Shifting to a plant-based diet only means that you start thinking the other way around. You start with plant foods first. I know it might seem strange at first, but this is how to start transitioning. Maybe you can start with some kind of bean to replace the meat. There are all kinds of beans to choose from---red beans, black beans, white beans, navy beans, chickpeas, etc. Then start thinking about some sort of greens---how about Swiss chard? Never had it?? It's delicious. Once you start focusing on plants instead of animals, you'll be surprised how easy it is to start changing your diet to a more healthful balance. Even if your goal is to be a plant-based omnivore, (still eating small amounts of meat), changing your mindset can seriously overhaul your diet for the better. If you focus on the plant foods first--from zucchini to chickpeas to almonds--you can come up with a beautiful dinner that consists of only small amounts of animal foods to just add a "different flavor". (Personally, I believe once you are able to eliminate meat altogether, you are SO MUCH BETTER OFF!),
This is not a new concept--think about all the cultures that do this as a way of life. There really is very little meat available, if at all, and those cultures are some of the healthiest cultures on the planet. Once our "Western Ways" start to infiltrate into those countries, (fast-food chains), these extremely healthy people become as unhealthy as our American society.
Your dinner plate will start looking different as you take on a plant-based diet, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of eliminating animal products. The current American dinner plate looks like this: In the center is a big piece of meat--steak, burger, chicken, turkey, pork, etc., with a petite portion of cooked veggies like peas or green beans, then a hefty pile of mashed potatoes, rice or some kind of noodles. The New Dinner Plate should look like this: No "center of the plate" anything. Instead, at least three-fourths of the plate should be filled with whole grains like quinoa or some other whole-grain, cooked or fresh veggies and fruit. The other fourth is filled with a healthy protein food like beans, nuts, tofu, or if you are still an omnivore, maybe a small piece of WILD fish.
This only means there are no more little sections on the plate to fill with meat, potatoes, and tiny amounts of vegetables. Instead, your plate will be FILLED with a variety of plant foods. Who says you have to cook only one kind of plant food at each meal? Why not cook two or three vegetables for dinner? Why not have salad and sauteed green beans for dinner tonight? Why not have brown rice and black-eyed peas at the same meal? And, why not have a beautiful seasonal fruit bowl on the dinner table every night? It's a WHOLE new way of thinking...that's all it is....just think differently, put this into practice, and suddenly it becomes "The New Norm".
Here are some tips that will get you started on your exciting, new journey:
- Start the day right. Going veggie at breakfast is one of the easiest ways to cut back on meat. You can make a significant difference in your animal intake if you go meatless seven mornings a week. Who needs meat for breakfast anyway? Try-steel cut oatmeal topped with walnuts and berries...add a little bit of maple syrup or honey to give a sweeter taste. Or, how about buckwheat pancakes or waffles, or a breakfast burrito with lots of beans and veggies. Breakfast is easy!
- Join the Meatless Monday bandwagon. No matter what your goal, going meatless one day a week is an easy fix. And why not start out the work week right by doing it on Monday? Meatless Monday has become a huge success all around the country, and a flood of celebrities and health experts are supporting it. Visit the Website at meatlessmonday.com for tips, recipes and inspiration to get started.
- Shop for plants first. Don't fall back into the "meat is the center of the plate" mindset. Instead of planning your menu around what meat you will serve, plan it around what plant foods you will serve. Just start your shopping in the produce aisle or at the farmer's market. Which vegetables are in season, look to be the freshest, and look the most appealing to you? Throw them in your cart and begin your menu planning there. For instance, if kale is fresh and beautiful, stir-fry it with garlic, herbs and tofu or beans and pile it over quinoa for dinner.
- If you eat meat, use it as a seasoning. If your goal is to take on a plant-powered omnivorous diet, you can cut down on your animal food intake while upping the plants if you use meat as a flavoring in dishes instead of the main event. Buy a single portion of meat--one chicken breast or a serving of seafood--and turn it into a whole meal with lots of vegetables and a whole-grain.
- Try a new supermarket. Some supermarkets--with most of their products dedicated to processed foods, frozen pizzas and their meat and dairy cases--make plant-based shopping tough. Instead, track down markets in your area that offer more whole plant foods such as a variety of dried and canned beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
- Stock a plant-based pantry. If you have it on hand, you will cook it. But if you have to constantly run out to the store because you don't have an ingredient, your plant-based diet won't take root. Make a list and bring home what you will need for the week.
- Keep it simple. You might think that plant-based cooking is very difficult to take on, but it doesn't have to be! Not every meal has to involve cookbooks and cutting boards. Meatless meals can be as easy as black bean burritos, vegetarian chili and cornbread, or an avocado and hummus pita sandwich.
- Convert your favorite dishes. Love pizza? Get your whole-wheat crust, top it with broccoli, onions, basil, any vegetable...add some marinara sauce and there you have it! Skip the meat in your lasagna and pile extra servings of veggies between the layers of noodles. Tacos--just trade the meat for some kind of beans.
- Think "yes". Don't dwell on what you CAN"T have, think about what you CAN have! When you're focused on eating plants, there are hundreds of varieties, flavors, colors and textures awaiting you. How many choices do you have when you eat meat? Take a trip to the produce section of your market or visit a farmer's market and look at the rainbow of plant foods you can pile onto your plate.
If you are just starting to transition to this extremely healthy way of eating, do what is right for you. This is not a "one-size-fits-all" kind of thing. Some people like to take this one meal at a time, others one day at a time, and still others that jump right in and will eliminate the processed foods, all meats and then, all dairy. However you choose to start this, will be the right way to begin...you will be one day closer to feeling so much better, losing weight, having more energy, and will begin to "cure" health issues you may have.
Don't wait until tomorrow or next week to start...take the bull by the horns and start NOW....there is no better time than RIGHT NOW to begin.
Need help? Please let me know, I would love to help you get started!