Plant-Based Diet: A Simple Beginners Guide

a simple guide to the plant-based diet

A simple guide to

The plant-based diet

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. 

a simple guide to the plant-based diet

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.


LOOKING FOR PLANT-BASED INSPIRATION?


Subscribe for Plant-Based Recipes Straight to Your Inbox


Learn More

benefits of a plant-based diet

1

It’s a learning experience that teaches you more about your body and nutrition. The perfect opportunity to experiment with food you already eat or new food. I have found that there are so many foods I either hated or had never tried that I now love. The main ones being butter beans and chickpeas.

2

It sounds obvious but it's better for animals! Not even just animals getting killed, but also the cruelty of dairy farms. If you want to learn more about this topic it can be really mind boggling so I would suggest checking out the resources section of the guide below and doing your own research on the topic. 

3

It's cheaper and healthier. I'm not going to generalise this for everyone as it is definitely possible to eat unhealthy food on a plant-based diet. However, when fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes make up such a large amount of your allowed diet I definitely find it easier to eat healthier foods and spend less on my grocery shopping.

4

It’s no secret that our planet is slowly dying and it’s our fault. This is why many are switching to a plant-based diet. As a very brief overview the water, land and food to feed, house, kill and process meat is one of the main issues. If you want to learn more about this topic I would suggest checking out the resources section of the guide below and doing your own research on the topic.


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. 


plant-based vs vegan

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


plant-based recipes

plant-based q&a

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.

To understand why mock meats are so expensive head over to my article on this here


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. 

Check out our ‘Chorizo’ and Vegetable Traybake, chickpea enchiladas or falafel recipes for some great meals with higher protein. 

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. 


Image

accidentally vegan

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. 

  • Oreos
  • Jammy Dodgers (the new recipe is so watch out for this one)
  • Jus-Rol Pastry 
  • Doritos 
  • McVitie’s Hobnobs Choc Chip
  • Bourbon biscuits
  • Walkers 
  • Pringles 
  • Bread, wraps, bagels, crumpets
  • Cereals
  • 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.

vegan food

20 things you need to know about a plant-based diet

  • Bit of an awkward subject but all that extra fibre from all the whole plant-based foods you're eating has a bit of an embarrassing side effect! It can cause you to be more gassy than you may be used to because your body is going through a change it hasn't been through before. Rest assured though your gut microbiome will adjust and you'll be back to normal in no time! If it does persist it's worth getting a check-up with your GP to make sure there aren't any underlying issues.
  • If you're trying to find that perfect replacement for cheese just STOP. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I have tried many a mock cheese and none are the same. Why not try cutting it completely and after 2 weeks to a month you’ll lose the cravings and the mock cheese will taste better.
  • You won't miss meat as much as you think. I thought I would miss bacon, after all, I had it everyday when I was a meat-eater and was the only meat I was really hanging on to. I haven't had any of the cravings for bacon I thought I would, even my husband who was an avid carnivore has only had the odd occasion of meat cravings which have since subsided.
  • As with most changes in life, this will be easier if you have inspiration. Search pinterest for tasty vegan meals, scour youtube for some amazing ‘what I eat in a day’ videos, or check out our delicious recipes here to start off with some simple plant-based meals.
  • Check the ingredients because you would be amazed at some of the unexpected products that are made with milk. Sherbert, chewing gum, certain crisps (potato chips), and granola bars - just to name a few!
  • There are tons of groups out there dedicated to a vegan or plant-based diet and they're great for support when you’re trying to transition. Facebook is my favourite way to do this. Just type plant-based into the search bar and it will bring up loads of groups and pages to join.
  • Make it fun - eat junk food, experiment with recipes and show everyone how fun and healthy it is to eat a plant-based diet. Long gone are the days when cutting meat and dairy meant you had to eat salad and vegetables. There are plant-based versions of nearly everything these days, and there is great recipe inspiration out there.
  • Don’t forget the overlooked vegetables and fruits, you know, the ones that no one knows what to do with so they just get ignored. In fact, I challenge you to pick one fruit or vegetable you haven't used before and use it in some way in your weekly meals. Drop a comment below to let me know what you plan to start with and how you got on.
  • The world isn’t going to end if you accidentally eat an animal product, especially if it was completely accidental. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and learn from your mistakes - everyone makes them.
  • Research vitamin b12 and what supplements you should be taking, we have this supplements post that you can start with. When you change your diet by cutting out so much of it you really need to try and understand what nutrients you need so you can make sure you're getting what you need. Luckily quite a few products are fortified with b12 and other nutrients and vitamins so it's easy to get what you need from plant-based foods. It’s just about knowing where to look and what to look for.
  • Quick and easy plant-based meals do exist. Not everything has to take hours of your time and the skills of a Michelin star chef to make. As parents to two children we often have 20 minutes to cook dinner while also trying to navigate two mini-humans that want to follow us everywhere. This is why we only post simple recipes that are generally low on the prep time and that our kids eat. Check out our plant-based recipe section for tons of delicious recipes.
  • If you know you’re going to be out and about then download the happy cow app. It’s really simple - just type in where you’ll be and it will bring up all the food places around you that have plant-based options.
  • Meal prepping and planning will become your best friends. Meal planning just makes sense - saving time and money seems to be a no brainer. You can check out our article on meal planning here. Meal prepping is taking those occasions when you have a bit of spare time and using it wisely. Every couple of months I take a day to prep tons of food. Not quite meals as i like to cook fresh daily, however ill prep food. This may be chopping mushrooms, peppers and onions to be frozen, making soup out of veg that is about to go off, or making falafel, breakfast sausage patties or quinoa and beet burgers.
  • It’s fair to say that Quorn products are some of the most popular meat-free products around, however some quorn products contain dairy products so if you're cutting these from your diet too make sure to check the ingredient list.
  • As with any huge change you make it takes time to get used to it. You’re completely changing the way you eat so you need to give your body 1-3 months to get used to the changes. I’m not saying you’re not going to feel good until you’ve been plant-based for 3 months but just bear in mind you’re putting your body through quite a detox.
  • I will never understand why companies do this because they're missing out on a huge and growing customer base, but if a product states that it’s suitable for vegetarians don't assume it will be no good for you. A lot of these products are also suitable for those on a plant-based diet, it just doesn't state suitable for vegans on the packaging.
  • Your taste buds will change so don’t assume that just because you’ve tried it before you won’t like it. I have tried chickpeas and tofu before, and have never liked peas. However, since becoming plant-based I can't get enough of hummus and falafel. I have also had several recipes with tofu and peas that I have loved. I think it's all about finding the right recipe to make these foods taste delicious.
  • Almost everything can be substituted with minimal effort. If your families favourite meal is toad in the hole then sub those sausages out for some plant-based versions and a batter using plant-milk. Google and Pinterest are great sources of information for plant-based alternatives.
  • Track your calories to make sure you’re getting enough as many beginners don’t realise how few calories they’re consuming. You would be surprised how many vegetables you can eat for little calories, even tofu and tempeh have very few calories in them. Tofu, for instance, has around 75 calories per 100g while chicken weighs in at a whopping 239 calories. Once you become more seasoned on eating a plant-based diet you’ll be able to stop doing this.
  • People who eat meat and dairy will get very defensive and argue with you, even when you haven’t started a conversation about it! I was at a meal once and suddenly one of the guests decided to announce that eating a plant-based diet is worse for the environment because of all the soy used (it’s not FYI, the soy used to feed animals far outweighs what the soy usage is for feeding humans). No one had mentioned anything about eating a plant-based diet apart from us ordering the vegan options from the menu.



resources

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:

How to Eat a Plant-Based Diet in a Non-Vegan Family

A Simple Guide to Supplementing on a Plant-Based Diet

Do Vegans Eat Honey?

Do Vegans Eat Eggs From Backyard Chickens

Why Are Mock Meats So Expensive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *