So you’re thinking about switching to a plant-based diet, but you’re not sure exactly what that entails or how to get started. No worries, we’ve got you! A lot of resources make going plant-based seem a bit complicated and overwhelming, but the truth is you can do it in a way that’s simple and easy. Below is our simple starter guide to a plant-based diet.

Vegan or Plant-Based?

The terms vegan and plant-based seem to be used interchangeably, but there are people who will tell you that they are slightly different. How?

A vegan diet does not contain any animal products. It can be made up of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fake meat alternatives, etc. but as long as you’re not consuming anything from an animal, it’s fair game. While many vegans do focus on eating plants, there also many eat a lot of processed food that isn’t plant-based.

A plant-based diet is a diet that is rooted in eating plants. There are people who eat plant-based who still consume animal products on occasion. The key with plant-based is that their majority (or all in some cases) of their diet is based around plants and they avoid animal products as well as food that is more processed.

For the purposes of this article, we may use plant-based and vegan interchangeably to represent a vegan, plant-based diet to go with the popular, more loosely acceptable definition that simply means an animal-free diet that is mostly focused on eating plants and avoiding, but not eliminating, processed food. Remember, these are labels and can be interpreted however fits your needs. You can be as flexible or inflexible as you’re comfortable with.

Why Do You Want to Go Plant-Based?

The first thing you’ll want to do is to decide why you want to go plant-based. There are many reasons that someone would go plant-based or vegan. Not everyone who is plant-based loves animals, just like not everyone who is plant-based is doing it for health.

If your main concern is health and you’ll do anything to be as healthy as possible, you probably want to focus more on whole foods and less on meat substitutes or vegan junk food. But if you just want to save the animals or the environment, you may be ok with the popular meat alternatives and vegan junk food. As always, you can tailor your diet however works best for you.

How to transition to plant-based

There are two ways you can transition to a plant-based diet. If you’re ready to jump in cold turkey and you think that will work for you, go for it! You can remove animal products from your kitchen and replace them with a plethora of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. On the other hand, if you’d rather slowly transition, that’s ok too! Progress over perfection. Below are some tips for transitioning gradually which seems to be easiest for most people.

Focus On More, Not Less

Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can eat more of. Think of your favorite meals and snacks that are already plant-based and vegan, or that would be easy to alter. Focus on eating those foods more to replace the meals that you are going to eventually eliminate.

Plant-Based Days or Meals

Replace more and more meals with plant-based meals until you’re at a point where it’s not a struggle to figure out what to eat. One of the biggest struggles can be that most of your go-to meals don’t fit within your new diet and it can feel overwhelming and time-consuming to always have to think up something new to eat.

You can try committing to plant-based breakfasts for a few weeks, then lunches, and then dinners. Or you could even commit to plant-based just on the weekends to start, since you may have more time to prepare and experiment with meals you haven’t made before. Then slowly, as it feels easier you can replace more of your meals with plant-based ones until you’re fully plant-based.

Keep It Simple

When you first start, it can be overwhelming to see recipes that call for a lot of odd ingredients you aren’t used to using. But there are a lot of simple plant-based meals too. Don’t feel like you need to spend an hour cooking every night to successfully be plant-based. Naturally plant-based like fruits and vegetables as well as many dips and spreads you can make from plants can be very filling. In addition, if you’re allowing processed foods you can easily make wraps, sandwiches, smoothies, even pasta and lasagna can very easily be made vegan. As tempting as it is, you don’t need to immediately start with the complicated ingredients or recipes.

Hopefully, this starter guide to a plant-based diet has helped you wrap your head around going plant-based in a way that is simple and uncomplicated. The wonderful thing abot going plant-based is that you can go at your own pace and still make a positive impact on animals, your health, and the environment during your transition and that’s something to be proud of!