Plant based diets…Seems relatively straight forward, but for many it can be an overwhelming challenge of completely revamping ones lifestyle. Not to fear! Plant based diets are what humans have thrived on for thousands of years and it includes countless benefits to your health, the environment and animal welfare. In this age, finding completely plant based recipes to satisfy your cravings are all over the internet and I can promise you that you’ll find something to combat your “need” for dairy and other animal products. So whether it be for the positive influences plant based diets have on our planet, the suffering of factory farmed animals or for your personal health, I want to help you transition successfully into consuming completely plant based!
I do however encourage you to seriously consider the ethical standards and environmental impacts consuming animal products has on our planet before making a transition to a plant based diet as it can keep you motivated in the long-term. If you are interested in watching some seriously motivating documentaries or reading through some news articles, send me a message and I’d be so incredibly excited to help you out! But if you’re not, that’s okay too, hopefully some of my tips can assist you with your transition.
What is a plant based diet?
A plant based diet focuses on consuming whole, minimally refined plants. Vegetables, fruits, tubers, whole grains and legumes help make up a plant based diet whereas meats (including seafood), eggs, dairy products, bleached white flours, white sugar and oils do not. Now, reading that and jumping straight into a plant based diet will not be the best tactic. As complicated or as simple as that sounded to you, I assure you that you will be able to enjoy food items and recipes that were very similar to what you were eating before, just all plant based! But again, not to worry, I will be listing some of my favourite simple, delicious and healthy recipes to help make your transition a breeze.
Why bother eating a plant based diet?
Veggies are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and high fibre contents to keep your body a healthy and happy one!
Plant based diets can help to avoid developing diseases of affluence such as obesity or high blood pressure.
Animal products are incredibly acid-forming which leads to loss of bone density, however, plant based products are alkalizing which drives the formation and development of strong and healthy bones.
Plant based foods contain ZERO cholesterol, where as animal products such as eggs and hamburgers are loaded with it. This provides us with a simple and natural way to lower high cholesterol levels.
Eating a low-fat and whole food diet is one of the best ways to help keep you cancer free. Animal products have been linked to cancers, especially breast and colon cancer and given that breast cancer rates have gone up 30% since 1975 in women and men (reference Breastcancerfund.org), steering clear of animal products and transitioning to a plant based diet can potentially have a major positive influence on your health.
Weight loss naturally occurs when one consumes more fibre, vitamins and minerals than animal products and byproducts, so generally within the first two weeks of eating plant based, individuals tend to lose up to 5 pounds.
So let’s get into the transition! Making a major change in your life always comes with difficulties, so be prepared to face upcoming challenges with an open mind and a positive, optimistic attitude.
After doing some hunting online, I’ve gathered that there are generally 2 ways to go about transitioning to a total plant based diet.
If the idea of getting rid of everything you’re familiar with in your fridge sounds terrifying, this could be for you! If you’re currently eating all meats along with a variety of yummy veggies, think of what type of meat you eat the least of and cut it completely out of your diet. This will make for such an easy transition you’ll be laughing about it. If you love chicken, then let it stick around in your meals until you’ve cut out all seafood and fish. From there, begin to cut out various single items every week, two weeks or two months. The pace is up to you, but set something for yourself that you know you’ll be able to handle so you don’t fall back into your old ways.
Once you have made the complete transition to a vegetarian diet (no animals or seafood), it’s time to focus in on dairy. At first, try to seriously reduce your dairy intake for 4-5 days of the week. Then begin to cut it out completely for 4-10 days. Since dairy products cause some of the worst damage to our bodies you’ll be able to feel a difference once you eliminate them from your diet especially after 30 days. While eliminating various food items be sure to add in more plant based products to your diet. Whether that’s adding in leafy greens to your morning omelette or drinking a green smoothie (no dairy!!) every evening, begin to incorporate the foods that you’ll soon eat exclusively. Leave the products like honey to the end as they tend to be the easiest of switches. Swap that teaspoon of honey in your morning tea with a teaspoon of agave and voila!!!
2. Dive right in
If number 1 didn’t seem right for you, this way might be your way! If you’re the type of person to throw everything you got at something… then diving right in to consuming a plant based diet may be your best way to “transition”. Set a date and go right ahead. Do read through some of my tips above though, to have an idea of what you’re getting into.
Now I’ve listed the benefits and gave tips on transitioning, but shopping, planning meals and cooking for a plant based diet also requires some knowledge. So let’s get into that.
This list is copied right off of my personal grocery list… so let’s hope you find it somewhat helpful. Most items listed here are organic. For me I always choose the organic/Fair Trade option first and then go for the non-organic stuff if there is no other choice. Also.. remember your bags!!!
These are just some ideas of what to purchase for fresh produce. If you’re more fond of other veggies or fruits grab those instead (just not potatoes). If you’re never home and are worried about things going bad, then purchase more frozen organic fruits and veggies instead, they’ll be perfect for morning smoothies.
2 bunches Fair trade/organic bananas *they sell these at Vita Health*
12 Organic apples
Organic medjool dates *also sold in bulk at Vita Health*
1 bag chopped kale/spinach
Head of cauliflower or broccoli
Zucchini or eggplant
2 cloves garlic
Remember to bring your reusable cloth bags for bulk stuff (If you’re looking to find these, we have two great options available at Generation Green)
Quinoa (rainbow, white.. whatever floats your boat, *we sell organic quinoa here at Generation Green*
Raw almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds *also find at organic at Generation Green*
Beans or legumes
Sesame seeds *also find at organic at Generation Green*
If you’d rather purchase some of the above items in cans or larger quantity packaged bags, feel free! Do however check out the packaging and opt for the most recyclable/compostable option.
1 Bag of gluten-free, GMO free oats *try Adagio Acres here at Generation Green*
2 cans of organic chickpeas
1 bag of organic, raw flaxseed
1 carton of non-dairy unsweetened milk (almond or hemp) *find at organic at Generation Green*
Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts *also find at organic at Generation Green*
Goji berries *also find at organic at Generation Green*
Gluten, oil free bread and vegan bread (optional)
Fair Trade ceylon cinnamon *find that here at Generation Green*
I’ll list a few key ones that have worked out best for me, but sites like One Green Planet and Forks Over Knives have some wicked delicious recipes that you can always check out.
The easy option here is a smoothie of some sort. My dear friend and co-worker Savannah makes a smoothie of 6 bananas or 10-15 dates every morning, and since both of these things are loaded with potassium, fibre and other essential nutrients it’s a great way to easily digest something to help keep you going until your next meal. If that’s not your thing, combine greens, berries, bananas and some non-dairy milk for your smoothie
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tbsp. sunflower seeds
1 tbsp. Hemp Hearts
1 tbsp. goji berries
With your breakfast, have a glass of hot lemon water instead of a cup of caffeinated coffee to help get things moving.
Spinach & Kale salad
2 cups of greens
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 of a mashed avocado
1 tbsp. Hemp Hearts
1/4 cup almonds or cashews
1 can chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. non-dairy milk
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
Add garlic cloves to a food processor until finely minced. Add in drained chickpeas and continue to pulse until finely chopped.
Add in all other ingredients and pulse until mixture is completely smooth.
Salt and pepper to taste, feel free to add paprika or top with fresh herbs.
Thinly sliced eggplant
2 tbsp oil-free hummus
palm sized handful of greens
Roast or fry two thinly sliced pieces of eggplant.
Spread a layer of hummus over each slice of eggplant, add your greens and top with sprouts. Feel free to salt and pepper to taste.
1-2 cups of cooked quinoa
1 cup of blueberries
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup of sliced dates
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup beans
Cook quinoa and chill for 20-40 minutes
Add in all other ingredients to your cold quinoa, feel free to add in some balsamic vinegar for extra flavour.
1-2 organic apples
3 tbsp. ground ceylon cinnamon
Cube the apples, or cut in half
Add your cinnamon
Bake in your oven or microwave until warm
Like I said before, there are thousands of plant based recipes out there online, and these few that I have suggested are just some of the things that I repeat constantly. Find what works easiest for you and stick to a few key recipes throughout your journey. I wish you the best of luck with your transition and remember to preserve through your challenges!
Article written by Dallas Gillingham