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How To Start (And Maintain) A Plant Based Diet

Starting a plant-based diet can be a lot more challenging than you might imagine. Here are some tips and tricks from experts on how to start (and maintain) a plant-based diet.

#1 Try New Flavors and Cooking Methods

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If you're switching to a plant-based diet, it's a great time to try out new flavors and cooking methods. Roasting, for example, is an excellent way to bring out the natural sweetness in vegetables. You can also incorporate fresh herbs and high quality olive oil into your cooking for a healthful flavor boost. Keep on trying new recipes and you're sure to discover plant-based dishes that you love!

Contributors: Katie Moseman from I Hate Vegetables Cookbook: Fresh and Easy Recipes That Will Change Your Mind

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#2 Give Yourself a Warm-Up Period

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Before pledging to eat a 100% plant-based diet, give yourself a few weeks to try new recipes and gather resources. Test plant-based makeovers of some of your favorite meals (tacos, curries, and stir-fry dishes are great places to start) until you've got a roster of 5-6 options that you know you'll enjoy. Giving yourself permission to do some research and experimentation before you take the full plunge will prevent you from becoming discouraged or bored before you've gotten a taste of how delicious and interesting a plant-based diet can be. 

Contributors: Melanie St. Ours from The Simple Guide to Natural Health

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#3 Crowd Source — With a Secret Motive

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Ask your social media contacts for their favorite plant-based recipes and tips. This will help in two ways: 

  1. your friends can tell you what they liked about the recipes, which will help you find some road-tested favorites that suit your needs when it comes to spice, budget, type of cuisine, and ease of preparation and 
  2. this is a quick way to figure out which of your buddies might share your goals and be ready to act as a built-in support system. 

You can follow up with anybody who offers a recipe suggestion with an offer to support each other as accountability buddies, or just to keep-in-touch and share recipes, tips, and resources that you find along your journey. Lifestyle change is always easier if you're not doing it alone! 

Contributors: Melanie St. Ours from The Simple Guide to Natural Health

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#4 Integrate Into Diet, Not Cold Turkey

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When starting a plant-based diet, do as much exploration as possible, but don't forget where you came from! When changing to a plant-based diet, the first few weeks will be the hardest. They key is to integrate your plant-based diet into your routine so that it becomes second nature. However, that change doesn't happen overnight and the period of adjustment is where many often stumble. The key to successfully adopting a plant-based diet is to make incremental changes.

The awesome part is that it is easier than ever to start a plant-based diet while still eating foods that are familiar and comfortable due to food innovation. So, if some of your favorite foods are hamburgers or poultry, go for the burger or sandwich - just make sure to use plant-based alternatives. There are many buzzworthy brands such as Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat, that are now making variants of your favorite animal products - only from plant-based sources!Rather than quit meat cold turkey, use the first few weeks to explore plant-based options of your favorite foods that you're familiar with.

Then, as the diet becomes more comfortable, you can continue exploring all of the other alternatives in the plant-based space. Eventually, your tastes will change and you'll find all sorts of new cravings! Ultimately, by starting small and having fun with the process, you're much more likely to have a successful plant-based diet!

Contributors: Alfred Schofield from VitalFit Nutrition

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#5 Find a plant-based friend

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From product recommendations to recipe swapping, to plant-based dining, being plant-based is far more fun when you are part of a community of others who have also chosen this lifestyle. If you don't have anyone in real life, there are countless FB groups to join.

Contributors: Marianne McGinley from Lokalphoto

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#6 Pack your own damn lunch

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This will not only save you money, but also the time and anxiety spent searching for a place that has good plant-based options. Plus it's really easy to make a double recipe of something for dinner, like a stir-fry, and then put the veggies in a wrap with some hummus for lunch. 

Contributors: Marianne McGinley from Lokalphoto

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#7 Follow Vegan Blogs / IG for inspiration

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Plants are the most beautiful foods - surely the nearly 2M posts on #veganeats will give you plenty of ideas for what to cook. My faves, @isachandra and @avantgardevegan, share the most deliciously alluring plant-based dishes and also give you the full details on how to make them! 

Contributors: Marianne McGinley from Lokalphoto

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#8 Get a digital pressure cooker like the Instant Pot

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Get a digital pressure cooker like the Instant Pot or a similar one, because it vastly simplifies dipping your toe in the water of plant-based diets. Instead of worrying about how to prepare recipes for this new way of eating, you can simply focus on what you want to eat! There are dozens of great vegan and vegetarian resources, with directions and recipes, for people starting out on their new plant-based adventure with an electronic pressure cooker, and you can have your yummy plant-based meal merrily cooking away with one press of the button, and even kept warm and waiting for you when you arrive home, rather than spending lots of time in the kitchen learning!

Contributors: Anne Mitchell from Vegan Instant Pot Recipes Group

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#9 Get to know your plants

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In the market today there are tons and tons of fruits and vegetables to choose from. They come in all colors, shapes, textures and sizes; each with a different composition of nutrients. But most folks don't often expand their horizons limiting their choices to a basic staple of fruits and veg. As a Doctor of Nutrition Educator I cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourself on the different varieties, this includes knowing how to prepare them as well, and including a larger range of fruits and veg. can increase any benefits. 

Contributors: Priya Khorana from Columbia University Teachers College 

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#10 Make your plate more colorful

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Add different colored fruit and veg. at every meal - folks will reap the perks, as different colors indicate different nutritional benefits. Lycopene is found in reddish fruits and veg. like tomatoes and red peppers; vitamin C from yellow fruits and vegetables like kiwi fruit and oranges. 

Contributors: Priya Khorana from Columbia University Teachers College 

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#11 Check your products!

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You'll want to hold a detailed overview of any substance you're putting on, in or near your body to ensure there aren't animal byproducts in them. Industry sneaks things like collagen or gelatin into everyday use products like toothpaste, cleaning solution, and vitamins. You'll want to ditch these too! 

Contributors: Jenay Rose from Namaste Jenay

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#12 Plant Based Options

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When it comes to going plant based for the first time, I recommend looking up recipes or products that taste similar to what you may normally eat, but are the plant based counterpart. For instance, vegan cheddar cheese vs dairy cheddar, or seek out a DF milk alternative you would enjoy. My personal favorite is vanilla coconut milk or making a homemade almond milk. As for meat replacements, jack fruit is a great direct replacement for pulled pork, or  there's plenty of recipes like sunflower seed tuna that replaces traditional tuna fish. 

Contributors: Melissa Eboli from Via's Kitchen

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#13 Vitamin B12

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One of the most crucial things to keep in mind when going plant based is ways to get ample amounts of vitamin B. When you are not consuming meat, eggs or honey you are missing out on essential nutrients, specifically B12. If you are B12 deficient, you have the potential to develop general anxiety disorder. Some recommendations to overcome this are eat foods such as peas, brocolli and arugula as well as top meals with nutritional yeast. You can also take supplements like B12, chlorella and spirulina in addition to eating plant based protein powders such as Amazing Grass Superfoods which has a great blend rich in vitamins and nutrients.

Contributors: Melissa Eboli from Via's Kitchen

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#14 Ethnic Options

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Most Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern restaurants offer a variety of vegan options. Don't be afraid to try new cuisines!

Contributors: Ben Williamson from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

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#15 Order a free copy of PETA’s Vegan Starter

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It'll guide you through the transition to a healthier, happier, and longer-lasting life. It has everything from recipes and tips on eating out to health information.

Contributors: Ben Williamson from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

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#16 Meal Swaps

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Make simple swaps to the meals you already know how to prepare. Of course, when you first go vegan, it's a good idea to discover some mouthwatering vegan recipes, and get acquainted with the produce department in new ways. However, there are times when you're in no mood to pull out a cookbook. On those nights, I recommend thinking about the meals you already know how to make. With a few simple swaps, often your day-to-day recipes can easily be made vegan. Replace dairy cheese with avocado or nut-based cheese. Replace meat with beans, tofu, or seitan. Then keep the same seasonings and spices. It's not hard to turn beef tacos into bean tacos or pepperoni pizza into one with peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

Contributors: Cadry Nelson from Cadry's Kitchen

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#17 Up your flavor game

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Myth: plant-based foods taste like soggy cardboard or rabbit feed.

FALSE. Plant-strong is flavor-strong. The possibilities for culinary creativity are endless. There's a plethora of spice combinations, light gravies and rich sauces. Cooking variations produce a taste-adventure: grilled, pan-friend, oven-roasted, marinated, blanched, steamed, deep fried (yeah I said it), smoked... feeling inspired yet? Here's our challenge for you: try your hand at preparing (4) veggies this month in ways you're not used to or have never attempted before. Try new, custom spice blends. The journey to your palate-pleasing paradise begins with getting out of your comfort (food) zone.

Contributors: Austin Alvarez from BuildingOurRez

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