Are you ready to take back your health? All the data and science tell us that a whole foods plant-based diet is the way to go. I personally can attest to the life-changing impact whole food plant-based diet has had on my life. I have lost over 50 lbs., lowered my blood pressure, and improved my lipid blood panels to levels of which I have never seen. Beyond those life-changing measurables, I just feel better, it’s that simple. If you are curious about exploring a plant-based diet but are not sure what to do, here are a few simple ideas to get started.
1. Take inventory of where you are at. What are the measurables that you look to improve? Do you need to lose weight? How about lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure? Feeling sluggish? Are you pre-diabetic or have been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes? All of the above-mentioned categories are serious reasons to reconsider your diet and overall health. Obviously, the current diet isn’t working and I can tell you from experience that you won’t find a better option to cure all of the above than a whole foods plant-based diet. Once you have your measurables, you can begin to take notice of how your diet is helping you. Too many people step on the scale and use their weight as the only way to determine if a diet is helping. We are programmed to think that short-term weight loss success is the measure of a good diet. Unfortunately, that usually leads to frustration and the beginning of diet hopping or yo-yo dieting.
2. Before you start incorporating more plants, analyze how animal products and processed foods are currently impacting your diet. Track a week of eating. What animal products are in each meal? How about animal products in your drinks? Even coffee creamer can have an influence. When I began my plant-based journey, I couldn’t believe how many foods contain animal products. Usually, this meant added fats and ingredients that made the food even more unhealthy. Once you have a good idea about how your current diet revolves around animal products, you can begin to think about how to replace these products with plant-based solutions. More details soon.
3. Now you are ready to make the leap. Begin by educating yourself. There are a plethora of books on amazon to help you. Also, a quick search on Youtube or TikTok can really help. I highly recommend watching “What the Health” and “Gamechangers” on Netflix. If you are an athlete and worried about protein and performance “Gamechangers” is definitely worth the watch. I also suggest following Dan Buettner on Instagram. Dan is an author and researcher of Blue Zones. Blue Zones are areas in the world that have the longest living people. He studies and provides analysis on their diet, behavior, lifestyle, etc. Guess what is the majority of the diets in the Blue Zones? Yup, mostly plants.
4. So you are all in but not sure how to even start. Here is the biggest key. Start really small. I started with changing my coffee creamer. It was a small win but switching to oat milk or soy half-and-half was a major step for me. Next, choose to have more salads. Maybe just a small salad at each meal. Don’t overthink it, through some sort of lettuce, chickpeas, cut up veggies, and sprinkle some oil and vinegar dressing. Stay away from animal-based dressings. They have TONS of calories and are so unhealthy. The biggest thing in step 4 is don’t beat yourself up and don’t make it super challenging either. Early on you have to slowly transition like any major change or you will get overwhelmed. You will make mistakes. It is okay. Understand it is a process that will take time to figure out.
5. As you gain momentum, it’s time to reimagine your entire day of eating. How can you swap out what you were eating and have it all replaced with as many whole food plant-based meals? That takes some figuring out and is a little different for everyone. Here’s a before and after example of my old diet vs. new diet day of eating:
Old Diet: Breakfast – 2 cups of coffee with flavored international delights sugar-free creamer. On weekends I would have eggs, bacon, toast with butter. Lunch – Leftovers from past nights. Typically some sort of chicken breast with a sauce of some sort, rice or potatoes. Dinner: Some sort of meat (chicken, steak, turkey), carb source of some sort with an animal-based flavoring plus a salad or vegetable.
New Diet: Breakfast – 2 cups of coffee with soy half/half. If I am hungry I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal, banana, chia seeds, and some natural maple syrup. Lunch: usually leftovers of some sort (Beth always cooks in bulk). Today is a Pasta Fagioli Soup made of veggies, beans, and noodles. Could be as simple as a salad with chickpeas, quinoa, veggies, and oil/vinegar dressing. Dinner: Lots of options each night but a few I love are cauliflower tacos, soups, curry, black bean burgers, sweet potato, and kale salad, etc.
Biggest difference. My old meals were full of meat, cheese or eggs, and butter. Butter and eggs sneak into everything! Both should be eliminated. Now my meals are full of beans, quinoa, cauliflower, lentils, sourdough bread, and lots of different leafy greens.
6. Lastly, unlearn what you think about protein. The biggest thing people ask when thinking of going to a plant-based diet is where do you get your protein. We need to realize that we don’t need as much protein as we think. I lived the bodybuilding lifestyle for a long time. I would do whatever I could to get over 200 grams of protein a day. Thinking back, it was disgusting! I crammed meat and protein shakes down my throat hoping to not lose my gains. It was foolish and most likely led to clogged arteries that I have had to get cleared twice now.
I do try to have a protein source at each meal to build a plate, but I am not concerned with hitting some ridiculously high protein number. I know if I eat three balanced meals a day, I will get all the macro-and micronutrients that I need. Now I eat a lot of chickpeas, black beans, quinoa, tofu, lentils, etc. Also, a reminder that most vegetables have protein as well. Vegetables alone won’t get you far but mixed in with beans, whole grains, or potatoes, the grams of protein will add up. If you really desire more protein, there are many different plant-based protein powders to choose from.
The six points above are a great start to reconsider your current diet. Maybe just pick a few days a week to start. But remember, start small. After a few days, I made the switch completely and I haven’t looked back. For more benefits of plant-based eating, follow me on Twitter or Instagram @ahoopshobbs. Also, check out my ebook on how I completely changed my life.