How to Start a Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet and Make Irresistible Meals
Follow my free guidelines to learn six crucial insights that’ll give you the motivation and confidence to prepare balanced and optimal plant-based meals, full of flavor, and yum appeal.
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So here we are…
You want to get healthy, you want to lose weight naturally, or you just want to live well into the future.
That’s why you have a strong interest in the plant-based eating lifestyle. Maybe you already eat this way or maybe you’re new to it.
Whatever your situation, you have good reasons to be attracted to the lifestyle.
But you want to do it well. You want to eat in an optimal and successful way.
And let’s not forget, you want your healthy foods to be uber tasty too.
I have great news for you. You’re in the right place.
I’ve prepared a little training that will give you all the nutritional wisdom and the tools to make sure you’re on the right track.
If you are already a wise plant-based eater, this will be a great refresher or, who knows, you might learn a thing or two. If you’re curious about the lifestyle or want to start a plant-based diet, welcome to the adventure!
My mission is to help you achieve lifelong radiant health. This blog is dedicated to sharing mouthwatering plant-based recipes and clever culinary tips.
You’ll be accessing my plant-based diet course where you’ll have all the basic information to get started right away. If you find the information to be useful, you want to commit to the diet, and you’d like to get more juicy information — which I only share by email — you can then subscribe to my mailing list at the end of this training.
So let’s get started on how to eat an optimal plant-based diet (you’ll see what I mean by “optimal” shortly).
Why Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Something is terribly wrong with the standard American diet.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010 estimates:
- 59 percent of our calories come from refined and processed plant foods
- 30 percent, from animal foods
- 11 percent, from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
The question is, in that 11%, how many calories come from french fries?
Yeah, seriously! There’s a good number of people that say they eat their vegetables based solely on that fact. Some say this number amounts to 6%. If that’s the case, this lowers the calorie count coming from health-promoting fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
There’s a good reason why lots of health promoters abbreviate the Standard American Diet to S.A.D. It’s a SAD diet indeed. A SAD diet consisting of almost zero fibers and highly saturated fats — the most coming in animal-based foods and highly processed foods.
A diet high in animal-based and highly processed foods promotes diseases and obesity. It is highly inflammatory.
But many of these diseases can be prevented, halted, and often reversed by eating a whole, plant-based diet. A plant-based diet has been shown to:
- Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
- Reverse or prevent cardiovascular and heart disease
- Prevent and reverse obesity
- Prevent osteoporosis
- Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
- Slow the progression of certain types of cancer
- Improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Decelerate cellular aging
- Increase life span
- Improve overall quality of life
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
In a plant-based diet, you get a load of heath-boosting agents, such as:
1. Vitamins and phytonutrients
Phytonutrients give fruits and vegetables their beautiful colors. There are thousands of them, and science is still discovering new ones. Some common phytonutrients include flavonoids (polyphenols), carotenoids, and chlorophyll.
Many phytonutrients serve as antioxidants and may have a role in enhancing the immune system and preventing cancer and other chronic diseases.
2. Better digestion, assimilation, and elimination
Good digestion is very important to good health. Digestion means the ability to assimilate the nutrients that you’re eating and to eliminate waste. The simple carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables are also readily used as fuel for the body.
Fruits and vegetables are great for elimination because they are high in fiber. They also take less time in your digestive tract, which improves digestion.
3. Good fats
Today, we know that a diet containing a small amount of good fats can be healthy. The “good fats” include mono-unsaturated fats, present in avocados, almonds, and olives, and Omega-3 fatty acids, which we now know are present in fish. But fish isn’t the only food that contains them.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also present in flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts.
The bad fats include trans-fats (such as in margarine, shortening, and many packaged snack foods), saturated animal fat, and refined polyunsaturated fats, such as refined cooking oils.
4. More hydration
Our bodies are about 70% water, and so are raw fruits and vegetables. Staying well hydrated is important to feeling energized, and many people who feel tired a lot don’t realize that they are mildly dehydrated. Additionally, a high-water content diet is lower in caloric density, which aids in weight loss and weight maintenance.
Even though we should still drink plenty of water, consuming a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and thus a water-rich diet, will keep you well-hydrated.
5. Acid-alkaline balance
Our blood needs to be slightly alkaline on the pH scale for us to survive. When the diet is too acidic, the body has to work harder to maintain the correct pH. This can cause the body to draw alkaline minerals from the bones, leading to osteoporosis.
Processed food, too much animal protein, sugar, pollution, and stress can all be acid-forming. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables are highly alkalizing.
Sounds good, right?
In other words, your diet needs to be nutrient-rich. It needs to have optimal nutritional content.
But what does an optimal plant-based diet look like?
What is an Optimal Plant-Based Diet Exactly?
An optimal plant-based diet is centered on whole, fresh, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on leafy greens, vegetables of all kinds (sea vegetables, colored vegetables, and starchy vegetables), fruits, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.
It is based on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Nutritiarian-style diet. An optimal plant-based diet is designed to maximally support health and longevity with the following characteristics:
1. It is nutrient-dense: high in micronutrients per calorie. It achieves this with increased consumption of nutrient-rich plants, such as greens, fruits (especially berries), nuts and seeds, and other colored produce.
2. It is hormonally favorable: avoids excess hormones, especially the ones found in animal products, that can promote fat storage, premature aging, and cancer.
3. It is comprehensively adequate: uses supplements (when deemed necessary).
4. It avoids toxins: avoids foods containing toxins, carcinogens, infectious agents, and other contaminants that can contribute to food-related morbidity and mortality.
It also puts the emphasis on using food preparation techniques to protect or increase the nutrient density, such as steaming, fermenting, soaking, etc, when possible.
You don’t have to eat 100% vegan to adopt an optimal plant-based diet.
Of course, 80-90% of plant foods would be ideal. But anyone can enjoy improved health and vitality by eating at least 50% of plant foods (cooked foods and raw foods combined).
So, an optimal plant-based diet can be flexitarian (containing animal products on rare occasions), vegetarian (containing animal by-products like dairy and eggs but in limited amounts), or be vegan (containing no animal products at all).
An optimal plant-based diet is not about deprivation. It’s about enjoying the foods that nature has to offer in their optimum form.
What to Eat on an Optimal Plant-Based Diet?
You might be wondering if you’ll starve on such a diet. Or that you’ll lack variety.
Let me assure you, you certainly won’t.
There are plenty of foods to choose from in an optimal plant-based diet. The following list is taken from the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) score, developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It is grouped in food categories and ordered from the highest nutrient density score to the lowest — based on identified phytochemicals, antioxidant activity, and total vitamin and mineral content.
10 Plant-Based Food Groups to Boost Your Health
Dark green leafy vegetables
kale*, mustard greens*, collard greens*, watercress*, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula*
Other green vegetables
bok choy*, romaine lettuce, Brussel sprouts*, cabbage*, broccoli*, asparagus, string beans, alfalfa sprouts, radish sprouts*, other sprouts, snow peas, green peas
chlorella, dulse, nori, wakame
Non-green nutrient-rich vegetables
carrots, cauliflower, red and yellow bell peppers, radicchio, mushrooms, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplants, onions, radishes*, bean sprouts, beets
strawberries, blackberries, pomegranate, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, plums, melons, oranges, peaches, pineapples, apples, pears, mangos, avocados, bananas
Beans and legumes
bean sprouts, lentils, beans (fava, kidney, great northern, adzuki, mung, black, pinto), black-eyed peas, split peas, chickpeas, edamame
Raw nuts and seeds
Brazil nuts, sunflower, chia, hemp, sesame, flax, pumpkin, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews
Colorful or light whole starchy vegetables
turnips*, butternut and other squashes, sweet potatoes, corn, yam
Whole grains and pseudo-cereals
old-fashioned oats, barley, wild rice and brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, bulgur
Note: You can download my cute chart when you subscribe to my mailing list at the end of this training.
The foods followed by an asterisk mean they’re part of the cruciferous family — the most nutritious foods on the planet. The ones in pink mean they scored at 1000 points, the ultimate scoring. Again, these are :
kale*, mustard greens*, collard greens*, watercress*, and turnips*
Do you notice anything? They all have an asterisk. Yes, they’re all part of the cruciferous family.
Cruciferous vegetables have the most powerful anti-cancer effects of all foods.
So how much of each group should you eat?
According to Dr. Micheal Greger, the author of How Not to Die, this is his recommendation:
Dark green leafy vegetables and other green vegetables (1 serving/day)
1 cup raw
½ cup cooked
½ cup chopped
1/4 cup Brussels or broccoli sprouts
1 tablespoon horseradish
Sea vegetables, non-green nutrient-rich vegetables and colorful starchy vegetables (2 servings/day)
½ cup raw or cooked
½ cup vegetable juice
¼ dried mushrooms
Fruits (3 servings/day)
½ cup fresh or frozen berries
⅓ cup dried berries1 medium-sized fruit1 cup cut-up fruit
¼ cup dried fruits
Beans and legumes (3 servings/day)
¼ cup hummus or bean dip
½ cup cooked beans, split peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh
1 cup fresh peas
Nuts and seeds (1 serving/day)
¼ cup nuts or seeds
2 tablespoons nut or seed butter
Whole grains (3 servings/day)
½ cup hot cereal or cooked grains
1 tortilla or slice of whole bread
½ bagel or English muffin
2 cups popped corn
Look at that! You can even enjoy some healthy “junk food” like popcorn. You see? No deprivation at all.
All right, now you know what and much to eat. But how do you make sure you don’t fall off the wagon?
13 Steps to Stick to an Optimal Plant-Based Diet Successfully
So you learned about all the foods you can eat on an optimal plant-based diet.
But sometimes it can be hard to maintain a plant-based diet. What does it take to stick to it?
Here’s a strong guide to go about it.
1. Build a strong foundation
Think about it. You can’t build a mega tall skyscraper without a solid foundation.
You can guarantee yourself great success if you have one, or else, you are doomed to failure.
What is your true motivation? Start with the why. Envision your potential reality.
Instead of thinking about losing weight, preventing illness, or maintaining your health, why not think about wanting to have a fulfilling life?
2. Acquire education
Knowledge is power, but it’s what you do with the knowledge that makes you powerful.
A comprehensive education on nutrition is necessary to achieve significant success. You don’t have to reach Ph. D status. You just need to learn about different concepts.
The more you understand the subject, the more you “own” it.
Learning nutrition is not only offered in academic institutions; a lot of professionals make nutrition education very accessible.
So get educated with: books, videos, seminars and conferences, or cooking classes… Once you get the knowledge and the skills, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
3. Get equipped
You need the right arsenal to eat a plant-based diet. This includes healthy ingredients, kitchen tools and appliances, and apps.
Healthy ingredients are the base to feeding yourself properly. Kitchen tools and appliances will help you create various and interesting shapes and textures and speed up the preparation time. Apps will help you keep everything in check.
So to get started on the right foot…
1) Revamp your kitchen by stocking your pantry with staple whole food ingredients and cleaning out processed and packaged foods.
2) Hook up your kitchen with good quality tools and appliances, e.g. cutting knife, high-powered blender, etc.
3) Monitor your eating habits with nutrition tracking apps, like Cronometer, meal planning apps, etc.
4. Anticipate and tackle challenging situations
Think of all the potential obstacles that can prevent you from reaching your goal and circumvent them with thought out strategies. Have tricks up your sleeve so you don’t have any excuses to fall off the wagon.
On the go? Prepare simple and ready-to-go foods. On a budget? Buy seasonal ingredients or in bulk. Tempted at work? Bring rival and rocking snacks.
Take your time to make a list of all the different places and times in your life where you need to be alert and ready to tackle a challenge. Then substitute them with clever solutions or pleasant activities.
5. Have a game plan
Think of how you want to go about eating a plant-based diet. Do you want to dip your toe in first? Go step-by-step? Go cold turkey? In my mind, the best way is to go is to do it gradually.
But the most important thing is to find your rhythm and follow it steadily.
Once you know your game plan, you’ll find it easier to achieve your goals.
Here are some ideas:
1) Start with one meal a day. Breakfast is the easiest meal to start with since you control your environment and it doesn’t take long to prepare. Opt for green smoothies, juices, fresh fruits, granola with nut milk, etc.
2) Go plant-based for a whole day, e.g. Meatless Mondays. A typical day can be the choices mentioned above for breakfast, a green salad, veggie bowl, veggie wrap, or nutritious soup for lunch and dinner.
3) Eat half of your daily calories with whole plant-based ingredients.
Choose which part of the day or which day you want to focus on and plan your meals accordingly.
6. Take action
A good plan of action is useless without real action.
So implement the above ideas.
Here’s another set of actions you can take gradually to transition to an optimal plant-based diet more easily.
I call it the ASL formula: Add-Substitute-Limit.
1) Add. Add portions of greens to your traditional meals.
2) Substitute. Transform your favorite meals to an OPB versions
3) Limit. Reduce or eliminate animal-based and processed foods.
Whichever way you do it, just do it!
7. Persevere fiercely
Review your foundation regularly. Remind yourself why you’re doing it. Repeat it over and over again.
In so doing, you change your subconscious mind. You help build new neural pathways in your brain to change your habits. You reinforce your desire and your goals to achieve success.
And success is achieved through perseverance.
You may have some setbacks, but that’s okay. Remember that failures are opportunities to learn. Ask yourself why you got off track and do better next time. Don’t beat yourself up, just keep on going.
Applaud yourself for starting in the first place and celebrate your mini-successes.
You’ll notice that by preserving, you’ll gain confidence and will be more immune to failures.
8. Surround yourself with like-minded people
You’ve heard that two heads are better than one, right? Well, it’s true. The intelligence of a group can exceed that of its members if the right conditions are met.
When you surround yourself with people who are caring, knowledgeable, experienced, and ready to help you, you raise your chances of success. You work in a harmonious way to achieve your goal.
Find like-minded people by going to meet-ups or conferences, attending healthy cooking classes, joining associations and groups offline and online, etc.
9. Energize yourself
As human beings, we need stimulants to stay energized. We need enthusiasm to become highly motivated. When you are stimulated, your brain is flooded with neurotransmitters, like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, that energize you physiologically.
To energize yourself positively, get support from your loved ones, listen to music while you cook, read inspiring stories, find an accountability partner, join a group, serve a cause (environmental or ethical), etc.
In other words, find your “drug”, your sources of stimulation that will activate your actions.
10. Have a positive attitude
Positive thinking can have a great impact on your reality. It opens your world to new opportunities and possibilities. You become more creative in finding ways to stay on top of things and develop new skills and tactics.
Whereas when you’re stressed, angry, or afraid — all negative emotions —, you close yourself to finding new options and solutions to overcome obstacles.
Positive thinking or optimism includes positive emotions like desire, faith, love, joy, enthusiasm, tenderness, hope, gratitude, pride, interest, amusement, and awe, which guide behavior in the moment and make you more resilient.
11. Embrace other healthy habits
Diet is a key factor in human health, but there are many more important aspects to optimal health, like exercise, sunshine, good sleep, proper breathing, and stress management. These also nourish your mind and keep you in constant movement.
Most importantly, they keep you grounded and help you stay in the present moment day after day.
Meditate, write, play, practice mindfulness, spend time with the ones you love, seek out cultural activities… In other words, take care of yourself. These activities are all part of increasing your overall health.
12. Listen to your body
An important aspect of taking care of yourself is being connected with yourself. Everybody is made differently so, although it’s good to listen to experts, listening to yourself should come before anybody else. If you feel like something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t.
It might be that you’re not digesting a food properly, that you’re feeling weak, or that your hair is thinning (nightmare).
Remember that you don’t have to be 100% this or that. Make readjustments in your diet if you have to and find the best diet that corresponds to your individual needs.
There’s not much to say in this last step but to…
Be dedicated and don’t give up.
I’m on a mission to help you eat nutrient-dense, easy, and mouth-watering plant-based meals so you can feel energized, well-equipped, and confident to eat and cook better.