a food item.
Additionally, food labels can help you compare one food with the other. Which is something I do often. For example, if I am not sure which brand of beans I want to purchase, I look through the ingredients list to see if there are any additional ingredients I don’t need or want.
Find Alternatives To Your Favorite Junk Foods
This is a subject that is dear and near to my plant-based heart. Although I am not much of a snacker or a junk food eater, there are certain foods that I still often think about. I try my best to find alternatives or to make it at home, so I atleast know what’s going into it.
For example, I love french fries, so throw them in the oven and bake them.
Last night I went a little wild for pancakes, so I made a stack of gluten-free oat bran pancakes. Did I go a little heavy on the maple syrup? Yes, but I am trying here!
Get Creative And Experiment
Don’t be afraid of experimenting in the kitchen – that’s how all great recipes are created. View recipes as a base, but add or omit, depending on what you have or what you’re going for. Pinterest is a great search engine for food ideas.
Make It A Challenge
Turn plant-based eating into a challenge. This will help you slowly get into the plant-based rhythm and make you feel good about your success. A great way to challenge yourself can be with a Meatless Monday challenge. Or, get a group of friends together to cook up your favorite non-plant-based dishes and transform them into healthy, whole-food dishes.
Give Yourself A Break
If you want to have a slice of cake at a birthday party, or grandma wants you to eat her world-famous pie – then have it. Likewise, if you just want to introduce more vegetables into your diet, while still enjoying fish from time-to-time, go for it.
Sometimes, drastic changes can tempt us to binge or give up quickly. The best approach is the slow and steady approach.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Long story short, be kind to yourself and acknowledge the progress you’re making on your plant-based journey. You’re making better choices and that’s something to be proud of.
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