Plant based diets can be confusing because they’re talked about in so many different ways. You can follow a plant based diet and eat meat, eggs, dairy, poulty, seafood, or only plants. But regardless of what else you choose to eat, a plant based diet done right means vegetables are the star of your plate.
If you’re a plant based beginner, the majority of what you eat should be plants. This is how you do a plant based diet right.
Because a plant based diet can fit anyone’s food preferences we wanted to provide you an ultimate guide on how to do a plant based diet right.
Today’s post will be full of information so click on one of the below links to jump to a particular section
Are you ready to get started?
Ready to explore the vast flavorful world of plant based foods?
Let’s get going…
Table of Contents
What is a Plant Based Diet?
Most people think a plant based diet means you have to be vegan or vegetarian but…you’re in luck, it doesn’t.
You can follow a plant based diet and still eat meat.
When you look at research studies that analyze people’s eating habits, “plant based” is simply a term used when plants comprise the majority of a person’s diet.
Let's clarify this a bit more and define plants.
- Plants are anything that grows in the ground or came from something growing in the ground. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, & lentils), fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and grains are all plants.
Now for the word I dislike to the nth degree…Diets.
The reason for my extreme distaste is largely because of the agony and grief “diets” and “dieting” cause so many women. It’s a word that conveys suffering, loss, and misery.
Food and eating shouldn’t be any of those things.
God gave us food to nourish and sustain us. God created food because He knew it would bring us pleasure, knew it would fuel our bodies, and knew it would bring us together with other people.
In scientific research,
- Diets are eating habits and not things you go on and off of, or that carry a set of strict rules.
The food you eat should be part of your lifestyle.
It should be a life sustaining way of life. Period.
An Unhealthy Plant Based Diet
I can’t explain a plant based diet and how to do it right, without also explaining it’s unhealthy side.
You can be 100% plant based and still be eating a (SAD) standard American diet.
Grocery store aisles are flooded with unhealthy foods made only from plants. I’ve met my fair share of unhealthy people following SAD plant based diets.
Sarah and I don’t want you to be SAD. We want to provide you research backed tools and resources that enable you to take great care of yourself.
Benefits of a Plant Based Diet
There are so many benefits to eating plant based that it’d take all day to fully explain them. So, I’m just going to give you little snippets of how you benefit when the bulk of your diet is plants. Each of these benefits could be a full blog post (and maybe I’ll turn some of them into one).
Now for those benefits.
1. A plant based diet is heart healthy.
It improves blood pressure, lessens your chance of heart disease, and improves already existing heart disease. The forms of fiber in plants help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation – both of which can lead to heart disease. The more whole food plants you eat the lower your risk of heart disease becomes.
2. A plant based diet reduces cancer risk.
Following a plant based diet is foundational in preventing cancer.
They also positively alter genetic responses that are linked to cancer formation and support your body’s ability to destroy abnormal cells.
3. A plant based diet can lower body weight.
While eating a plant based diet isn’t guaranteed to cause weight loss, it is likely. Plant foods are incredibly filling, bulky, and very low in calories. Because of this, it’s difficult to eat too many calories when the bulk of your plate is plants. Research has found that people following a plant based diet lose weight and are able to maintain a healthy weight for life.
4. A plant based diet improves blood sugar.
No matter the form of diabetes, eating plants is one of the best ways to lower blood sugar. It’s also one of the top ways of preventing diabetes. The healthy combo of nutrients and fiber in plant foods both lowers inflammation and sweeps glucose out of your system. If you’re at risk for, or have diabetes, a plant based diet is the way to go.
In addition to those four biggies, a plant based diet done right will improve:
- GI health,
- your liver,
- protect your cells,
- positively affect your hormones,
- improve your immune system,
- better your skin,
- improve your brain health and memory (it’s a key way to combat/prevent dementia and alzheimer’s),
- and so much more.
Eating plant based is the right diet for you if living a healthy life and taking great care of your body, the Holy Spirit’s temple, is on your to-do list.
Plant Based Diet Foods
Now that you’ve got a sweeping overview of why to follow a plant based diet, you’re probably wondering “What foods can I eat on a plant based diet?”
And the easiest way to answer that is to ask yourself this question:
“Did it grow in the ground or come from something that did?”
You can download a plant based diet food list here: Plant Based Diet Food List
But remember, doing a plant based diet right means eating whole, minimally processed foods.
Plant based foods include:
- all fresh or frozen non-starchy and starchy vegetables, leafy greens, and herbs. Canned veggies have almost no nutritional value and should be avoided. Fermented vegetables can be found in the refrigerator case of many grocery stores and are a wonderful addition to a plant based diet.
- all fresh or frozen unsweetened fruits and berries. Unsulphered, unsweetened dried fruits and applesauce are okay but canned or sweetened fruit should be avoided.
- dried and canned beans are both an important part of a plant based diet done right. Beans, lentils, and peas all fall in this category and are a wonderful source of protein and fiber.
- all dry, whole (key word) grains are allowed on a plant based diet. Bread made with 100% whole grains is also okay but read the ingredients. You want it to say “whole” or “100%” and not the name of a grain followed by this: (a long list of vitamins/minerals).
- This one is tricky because most oil is highly processed and oil is fat. Minimally processed fats include: nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, coconut, and coconut milk. The Plant Based Food List here, includes other healthier and less processed fats/oils
- Coffee, tea, herbs, spices, and vinegars can all be part of a healthy plant based diet. Non-dairy milks are complicated because many of them contain strange ingredients.
Budget Friendly Foods
Most cultures in the world follow a plant based diet because it’s the cheapest way to eat. Yup, following a plant based diet the right way is extremely budget friendly.
Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, spices, and more are all cheaper when bought in bulk. This saves you money while also protecting our planet (when you use reusable containers to purchase and store the foods).
So, while you’re following other cultures’ plant based lead, follow their taste profile lead as well.
These cultures have mastered the art of producing inexpensive flavorful plant based meals with nothing more than plants. And the best part is that eating plant based foods is inexpensive, health promoting, and full of flavor.
Serving Sizes of Plant Based Foods (for women)
I’m not a big fan of serving sizes but know many people like to have them. Because I want you to have everything you’ll need for doing a plant based diet right, I’m giving you the approximate servings of plant based foods a woman needs each day.
What you have to remember is that the amount of food you need will vary each day and be dependent on your lifestyle.
Here’s some averages that’ll work with or without meat:
- 1200-1400 Calorie Plant Based Diet – 2-3 protein servings, 2-3 fat servings, 8-9 vegetables, 2 fruits, 1-2 whole grains
- 1400-1600 Calorie Plant Based Diet – 3-4 protein servings, 3-4 fat servings, 8-11 vegetables, 2 fruits, 2 whole grains
- 1600-1800 Calorie Plant Based Diet – 4-5 protein servings, 4-5 fat servings, 11-12 vegetables, 2 fruits, 2-3 whole grains
- 1800-2000 Calorie Plant Based Diet – 5-6 protein servings, 4-5 fat servings, 12 vegetables, 3 fruits, 2-3 whole grains
Protein serving =
3 ounces of meat, 1 ounce of cheese, 6-8 ounces of most unsweetened milk or yogurts, ½ cup beans, lentils, or peas, or 1 ounce of most nuts/seeds
Fat serving =
1 tsp oil, ghee, butter, or mayo, 1/8th an avocado, 1 ½-3 TB coconut milk, pesto, salad dressing, or 8 olives
Vegetable serving =
½ cup raw non-starchy vegetables, 1 cup leafy greens, 1 cup cubed winter squash, ½ a medium potato or sweet potato
Fruit serving =
tennis ball sized piece of most whole fruits or ¾ cup berries
Grain serving =
⅓ cup rice or ½ cup of most other whole grains (cooked)
Food and the way we combine it to form meals is so varied it’s near impossible to provide exact serving sizes. Use these serving sizes as a “rough” guide for approximating how much of a particular food group you need each day.
Planning Plant Based Meals
When it comes to doing a plant based diet right, taking the time to plan your meals is probably the most important thing you can do. Knowing what you’re going to eat each day prevents you from grabbing last minute unhealthy food, saves money, and ultimately saves time.
Here are my favorite plant based meal planning steps. Check out this post here for even more meal planning tips.
1. Meal plan.
Start by asking yourself:
- What does the week ahead look like?
- What foods do I already have?
Then start planning the meals you’ll have the most time to cook. Always plan for leftovers and try to repurpose ingredients in different ways.
2. Batch cook.
Some batch cooking might be a weekend thing and some can be done while you’re preparing other meals. Beans, lentils, whole grains, roasted vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, sauces, and dressings can all be batch cooked several days in advance. Bonus: beans and whole grains freeze really well.
Yes, meal prep takes a little time but if you get the family involved it’ll:
- teach skills
- be fun &
- set your week up for success.
3. Start small.
Start with what you already know how to do and tweak it to make it plant based.
Start with something you know you can do and gradually build on it each week.
4. Tweak recipes.
If you’ve got meat centered recipes your family loves, it’s time to make them plant based. This is easier than you think. Just replace all (or most) of the meat with beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, seitan, or mushrooms.
If you’re a plant based beginner, start small and split the difference between meat and plants. Then the next time, make it 75% plants…Get the idea?
Here are two favorite recipes Sarah used when she was learning how to cook tofu.
5. Salad bar.
This is the best way to make lunch in seconds while also allowing for unending variety.
Make one shelf in your fridge the salad bar shelf and then fill mason jars with pre-cut veggies, herbs, a variety of greens, olives, nuts, seeds, artichoke hearts, pickles, and a couple of homemade dressings.
Let your creativity run wild each morning as you’re deciding what to put into that day’s fridge salad.
6. Buy fresh.
Get fresh veggies once or twice a week or consider signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your area. You can find CSA farmers in your area here.
7. Good cookbooks.
8. Instant Pot.
Plant Based Diet Meal Plan
Now for the part of this beginners guide that’ll help you get all this good stuff onto your plate. This is my favorite part because I love cooking and love helping people incorporate more flavorful vegetables into their meals.
You can download a copy of this 7-day meal plan here: 7 Day Plant Based Meal Plan
The below table shows the different meals in the above plant based meal plan. Feel free to swap things around or add a little meat if you’re not ready to go 100% plant based.
There you go – the ultimate beginner’s guide to doing a plant based diet right.
I hope this has helped you see how plants can fit into any diet pattern you choose to follow. As I showed last week, a plant based diet done right even fits with keto diets.
Whether you eat eggs, dairy, meat, or no meat – a plant based diet is the healthy way to eat for life.
A plant based diet done right isn’t a fad or a diet you do for “x” months in order to lose weight.
If you have any questions about following a plant based diet you can reach us here.
If you haven’t downloaded our “Christian Woman’s Whole Health Starter Guide” be sure to download it here. This guide will help you make gradual changes so you’re healthier spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Until next time remember…Your body is God’s temple and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Meditate on that this week as you’re pursuing a healthy plant based diet. God bless.
Did you remember to download all the freebies in today’s post?