How to Transition to a Plant-Based Diet

October 5, 2022

Sally Sartin, MD

Transitioning to a plant-based diet is probably going to be one of the most important decisions you will make in your life! I’m happy to provide you some tips to making the transition as smooth as possible. If you haven't yet, make sure you've read my first blog on the benefits of a plant-based diet, which covers all the basics from "Why eat plant-based" to "How will I get enough protein?". 

There’s a couple of different approaches you can take depending on your style of change. I will walk through two different methods: 1) Diving head first into a plant-based diet and 2) making gradual changes until you're fully plant-based. There are slight differences between the two, so you may want to look over both and see which one works best for you.


Diving head first into a plant-based diet.

If you're looking to jump right into a plant-based diet, I recommend that you:

  1. Invest in a plant-based cookbook or find a plant-based website that you will use as your primary source of recipes.
  2. Sit down and plan your meals for the week using the plant-based cookbook or recipes you find online. Start with simple meals. Try to make breakfast your largest meal.
  3. Stock up on these food items for the week: fruits, vegetables, whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta and brown rice), nuts, tubers (such as potatoes and carrots) and legumes (you can use canned beans). You should also stock up on meat and dairy alternatives. 
  4. Try to avoid snacking between meals and drink plenty of water instead. This is to give your body time to digest your meals. If you stick with whole grains, you will not experience the highs and lows of a fluctuating blood sugar level throughout the day that gives your body the cravings to snack.
  5. Repeat this for each week.
  6. If you are switching to a plant-based diet for health reasons, monitor your weight, blood sugars and/or blood pressure as directed by your doctor.
  7. Keep you doctor informed of your progress. You may need re-evaluate any medications you may take for diabetes or hypertension. Your doctor will be the best person to help you adjust accordingly.
  8. Celebrate your successes! Encourage yourself to stick to your plan when you are tempted to eat non plant-based.
  9. Be patient with yourself. If you veer off course, don't worry! Pick up where you left off and don’t quit.

Gradually adapting to a plant-based diet.

Jumping right into a big lifestyle change isn't for everyone. There are steps you can take to slowly incorporate a plant-based diet into your every day.

  1. Choose a meal (either breakfast, lunch or supper) for the week that you will be more intentional about incorporating more fruits or vegetables as well as substituting your meat and dairy. So for example, if you choose to modify your breakfast, then every morning you will have a non-meat and non-dairy breakfast with more incorporation of more fruit or veggies. You may consider using plant based recipes found online or in a cookbook that you decided to invest in to help come up with meals that are balanced and nutritious.
  2. You will do this for 2 weeks before adding a second meal to modify for another couple of weeks. You will then be ready to transition to a fully plant-based diet by modifying your third meal. This whole process will take a total of 6 weeks.
  3. Right off the bat, switch to all whole grains for cereals, bread, rice, pasta, flour, etc.
  4. Monitor your weight, blood sugars and/or blood pressure as applicable.
  5. Keep your doctor informed of your progress. You may need re-evaluate your medications and your doctor will be the best person to help you do this.
  6. Celebrate your successes! Keep advancing with your choices to transition fully to a plant-based diet!


Substitutions to help you get started.

When going from dairy to non-dairy, here are some substitutions to try out:

  • Milk. Try soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk or hemp milk.
  • Cheese. Try non-dairy sliced cheese, cream cheese, shredded cheese or find a recipe for cashew cheese sauce to put over macaroni noodles, nachos or pizza.
  • Alfredo. You can find a vegan alfredo sauce recipe to use instead. 
  • Sour cream. Try non-dairy sour cream (Tofutti is one brand I like to use) or find a non-dairy sour cream recipe.
  • Mayonnaise. Vegenaise is a great alternative or other non-dairy mayo.

When switching off meat you can find veggie burger crumbles, patties or deli slices in local grocery stores. It's also important to include enough plant-based proteins! If you're looking for more ways to incorporate plant-based proteins, try these sources! 



Why make these changes?

Plant-based foods contain no cholesterol, are lower in calories and rich in nutrients. Because they are lower in calories, larger volumes of foods are needed to sustain your energy throughout the day. So, you should not feel restricted or limited. Eat until you’re satisfied. Make sure you’re incorporating a good source of protein with each meal. If you are successful, you will reap the benefits of having a better quality of life and increased longevity. You will also end up saving in the end!

Next I will be sharing how to read labels on food items as well as good versus bad oils! Looking for more resources? I would also recommend watching “Eating You Alive!” It’s a documentary movie that will help you understand why a plant-based diet is the diet to cure chronic lifestyle diseases.



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Originally published Oct 5, 2022 4:31:59 PM.