A simple guide to
The plant-based diet
If you’ve been thinking about transitioning to a plant-based diet, or have tried and failed then keep reading for an easy to read guide on a plant-based diet for beginners.
What have you found the hardest about transitioning to a plant-based diet? Let me know in the comments section below.
So, let’s get started by going over what I cover in this guide.
- What is the difference between a vegan and plant-based diet?
- Benefits of a plant-based diet
- How to transition to a plant-based diet?
- 20 things you need to know about a plant-based diet
- Plant-based Q&A
- Accidentally vegan
Like what you see?
Keep reading to give yourself the best shot at success on a plant-based diet.
benefits of a plant-based diet
what is the difference between a vegan and plant-based diet?
To keep it basic, the main difference between being plant-based and vegan is the philosophy behind it.
Veganism is a way of life, not just what you put in your body.
It’s about avoiding animal products and harm to animals in every part of life, including products that have been tested on animals.
Most who consider themselves plant-based are doing so to become healthier.
There are many steps on the way to eating a plant-based diet and each one is a great step towards a healthier lifestyle.
LACTO-VEGETARIAN: don't eat eggs, meat and seafood
OVO-VEGETARIAN: don't eat dairy, meat and seafood
VEGETARIAN: don't eat meat and seafood
PLANT-BASED: avoid dairy, eggs, seafood and meat.
WHOLE FOODS PLANT-BASED (WFPB): avoid dairy, eggs, seafood and meat. Don't use oil or eat highly processed foods.
VEGAN: don't eat dairy, eggs, seafood and meat.
If you follow a plant-based diet you should try to ensure you always use this phrase when describing your diet as opposed to vegan.
Not only does this create more awareness to the plant-based way of eating but stating you're vegan while ordering something with animal products can lead to confusion on what it means to be vegan.
Ultimately these are all just labels, the most important thing is that you eat what you feel comfortable eating.
Any steps you can take to reduce the meat, dairy products and eggs you eat is a positive step in the right direction.
how to transition to a plant-based diet?
In a nutshell, do what makes you feel comfortable.
If you're happy to go cold turkey and feel confident you can stay motivated doing this then that's great.
If you think that taking smaller steps would be best for you then that's great.
A great way to get started is Meatless Monday, once you've got this down you build on it by eating meat-free two to three days a week and eventually you're completely meat-free.
If a whole meat free day doesn't suit you try starting with one meal. Breakfast is such an easy way to start this. Switch cows milk for plant milk in your cereal - not only are most cereals plant-based but many are also fortified with B12.
For some tasty plant-based breakfast ideas head over to our Simple Granola recipe or Apple Crumble Baked Oats.
is eating plant-based expensive?
Eating a plant-based diet can be expensive if you eat a high amount of processed food. To bring the cost of a plant-based diet down focus your meal planning on whole foods and vegetables.
If you eat tons of meat substitutes and vegan junk food then yeah, the cost can add up.
This is no different to a meat-eating diet.
Meat increases the cost of your weekly shop, as does cakes, cheese, ready meals and pizza.
This question should be - is it easy to eat cheaply on a plant-based diet.
In this case, the answer is heck yeah!
Vegetables, chickpeas, rice and pasta are all super cheap.
Tofu might bulk out your chopping costs slightly but one block of tofu can feed a family of 4-6 depending on how you cook it.
are mock meats okay to eat?
You can eat mock meats as long as you balance them with plenty of whole foods and vegetables. Mock meats are highly processed foods and are high in sodium so it's best to try and avoid having these as your main source of protein or eating mock meats every day.
I'm a huge believer of eating everything in moderation because that's how I'm happiest.
There are conflicting studies on how beneficial soy is for the body and as I am neither a nutritionist or a doctor I’m not going to go into the science behind both of these claims.
However, I would suggest you do your own research on this topic and have included some links in the resources section below.
If it will help your transition then feel free to substitute the meat you eat normally with mock meats but try and limit these to a couple of times a week this gives you a good balance in your diet.
can you raise children on a plant-based diet?
I've said this before - I'm not a nutritionist or doctor so am not going to delve into giving advice on what you should be feeding your children.
I will suggest you look at the NHS eat well website for children nutrition and do some research into the topic. I’ll try and include some studies in the resources section of this guide.
I’m also happy to share what we do as a family.
We try and find balance because I don't want to force anything on my children, however, I want to make sure that their diet is mostly what I consider to be healthy.
With this in mind, we decided that our sons will eat the food we eat when at home so they are completely plant-based in our house.
However, at school, they have school dinners (sometimes my eldest chooses the plant-based option if he prefers it to the standard option, sometimes he chooses the pizza!), and when he is visiting our family he eats what he likes.
how do you get protein on a plant-based diet?
This is another question that I get asked and I always find it odd.
Before I started my plant-based journey I ate a diet that caused huge weight gain and led to a morbidly obese weight.
Not one person asked how much protein I was getting, how I was getting my iron, or how I was getting any nutrients or vitamins at all.
I wasn't healthy eating meat, in fact, completely the opposite but no one questioned it because it is seen as ‘normal’.
Anyway, to answer the question - there are tons of ways to get protein on a plant-based diet.
The most popular ones in our house (and you can probably guess this by the recipes I cook) are chickpeas, tofu, lentils, and tempeh. However, many vegetables also have pretty good levels of protein, as well as most mock meats.
I have included a picture below that you can save and if you want to pin this info shoot to the pin image at the bottom of the page.
Is food that may contain milk vegan?
The short answer is yes!
Food that may contain milk is still considered vegan as this doesn't mean that milk may have been added. This just means that there are products containing milk produced at the same factory, and anyone with an allergy should take extra care.
What Can you substitute for eggs
It really depends on what you plan on cooking and I haven't tried all of these so don't shoot the messenger!
The best thing to do is to experiment.
I used flax egg in some veggie dippers and cookies. I have also used mashed banana and applesauce in baked oats - both turned out really well.
Sounds like an odd phrase, I know, but it just means something that is suitable for a vegan diet but they weren't made specifically with this intention.
There are tons of accidentally vegan products that you may not even know exist.
These can make your life so much easier.
With this in mind I’m going to make a little PSA here and just chuck tons of them below.
Just bare in mind that most of these only include some varieties or flavours so check out the ingredient list before you buy or eat any of these.
- Jammy Dodgers (the new recipe is so watch out for this one)
- Jus-Rol Pastry
- McVitie’s Hobnobs Choc Chip
- Bourbon biscuits
- Bread, wraps, bagels, crumpets
- Hash browns
- Hartleys jelly pots
- Fruit pastilles
- Bacon bits
- Cadbury’s drinking chocolate
This isn't even all of them, a quick google will show you some of the most popular accidentally vegan products that are available in shops now.
You can also find a pretty good list here.
20 things you need to know about a plant-based diet
Happy Cow: to find all of those vegan food gems.
Vegan Food and Living: for the latest and greatest accidentally vegan products
Earthling Ed (Youtube Channel): for tons of information in easy to understand videos
Vegan: for 200+ further resources
More Beginner Posts: