Guide to Eating a Plant-Based Diet

Last Update: September 29, 2023

Believe it or not, enjoying a plant-based diet doesn’t mean eating a stalk of broccoli for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plant-based eating is surprisingly varied, nutrient-dense, and adaptable to a range of cuisines, so if you’re thinking of ditching meat and dairy and eating a little closer to the earth—consider this guide the perfect jumping off point!

Plant-Based vs. Vegan

At first glance, the term “plant-based” sounds like another name for veganism, but while both diets forgo eating anything that comes from an animal, there’s a notable difference. “Veganism” doesn’t only encompass food, but is a philosophy that steers clear of all products derived from animals or tested on animals, from clothing to toiletries. In addition, plant-based eating refers to whole, plant foods that resemble their original form (and are completely free of artificial ingredients). In other words, a food can be considered vegan without being “plant-based.”

Plant-Based Diet Benefits

Since plant-based diets encompass lots of nutritious grains, fruits, and veggies, it’s no wonder you’ll probably enjoy a few health benefits as well. “Every body is different, but incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet can help your overall health in so many ways!” shares Caitlin Shoemaker, the plant-based blogger and author behind From My Bowl. “This can include reduced cholesterol, blood pressure, and lowered inflammation in your body. Personally, I experienced clearer skin, better digestion, and feel so much more energized!”

Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

Making the shift to plant-based eating can feel intimidating if you’re unsure where to start. Be sure to take things slow, and make adjustments that work for your lifestyle. “I think the best way to transition to a plant-based diet is to go at your own pace, and find a way of eating that works best for you!” says Shoemaker. “Food is a major part of our lives, and it can be hard to drastically change your diet overnight. Even if you just start with one meal a day and adjust from there, I think you’re on the right track.”

Sources of Protein

So if you can’t eat meat, where do you get your protein? Plant-based protein comes in many forms, but our favorites include the following:

  • Whole grains like quinoa, wild rice, millet, and amaranth
  • Seeds like hemp, pumpkin, flax, and chia seeds
  • Nuts (including nut butters and milks) like almonds and cashews
  • Legumes like lentils, green peas, and chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh

Plant-Based Protein Powders

From pea protein to brown rice protein isolate and hemp protein, there are tons of plant-based protein powders to choose from instead of dairy-based whey. The trick is selecting a plant-based protein powder that has a clean list of ingredients and is free of artificial add-ins, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and milk ingredients, to name a few.

  • Garden of Life Raw Fit Protein Powder: This USDA Certified Organic, RAW, plant-based protein includes sprouted brown rice protein and organic flax meal.
  • Amazing Grass Superfood Protein Powder: A green food blend of organic wheat grass, organic alfalfa, organic barley grass, organic spinach, and other greens combines with a protein blend of organic pea protein, organic hemp protein, organic chia, and organic quinoa for supersized dose of nutrients.

Plant-Based Pantry List

Stocking your pantry with plant-based must-haves makes cooking and meal-planning a whole lot easier. Here are our go-to products to add to your shopping list:

Plant-Based Recipes

Need proof that a plant-based diet is both delish and satisfying? Check out this roundup of our all-time favorite plant-powered recipes!

Breakfast Recipes

These plant-based breakfast picks are both filling and nutrient-dense, making them the ideal fuel to start your day.

Banana Bread Granola

Thanks to old-fashioned oats, maple syrup, unsweetened coconut flakes, and dehydrated banana slices, a bowl of this granola is almost as comforting as a homemade loaf of banana bread.

Coconut Flour Pancakes

We’re stacking up the many reasons to love these gluten-free, Paleo-friendly pancakes, made with coconut flour, raw honey, and almond milk. We have a feeling they’ll soon become your new brunch staple.

Vegan French Toast

A little nutritional yeast goes a long way when it comes to delivering soft, fluffy, plant-based French toast. Just blend with banana, spelt flour, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, almond milk, and almond butter for your bread dipping batter and prepare for a crave-worthy vegan breakfast. Find more genius nutritional yeast recipes here!

Warm Cacao Smoothie Bowl

Think all smoothies are served chilled? Think again! This warm smoothie bowl heats things up with cacao creamer. And if you’re a fan of blended breakfasts, here’s another way to power up your morning smoothie.

Lunch Recipes

You don’t have to settle for a simple garden salad for lunch if you’re going plant-based. With so many versatile fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes available, you’ll soon discover that the possibilities are endless.

Vegan Chickpea Patties

We’re pretty much on board with anything that comes in a pita, but these chickpea patties, made with almond flour, spices, and coconut aminos, are wonderfully satisfying all on their own.

Vegan Spring Rolls

Rock ‘n roll with spring rolls! Chili lime jackfruit and shirataki noodles make this plant-based finger food downright addicting.

Vegan Cheese

Plant-based cheese? You bet! You can make basic vegan cheese with macadamia nuts or cheese sauce with cashews. The results are so rich and creamy, you’ll hardly miss the dairy version.

Cauliflower Buffalo “Wings”

Here’s the thing: Buffalo-style cauliflower “wings” are a game changer. With the crispy texture and spice of wings and a completely plant-based list of ingredients, it’s no wonder this recipe is a crowd favorite.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Consider this dressing the perfect companion for your cauliflower “wings,” (though it’s also great on salads or crudite). Our plant-based ranch uses raw cashews, garlic powder, and apple cider vinegar for the perfect combo of creaminess and tang.

Creamy Hummus With Avocado Oil

Hummus is a plant-based diet staple, whether used as a condiment, dip, or topping. This recipe upgrade includes avocado oil for a dose of healthy fats.

Dinner Recipes

These delicious dinner recipes are a refined, plant-based spin on some comfort food favorites.

Beetroot Ravioli With Cashew Cream Cheese

Soft cashew cream cheese is sandwiched between two thin beet slices for a raw, plant-based take on an Italian classic.

One-Pot Kale and Mushroom Pasta

Truthfully, we were a fan of this recipe when we heard it was a “one-pot” meal, but meaty shiitake mushrooms and baby kale over hearty chickpea pasta officially won us over. Nix the cheese to make it vegan.

Nutty Sesame Carrot Noodles

This might sound nutty, but you can totally use spiralized veggies as a noodle substitute if you’re eating a plant-based diet. Sesame oil, ginger, and nut butter top ribbons of carrots and cucumber for a refreshing, flavorful dish.

Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole

Looking for taste of nostalgia? This vegan casserole is just as good as the kind your grandma used to make, only this time it includes vegan marshmallows.

Vegan Kale Nachos

This is nacho ordinary chips and queso. Instead, this clever, plant-based update pairs baked kale chips with spicy cashew queso and finishes things off with avocado, tomatoes, jalapeño, and cilantro.

Dessert Recipes

There’s always room for dessert—even if you’re eating a plant-based diet. When you’re craving something sweet, these delightfully dairy-free indulgences hit the spot.

Black Bean Brownie Bites

You’ll never underestimate beans again thanks to this surprisingly decadent brownie recipe, which combines black beans with coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup, and cacao for a rich, chocolatey treat.

Maca Chocolate Bark

This bark has bite courtesy of goji berries, cranberries, almonds, pecans, and a fermented superfood boost from maca powder.

Cranberry Pecan Apple Crumble

There’s something about the contrasting crispy and luscious textures of a crumble that make our heart skip a beat. This plant-based rendition tops apples with coconut sugar, maple syrup, and gluten-free cranberry granola and then leaves it to bake in a cast-iron skillet. Need we say more?

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Jillian Gordon

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