4 Tips for Moving Toward a More Plant-Based Diet

4 Tips for Moving Toward a More Plant-Based Diet

Revamp your dietWith New Year’s resolutions just around the corner, you may be looking to revamp your diet. One popular change is to move toward a more plant-based eating regimen. Whether you want to strictly follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or just make your existing diet more plant-based, nutritionists can offer tips for eating more vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and other plant-based goodies.

Live Science spoke with certified clinical nutritionist Gena Hamshaw, author of the popular plant-based diet blog The Full Helping and two vegan cookbooks. Here are seven of her best tips for how to move toward a whole-food, plant-based diet.

Start slowly

Although the new year is filled with momentum and energy, it’s better to make small, incremental changes than to get caught up in revamping your entire diet overnight, Hamshaw said. Remember that changing your diet is not like doing a short cleanse or a weeklong detox; rather, it’s setting up a new lifestyle. Trying to make too many changes too quickly could set you up for failure and frustration later on.

“If you’re curious about a plant-based diet, it’s important to not have this sort of short-term, how-extreme-can-I-go attitude,” Hamshaw told Live Science. Instead, you should try to gradually explore how to incorporate changes into your lifestyle, she said.

Don’t forget the major macronutrients

“The mistake I see most often is that people are really psyched about eating veggies but don’t focus enough on complex carbs, proteins and fats,” Hamshaw said. Surprisingly, people can get so excited about making positive changes that they forget to eat a balanced diet, she said.

For example, Hamshaw said that sometimes, clients will tell her they made a giant salad with 10 different vegetables and a tahini dressing. While “that’s super awesome,” Hamshaw said, “I don’t see where the protein or complex carbs in that meal is to help keep you full for 4 hours.” People need to make sure to get enough proteins, carbohydrates and fats to fuel them and help satiate their appetites. Try adding roasted sweet potatoes, pepitas [i.e., pumpkin/squash seeds] or marinated tempeh to a salad, she recommended.

Have some fun grocery shopping

The bulk of your grocery budget should go toward the essentials, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, Hamshaw said. However, “the rest can be discretionary,” she added.

Hamshaw encourages her clients to experiment and have fun, trying new foods that may not fit into any standard category. For instance, Hamshaw said she often picks up a new artisanal vegan cheese to try, or an interesting faux meat product. Others may prefer to buy a bar of dark chocolate or a decadent new almond milk.

The takeaway? Make sure to have fun and keep things interesting on your shopping trips, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to stick to only the ultrahealthy staples

Use leftovers for lunches

For lunch, “leftovers are really the easiest,” Hamshaw said. Ideally, you can make enough food in the evening for dinner to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

If you live by yourself, you may be reluctant to make recipes that serve four to six people. “But you can freeze almost anything,” Hamshaw said. “Make the whole portion, and freeze half in individual serving bags — and you’ll have instant lunches and dinners the next time you need one in a pinch.”