Looking to try the Plant-Based Diet? Here is a simple Beginner’s Guide to the Plant-Based Diet with simple recipes and helpful tips to nourish the body, restore balance, reset cravings, rev up the metabolism, and shed unwanted weight. Yours FREE when you subscribe to the blog!
What is the Plant-based Diet?
The plant-based diet consists of consuming whole foods that come solely from plants- fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, and minimizing overly processed foods, and animal products.
There is some confusion between the vegan diet and whole-food plant-based diet, because there is so much overlap, but the most important difference is, that the vegan diet allows for overly processed foods (vegan meats, cheeses, snacks, etc) whereas a whole-food plant-based diet consists of whole, real foods, that are not highly processed.
While I believe we are all genetically different and no one “diet” is right for all of us, all the time, consuming a whole foods plant-based diet from time to time can have extraordinary benefits. Interestingly, most diets have benefits in the beginning- vegan, keto, vegetarian, paleo, low-fat, low-carb, pescatarian, carnivore, etc, can all help people lose weight, by the simple act of cutting out processed foods.
For example, both the keto diet and the carnivore diet can help folks manage diabetes, lower inflammation, and shed weight, very useful tools in the short run, but what are the long-term health effects? The jury is still out here. And honestly, the same can be said about the vegan diet, especially if consuming lots of vegan processed foods without paying attention to quality and nutrient density.
Perhaps the simple act of switching up our diet from time to time, is best- eliminating overly processed foods, and creating biodiversity in our gut with a wide array of plants. I like to think of this as eating with the seasons. “Cyclical eating” or consuming produce in its true season, feels so nourishing and grounding. To me, being “plant-based” is more about adding “all the seasonal plants” and eliminating overly processed foods, rather than being dogmatic about eliminating all animal products. But you do you. 🙂
10 Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet:
- lowers cholesterol
- Increases longevity by lowering IGF1
- supports a healthy gut microbiome
- promotes healthy weight
- helps heal diabetes
- lowers inflammation
- lowers blood pressure
- reduces cancer risk
- lowers heart disease
- Is the least taxing diet on the environment.
My Plant-Based Journey
Every January, I elect to go plant-based for a month, which for me, helps negate all the holiday indulging, which I don’t like to deprive myself of! Then periodically through the year, as needed, I’ll do a week of plant-based eating, once a month, or once a quarter. My body feels energized, sleep deepens, any sweet cravings are “reset”, and weight is easier to maintain. It has become an easy fun ritual, that I just wanted to share.
Over the years, I’ve tried many different diets- periods of being vegan or vegetarian, then going low-carb for periods of time, or switching to a pescatarian diet, and short periods of a higher protein diet to build muscle, then swinging back to a vegan diet again. Guess what? They all had some benefits. What I learned was to listen to my body.
First, I made a point of noticing what and I was eating and why. I noticed that much of the time I ate when I was not actually hungry. I did a lot of mindless eating… snacking, eating whatever was sitting on the counter as I walked past regardless if I was hungry. Being a restaurant owner, then a caterer, there was always food in front of me, which inevitably ended up in my mouth! I ate when I was anxious, I ate when I was tired, I ate when I was bored. I grazed and ate without actually thinking about what my body truly needed.
Second, I started paying attention to how my body felt – simply acknowledging the foods left me feeling energized, satiated, and deeply nourished, and noticing which foods left me feeling achy, stiff, inflamed, or craving sugar. At first, it was so subtle, it was really hard to pinpoint. On the mornings I woke up feeling stiff or tired (signs of inflammation), I simply noted what I ate the night before. I began to see a real pattern. I’m curious if you’ve noticed it too? For me, it was Processed Foods (often containing refined sugar, refined white flour, and refined seed oils).
Now don’t get me wrong- our bodies probably can handle small amounts of any of these– we do have a beautiful built-in detox system (our liver!) – but if your diet consists mainly of these, then giving your body a week or a month of “clean eating” will feel life-changing!
Third, I made a decision to go plant-based vegan for 3 months, eating meals mainly cooked from scratch using whole foods- this was key! What followed was more energy, better sleep, glowing skin, better digestion, weight loss, and a loss of sugar and salt cravings.
Currently, I make a practice of eating vegan, most days of the week, and enjoying fish, eggs and dairy (primarily goat & sheep cheese, yogurt & kefir) mainly on the weekends. This seems to suit my body best. Many folks have great results with eating vegan one week out of each month, some opt for every other day, and some do better full-time. Do what is best for you!
Can the Plant-Based Diet make you live longer?
New research is showing that eating a plant-based diet for a 3 month period can actually affect our DNA! Studies by Dean Ornish and others show how a plant-based diet affects the length of our telomeres, and ultimately slows down the aging process.
And while we take this “break” our bodies become better able to absorb all the incredible nutrients we are putting into them. I find that in the process, I start to actually crave these whole plant-based foods because I feel better, sleep better and have way more energy.
So this is what I try to do every month: For 7 days, I’ll cut out all processed foods, meat, dairy, refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. I make all meals from scratch, cooking only a few very simple meals that I eat throughout the week.
I keep it very simple. This is KEY.
(Now, of course, you can transition into the whole food, plant-based vegan diet full time. It need not be a “cleanse”, but rather a lifestyle change if you so choose.)
Intermittent Fasting and the Plant-Based Diet
On a daily basis, I practice intermittent fasting most days, adopting a 14/8 fasting schedule –eating just 2 meals a day within an 8-hour period, allowing my body to rest for 16 hours. This helps moderate insulin spikes and promotes autophagy.
An easy way to start is to eat within a 12-hour window for a few weeks, then gradually decrease this week by week to a 10-hour eating window. Decide if you would like to shorten this, based on how your body feels. Be gentle.
For more information on the benefits of intermittent fasting, read this recent article from Harvard Medical School and this Wikipedia article. If you struggle with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, I highly recommend that you research this. It is absolutely reversible.
What to Expect
In the Plant-Based Diet Guide, I lay out a list of things to begin your journey. Please don’t feel like you have to do ALL these things in the first week (unless you really want to jumpstart your body). I’ve found that lasting success comes from gradually and gently incorporating these changes into your life so they become a more lasting habit. This is key. Also, if you are not used to eating lots of plant-based foods, gradually adopting the diet will allow your gut microbiome to grow the healthy bacteria needed to better digest these veggies!
Weight will come off a little more slowly, but this is a good thing, and this way it will most likely last. So go ahead and start with just one or two things this week. Then next week add another, and then another the following week so it’s not so overwhelming or dramatic. This is not intended to be a crash course diet, but rather a lifestyle change for increased energy, vibrancy and gradual weight loss, with a “jumpstart” option if you are so inclined.
*For the record, I’m not a dietitian and I’m not here to try to convince you to become vegan (please do your own research first) but rather to show you simple ways to include more nutrient-dense, whole-food, plant-based meals into your life, and try to help wean you off of ultra-processed foods.
There are many paths to health, and my hope is to inspire and motivate you to find your own. Take inventory of how you feel and start taking responsibility for your health. This is not your doctor’s job- this is your job. We only get one body while we are here… and our food choices absolutely impact our health. We have more power than we are led to believe.
Not only does the plant-based guide contain helpful tips and tricks to make the transition easier- it contains delicious whole food, Vegan Recipes that will keep you feeling vibrant, energized, and satisfied! A week without processed foods does wonders for the body.
PLANT-BASED DIET RESOURCES:
Yes, these are affiliate links- feel free to purchase at your local bookstore!
- The Longevity Diet
- Eat Smarter
- The Obesity Code
- Wildatarian Diet
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
- Fat Burn Fix-great info on seed oils
- The Blue Zones
- Eat to Live
- Mastering Diabetes
The Five Food Groups of the Plant-Based Diet
So the Simple 7-Day Reset begins with cutting out highly processed foods (even vegan ones!) and eating real, whole food, made from scratch. AND Don’t worry- we make it simple!
- Fruits– any type of fruit- apples, citrus, mangos, bananas, pineapple, and my favorite- polyphenol-loaded wild berries
- Vegetables– leafy greens, tubers (sweet potatoes, carrots, etc) winter squash, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, etc
- Legumes– lentils, peas, chickpeas, black beans, etc.
- Whole grains– quinoa, whole grain bread (optional), wild rice, farro, etc.
- Nuts and Seeds- almond butter, pecans, sesame seeds and tahini, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
By consuming whole foods, you nourish your body with nutrient-dense ingredients, which provide REAL nourishment – while feeding your healthy gut bacteria, and protecting your liver …allowing our body to do what it naturally does… balance and heal itself.
When we truly nourish our bodies with REAL food, we find we don’t crave junk food as much. In the process, we also help reset our cravings, by feeding our “good” gut bacteria, strengthening THEM, and amplifying THEIR hunger signals for more plant-based foods.
So, though I am not technically a full-time vegan, I like to do a week or two of plant-based eating every month or so. Most weeks I’ll eat a plant-based diet, and on the weekends I’ll have lean proteins, like fish or seafood. On the days that I do eat fish, eggs, or dairy, I always incorporate a diverse range of nutrient-dense, veggies, and fruits.
Every January, after ” wine and cookie season”, I love to partake in a whole month of vegan, plant-based eating. It’s a nice practice and I feel the benefits: better sleep, more energy, glowing skin, and weight loss, and a beautiful way to start the new year!
Subscribe to the blog and get my free 7-DAY, PLANT-BASED RECIPE GUIDE and make some simple changes starting today! Once you sign up you’ll receive the list of things you can start implementing into your daily routine, along with some simple delicious recipes! You’ll also be signed up for our Saturday morning recipes.
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