One of the single most important decisions a person can make in their life is to change their diet and lifestyle. Especially, when unhealthy habits have become the norm. The best choice people can make right now, is to begin adopting a 100% plant-based diet. Not sure why or how? This guide is for you!
Moving to a plant-based diet is not only an easy thing to do, but it can reap great rewards, such as losing weight, feeling more energetic, feeling healthier, feeling stronger, and lengthening your life.
The diet itself is rather simple, however, making the shift away from the SAD diet (ie: Standard American Diet), can be a challenge for many creatures of habit. Remember the old adage, “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”?
Ultimately, the choice is up to you to make the decision to change. This guide is here for those curious about, interested in, or ready to make a change. Learning more about what the diet is, why it’s important, how to change, and what to eat, you will feel more confident to move in the right direction toward a healthier future.
What Does "Plant-Based" Mean Exactly?
Plant-based, quite literally means eating plants. Those who say they are plant-based, but still eat animal products are not ultimately plant-based. People who eat only plants are plant-based! That means eliminatingall animal products! NO animal products means no eggs, no dairy like milk and cheese products derived from cows, sheep, or goats, and no meat products derived from water-dwelling creatures like fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, conch, shark, turtle, or derived from land-dwelling creatures like baby lambs, baby pigs, baby cows, rabbits, horses (remember that scandal where fast food chains used horse meat?), pangolins (thanks for the pandemic, people who eat pangolins!), snakes, etc., or meat or eggs from flying creatures like chickens, ducks, cornish hens, turkeys, ostriches, geese, or bats. Also, you would avoid eating insects, so no grubs, worms, ants, grasshoppers, scorpions, or creepy crawlies of any kind! You’d be surprised all the things that people eat in the world. If it moves, swims, flies, slithers, creeps, hops, or whatever, it’s not something that belongs on your plate, in your bowl, in your cup, in your mouth, or in your belly.
What belongs on the human menu are roots, shoots, fruits, leaves, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, fungi, algae, and such. This is what the ultimate plant-based diet entails.
Why is it Important to Eat a Plant-Based Diet?
There are so many important reasons to adopt a 100% whole foods plant based diet, but most of them boil down to three primary reasons:
Your Health & Wellbeing
The Health of the Environment
The Wellbeing of Animals
Health & Wellbeing – The principle purpose of being “Plant-Powered” is to feed and fuel your body with the many gifts from mother nature. Plants are the greatest source of health, healing, and medicine. It is far wiser to invest in your health, than to ignore your health in favor of investing in pharmaceuticals and hospitals later down the road, which ends up costing you much more in the long run.
Whether you are health conscious to begin with, or if you are struggling with chronic diseases like cancer, cardio vascular disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, a plant-based diet will do your body good.
So many have been mislead and misinformed about what constitutes a healthy diet, is it any wonder so many suffer from diseases not knowing that they could have prevented them entirely simply by cutting out the animal products? Everything from mood disorders, to life threatening health problems can be attributed to improper diets. In fact, the leading causes of death in industrialized countries can be prevented, arrested, and even reversed with a plant-based diet. If you don’t want to suffer later, or you are suffering now, now is a good time to consider your health with every meal that you make and every bite that you take.
Does Plant Based Mean Vegan?
Why do we say plant-based and not vegan? Veganism is a philosophical position and accompanying lifestyle that extends beyond diet, and we’ll write more about that in a later article, but the basic idea is this – optimum health is about eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, rather than a “vegan” diet. This is not to say plant-based isn’t vegan, but to say vegan diets aren’t always necessarily healthy. There are a lot of “junk” foods out there that qualify as vegan. Processed brand name products like Oreo cookies, Ritz Crackers, Airheads, Cracker Jack, Fritos, Ruffles, Sour Patch Kids, original Pringles, Jello Vanilla Pudding, Duncan Hines Fudge Brownie mix, and Hershey’s Syrup, for example, may technically be vegan, but they are not going to contribute to your health. Processed foods laden with refined white sugar, refined white flour, high amounts of sodium, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and artificial colors, although easy, or provide comfort, are not nutritionally sound food choices.
The Environment – Even if you aren’t an environmentalist, and whether you are a bleeding heart liberal, or a conservative republican, the environment is and should be important to everyone. Why? Because the health of the natural world is what allows human beings to live and thrive! Thus, making the right kinds of food choices that have a greater positive impact on the environment is a worthy endeavor. This article on Global Citizen, lists 9 reasons why going plant-based is better for the environment.
Sure, some people may find that their health, or the wellbeing of animals are higher on their list of important things, but all three are important, nonetheless. Industrialized animal agriculture contributes to so many terrible things – from toxic waste, harmful bacteria, and pathogens including pandemic inducing viruses, to agricultural runoff and oceanic dead zones, to air pollution from methane gas and carbon dioxide, to clear-cutting rainforests, limiting biodiversity, and allowing for mass killings of other species to protect livestock, to even unethical legal protections with AG/Gag laws, it’s better to divest from the animal AG industry altogether. As consumers, we can divert money toward the kinds of agriculture that doesn’t produce pollution that destroys our freshwater, land, or the ocean, that doesn’t incubate viruses or require deforestation. It’s not enough to simply buy plant-based foods, we must demand that all the plant-based foods you buy are also organic, grown sustainably, and mostly local – supporting CSA’s (community supported agriculture), and local farmers markets.
Animal Well Being – Many claim to be “animal lovers” but then prepare meals that contain products taken from animals dead or alive. Does “animal lover” mean only domestic animals like dogs and cats, but not domesticated livestock like baby sheep (ie: lambs)?
Sadly, Buying products from a store, or a market, the public is far, far removed from all that went into producing those products neatly packaged and prepped. Many are unaware of the egregious animal abuses that are perpetuated on a massive scale against creatures who have an innate intelligence, who have feelings, and that don’t wan’t to be hurt, or killed.
There is a saying from musician, Paul McCartney, of Beatles fame, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Yet, it’s not just slaughterhouses that do repulsive things to animals, but also most industries that exploit living animals to make products people buy at the store or farmers market, before they are taken to slaughterhouses.
When it comes to producing products from animals, everything from eggs (de-beaking, and mass slaughter by grinding up unwanted male chicks alive, or smothering them in plastic bags, to forced molting), to dairy (female heifers are repeatedly raped with people shoving their arms up their anuses, their offspring taken away to be starved in crates for veal, or killed outright milked until exhaustion and then slaughtered), to wool and meat production with sheep (look up mulesing), to the uncleanly environment of “wet markets” where animals are stolen from their natural habitats, stressed, stacked in small cages on top of one another and butchered in an uncleanly environment, there’s a lot of suffering endured by countless species.
Oftentimes, you will see many who want to continue a carnist lifestyle excuse their moral and ethical responsibility toward animals by saying they only buy “free-roam”, “pasture-raised”, or “grass-fed”, or “humanely slaughtered,” as if to say that these choices mean being ethical consumers. However, what the industry allows for free roam isn’t what you think, they may not be in cages, but they are confined to barns, overcrowded with limited space to roam, never see the sun, and are de-beaked so they won’t peck each other. Cows that get to be out on pastures have their ears punctured for number tags, are castrated without anesthesia, de-horned, and even have holes put in their sides, so people can reach into their bodies.
There are places that don’t do these horrendous things and there’s this sense of pride about animal husbandry where the animals are cared for, but if at the end of the day, the animals are raised to be killed, (and trust us, they don’t want to die), whether you hang them on a hook and slit their throats, or shoot bolts in their heads, killing in and of itself is gruesome. Humane quite literally means, “having or showing compassion or benevolence.” In what universe does killing animals mean you are being compassionate to them or approaching them with benevolence? Thus, “humane killing” is an absolute oxymoron.
Unless you’re a psychopath that gets off on seeing people or animals being tortured, most people naturally recoil at the sight of cruelty to animals. If you have the stomach to witness the horrors of the rampant abuses toward animals, there is plenty of video footage online showing it if you care to look.
In a world that is ever-increasing violence, it is our duty to bring back compassion and kindness. Every time you choose to buy an animal product, you are demanding that these animals be needlessly abused, tortured, and killed. To ignore this fact, does not make you an animal lover. Loving animals means caring enough to not only not demand their death, but also not demand their exploitation while alive, either. Instead of supporting industries that make their living mistreating and killing animals, support sanctuaries instead. Instead of buying animal products, buy plant-based products instead. It’s really that simple.
How To Make the Change
There are three simple ways to change your eating habits:
Phase-out dead animal flesh – some people can quit everything all at once, if you can’t do that, start small. You can start with “Meatless Mondays”, but don’t stop there. Why only one day a week? Transition to make it meatless every day! Instead of making breakfast, lunch, and dinner with meat, make meals that don’t include meat. Pair it down to one meal a few days a week to one day a week, to no days a week. You can break it down into stages as well. Like eliminated mammals, but still eat birds, fish, and seafood, then eliminate birds, then seafood, then fish, for example. If you ditch all dead animals except fish, you will have become a “pescetarian.”
Once you eliminate all meat, or more accurately, “dead animal body parts,” you’ll have become a vegetarian! If you eat no more meat, but still consume dairy and eggs, you are more specifically called an “ovo-lacto” vegetarian. For those transitioning, meat alternatives are an option. You just need to let go of expecting them to be exactly like what you are used to. They are different, but you will become accustomed to them as you use them more regularly, and then you can phase them out, and make more meals that don’t require meat substitutes at all.
Substitutes: Instead of sausages or hot dogs made from entrails, blood, stomachs, and anuses, get plant-based options like Field Roast, or Beyond Meat’s Beyond Breakfast.
If you want to substitute meats for sandwiches: instead of bacon for a BLT sandwich, use smoked tempeh, smoked eggplant, or smoked zucchini. Instead of deli cuts with dead animal flesh soaked in nitrates and nitrites, try Yves, Field Roast, Lightlife, or Tofurkey (pastrami style peppered slices is on of our fave’s).
Instead of eating hamburger (ie: ground up dead cow body parts with bacteria that won’t be killed unless you cook it all to at least 160°F), eat a veggie burger, or portabella, or lentil patty, or a meat substitute like beyond beef. Note, the goal here isn’t to find what is equivalent to what you are used to but to eat plant-based burgers instead. There will be completely different flavor profiles, so try them all and find your favorites. Here are a number of commercial store-bought options in alphabetical order:
Still not satisfied? You can also make your own by looking up veggie burger recipes. There are so many ways to make patties, so combine the ingredients you like best, and perfect your personal patty! Maybe you love lentils, or you love mushrooms, whatever your personal palate preference, you can make a burger that features that and add the spices and condiments you love best. Here are a few example sites that share their how-to’s on making your own: Inspired Taste – Best Veggie Burger (Better Than Store-Bought) & The Spruce Eats – 12 Best Veggie Burger Recipes
Ditch the dairy – instead of goats, sheep, or cows milk for dairy or cheese, try all the plant-based milk alternatives and find the ones you like best.
As far as milk alternatives go, these are the options in alphabetical order:
Instead of dairy-based cream cheeses, buy Kitehill’s almond-based versions, instead of dairy-based yogurts, try Kitehill, or So Delicious versions. For whipped cream, use So Delicious CocoWhip, or Truwhip vegan, or follow recipes on how to make your own whipped coconut cream.
If you like baking, making pancakes, crepes, cookies, etc. there are many alternatives available to use instead of eggs. You can use egg-replacer, applesauce, flax, and such. There are now vegan pancake mixes available, as well as vegan mixes for cakes, scones, and biscuits. We’ve just started building a Pinterest board specifically on baking, so you can follow us there to learn how to bake without eggs, as we will be adding more and more there as time goes on.
What Food Can Be Eaten Instead?
The primary food sources are plant-based that grow underground, above ground, and in water. Roots, shoots, legumes, leaves, veggies, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, fungi, algae, and certain bacteria and yeasts.
More specifically, let’s break each category down further in alphabetical order:
red, green, brown, or black lentils, pea, chickpea/garbanzo, navy, black, pinto, lupini, fava, soy, lima, mung bean, adzuki, green beans, sugar snap peas, peanuts (although nuts is in their name, peanuts grow underground and are legumes, not nuts).
These are the things that grow underground like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, jicama, rutabagas, radishes, garlic, onion, ginger, and turmeric. Technically, some legumes are shoots on roots, but let’s put them in their own category because not all legumes grow underground.
Fermented foods, drinks, prebiotic, and probiotic supplements are made with microorganisms like yeasts, molds, and bacterias.
Foods and drinks made with these include vinegar, chocolate, tea, root beer, kvass, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, pickles, soy sauce, vegemite/marmite, tofu, tempeh, non-dairy yogurts with bacteria, kefirs with kefir grains, nutritional and bakers yeast, Scoby (Kombucha combination of bacteria and yeast which creates a “mother” fungus).
There’s more to all of the above mentioned “categories”, but this is enough to get you started in understanding how many choices there are.
With all the foods listed above, it might seem overwhelming, but you only need to mix and match a few things in these categories to make amazing meals for breakfast lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert! To help inspire you, we’re providing a few examples, but you can also check out all the links on the recipes page to try out all the juices, smoothies, appetizer, snacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides, and dessert recipes to make either cooked or living foods meals, or a combination of the two.
Example Meal Plan for One Day:
Breakfast: Banana Milk Smoothie: pecans, dates, banana, water, vanilla, cardamom, and nutmeg Vegan pancakes topped with Miyoko’s butter fresh berries and maple syrup and a side of sliced oranges, and tea Lunch: TLAT – Tempeh, lettuce, avocado, and tomato sandwich with vegenaise on multigrain or gluten-free bread of your choice, lentil soup and a sparkling probiotic tonic. Dinner: Tacos – corn tortillas filled with sauteed onion, bell pepper, corn, and pinto beans, topped with guacamole, salsa, cashew cream, and cilantro with a side of radishes, chips and salsa, vegan queso, or guacamole
For snacks, you can munch on apple slices with Nutzo peanut-free butter, or your favorite nut butter, or peanut butter, or eat crackers and vegan cheese, popcorn, or veggies and hummus or other plant-based dips.
Even though whole plant-based diet is the way to go, there’s a lot of misinformation that keeps people fearful of changing their dietary habits. Here are some general answers to the most frequent questions SAD dieters tend to ask people who eat plant-based diets.
This is a pernicious myth, passed on blindly through the generations. In fact, our culture of Carnism has perpetuated a socially conditioned bias based on a string of fallacies. Our article Dispelling Myths About the Human Diet will tell you everything you need to know about why humans are not omnivores. It also discusses why the Paleo diet fad isn’t all that it’s hyped up to be.
There are plenty of sources of iron in plants! “Good plant sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal” ~ The Vegan Society
If you’re worried, you can always get your blood tested and address deficiencies by taking supplements. That goes for Vitamin D if you don’t get enough sun, or calcium if you don’t eat enough good sources from plants. Often times, the deficiencies aren’t due to a plant based lifestyle per se, but is more about your food choices, such as more processed and less fresh foods, or not enough of a variety of foods.
The most common allergies include animal products, like dairy, fish, or shellfish, but some other major allergies exist for plant-based foods too, like soy, tree nuts, and wheat.
Not to worry! Considering all the variations of foods offered from the plant kingdom, it’s fairly simple to make recipes that either omit the item you already know you have an allergy to, or where you can substitute that item with something else.
If you find you are allergic to something you never knew you had an allergy to, don’t be discouraged! For example, let’s say, you find out you’re allergic to soy. No big deal! You don’t need to eat Tofu, or soy-based yogurts or milk to be healthy. There are still plenty of plant-based foods you can eat instead, and recipes you can make without any soy whatsoever! The same goes for wheat – there are plenty of gluten-free options out there, and if you can’t eat certain kinds of nuts, chances are, other nuts will be ok, or you can omit nuts altogether, and use seeds instead. There may be some trial and error, and elimination diets to do with slow introductions of different foods to see what works and what doesn’t, but keep a food diary and track what you eat, and you’ll find out what is best for you and what you’ll want to avoid.
Consult with your physician and get tested to find out what you are reacting to and adjust your menus accordingly. If you can’t eat corn, or wheat, for example, there are tortillas available with spelt, almond, or coconut flour. So, experiment with all the alternative options out there, or learn to make your own recipes.
What you decide to buy and eat is completely within your power, regardless of what anyone else thinks. (Unless you are not yet a legal adult and under the care of a disapproving parental figure that doesn’t support your desire to not eat animal products). With that said, we do understand that there is tremendous peer pressure from friends and family, and generally from society at large, but that is changing. Just know that most of those who challenge your decision may be in whole or in part, misinformed, ignorant, or biased and socially conditioned to believe the propaganda of carnism. If they are not open-minded, or willing to learn something new, there’s no reasoning with the unreasonable. You don’t have to convince others why what you’ve decided to do is right, any more than others should try to convince you what you are doing is wrong. You can of course, share information you’ve learned about this subject if people are genuinely curious. You might find that you end up helping others make the transition to plant-based living as well.