How to get started with a plant-based diet

You’ve read the books, you know the skinny and scoop on the benefits of a plant-based diet, and you’re totally inspired to go for it, jump your health and energy, and dump the extra weight.

And now you need to know, simply, what to eat.  And more often than not, how to bring the family along for the ride.

How to get your family’s meal plans on the plant-strong track

The best place to begin is with foods you, and they, know and love.  Then, you can implement simple ways to substitute certain ingredients, or simply leave them out.

Here is a simple 3 step process to morph the foods you love into whole-foods-plant-based

1)  Create a food diary, either in real time or looking back the past 5 days, to get a clearer picture of family favorites and eating patterns.  This works whether it is just you or you have a whole fleet of eaters at your table.  You will probably notice that there are many foods and /or dishes that repeat in a cycle.  This helps you get an idea of favorite tastes.

2)  Find what’s already working.  Pastas, grain and vegetable dishes, chilli and cornbread, potatoes and salad, oatmeal with fruit.  Sandwiches and soups.  These are all easily prepared as part of a whole, plant-based diet and if they are on your list from the food diary activity, all you need to do now is make them free of those foods you are elimination.

3) Note where the items you want to eliminate appear. As you take a look over this diary. Where is the meat, the dairy, the fish?  What about the fats – is there oil all over the place? Where do you find processed foods such as white flours, packaged mixes (notorious for too much sodium, fat, and sugar, let alone hidden animal products.)  This is starting from the point of awareness – the first step for implementing change.

Menu items to easily switch up to plant-based whole food:

  • pasta with sauce becomes pasta with marinara sauce – cran your sauce with chunky mushrooms, summer squash, onions, garlic, and savory flavorings.  There are even non-meat meatballs you can get at the market if you want a ‘meat’ substitute, too.  Try your natural foods store and Trader Joe’s.
  • chilli becomes bean chilli without the meat
  • white rice as a side dish becomes whole brown rice with steamed or water-sauteed vegetables
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwiches become – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
  • vegetable soup becomes vegetable soup without the meat yet with savory beans and vegetables, including colorful greens and starchy veggies such as potatoes and corn.
  • taco night becomes – taco night!  With veggie refried beans (they don’t need any oil, just mash ’em up!), salsa, avocado, shredded lettuce – all your favorite fillings sans the meat
  • burger night becomes veggie burger night with all the fixins!  Amy’s, Boca, Trader Joe’s, and other brands make some great veggie burgers.  Check the labels, though, for hidden dairy and fats.  Usually the label will say ‘vegan’ or ‘non-dairy’ to help you out.
  • sandwiches become – sandwiches!  With whole grain bread, vegenaise or hummus or other bean dip for spread, tomatoes, sprouts, grated carrots or other vegetables, pickles, onions…all your favorites.

 If you would like some specific meal and menu plans to assist, here are some resources:

Free 12 Day McDougall Plan with menu and recipes

21-Day Meal Plan from the Physician’s Committe for Responsible Medicine

Here’s a simple guide if you want to maximize weight loss:

McDougall Maximum Weight Loss Program at a glance






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