Whether you're curious about plant-based eating or you're inspired to go all in - yay you! Health benefits and good food await, and fortunately, there's been no better time to try plant-based. Every week it seems like my daughter has been inspired by someone on Instagram or Tik Tok cooking some plant-based dish. Some of my newest favorites are ones she has discovered and tried out for the family. There are also more restaurants than ever catering to plant-based eating. So, curbside or home-cooked, access to great food and recipes has never been easier.
That said, I can appreciate the challenge of changing eating habits. Our family of five has been plant-based for about six years, and while this is second nature to us now, it took some fits and starts to get here.
At first, I was pretty ambitious, scouring cookbooks and websites and trying all kinds of great plant-based recipes. Many were delicious, but not all of them made the cut with real-world schedules and cooking times.
It took me a while to find my way, and these days we eat pretty simply. And we eat well. Through all of my experimenting with recipes and cooking, what I've learned is that plant-based eating doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming to be good.
Nor does plant-based have to be an all or nothing endeavor to be worthwhile. Like any new habit, it's easy to flame out quickly if we try and do too much too soon. Better to start small and eventually make your way to the proverbial finish line than start off gangbusters only to abandon it a few weeks later because it was unsustainable.
Yes, some people can and will successfully overhaul their diet in one fell swoop and find it sustainable. If that's you, I'm going to welcome you to the plan-based club and celebrate your success!
However, if taking smaller steps is what helps you get started and stick with it, I'm here to cheer you on and celebrate that, as well.
So, what are some ways you can turn your new found inspiration into consistent action? Consider a few different ways to get started.
The good news is there is no one way to become plant-based.
Start with one meal
Pick the easiest meal where you can make the change. I often suggest breakfast, as many options are quick, easy to prepare, and are already plant-based - cereals, oats, toast, and smoothies, to name a few. Toast some bread, add some peanut butter, apple slices, and honey, and you're good to go.
Start with one day
If the idea of one meal a day seems daunting, dial it back and start with one meal a week! Meatless Mondays are already a thing, so let that be your cue and commit to kicking off each week with a plant-based meal and grow it from there.
Call up the supporting cast
Often, meat is the show's STAR when it comes to how we plan and plate meals. Rather than abruptly eliminate meat, gradually minimize the meat portion and bulk up the already plant-based sides. Get family members used to seeing more fruits, vegetables, and grains on the plate.
Look for easy tweaks/swaps
There are probably several things in your rotation that you can convert to plant-based with a few easy tweaks or swaps. For example, eliminate the meat from the pasta sauce. Swap out regular milk for plant-based milk and use that with your cereal, smoothie, or coffee; substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in soups and stews. Start changing the ratio of meat to plants in recipes - adding black beans and rice to your tacos, for example.
Abandon expectations, embrace new experiences
Remember that when you're eating different foods, you're eating different foods. I will never try to convince you (or my kids) that my favorite black bean and millet burger recipe is just like eating a burger! Even almond milk on your cereal will be a different experience than cereal with your usual milk. The less you expect the plant-based version to be just like your favorite food, the more likely you will discover new favorites.
There are entire books and documentaries on the subject of eating plant-based, and we all know how too much information can be overwhelming. Let's start with these few ideas and see what happens in the spirit of starting small. Growing your plant-based intake by any measure is always going to be a win over changing nothing at all.
As always, you don't have to figure this all out on your own. I'm here to help you get started in any way I can - big or small! Together, we can develop a plan that aligns with your goals and life.
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– JEANNE TORRE, LCSW, NBC-HWC
Health Advisor, Level II RRCA Running Coac