Choosing to eat either mostly or exclusively plant-based foods has numerous benefits for both your body and the environment.
When it comes to your health, you’ll reap the natural benefits that plants bestow on our bodies — outlined in these articles such as Choosing Whole Foods Over Processed Foods, Fruits and Vegetables Lead to Longer Life, Study Finds, and Guide to Eating More Vegetables in 2020 — including healthy weight management, reduced risk of heart disease, a spunkier and sharper brain, prevention or management of diabetes, and a reduced risk of cancer.
How about lending a helping hand to the environment that sustains and cares for you?
Going plant-based is great for the environment in more ways than one … or two! Reducing or completely nixing your personal intake of animal-based products can help cut our carbon footprint, conserve water, save animal and plant habitats, avoid dead zones, and leads to cleaner air. Get more info on your impact in this article 5 Ways Eating More Plant-Based Foods Benefits the Environment.
Looking to make that transition? Here are some tips and tricks that will help you not only succeed with a plant-based lifestyle but will give you a leg up on veganizing some of your favorite recipes!
Transitioning into a Plant-Based Lifestyle with any Recipe
You may think it’s as simple as just start eating veggies, yet there are a handful of pitfalls one can find themself in when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle. For instance, how do you know the plant-based foods your eating are supplementing the same nutrients of the animal-based products you cut out? Have you taken a look at the healthy fats and carbs, proteins, dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals — such as iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 — that your specific body needs in order to function properly?
While you don’t need to be a certified nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor to change up your diet, you absolutely need to do a bit of research (or talk to a nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor) to make sure you’re making the transition in a safe, sustainable, and smart way!
Setting yourself up for plant-based living is the key to success. Where do you start? Find the best alternatives for your favorite animal-based products!
One of the most necessary alternatives to seek out is a plant-based milk option.
Not only can you drink these plain, but you’ll also find yourself using plant-based milk in recipes, making your morning oatmeal or cereal, for protein shakes, and much more. So, what are your options? Lots! The tried and true go-to is almond milk such as this Pure Almond Mylk or this super simple Almond Milk. Of course, it’s all about taste. You can also choose a milk alternative with a higher healthy fat content, — such as this Homemade Coconut Milk — one with higher nutrient content, — such as this Simple Vanilla Oatmilk — or one that loads you up with protein — such as this a pea-based milk like this Unsweetened Ripple Plant-Based Milk.
Other necessary alternatives include vegan butter and vegan cheese!
Luckily, just like plant-based milk, there are lots of alternatives out there for you to find the perfect one. Either make your own — such as this super simple Vegan Butter or this Sliceable Cashew Cheese — or find a favorite at your local grocery stores — such as this Miyokos Creamery Vegan Organic Europen Cultured Butter or this 365 Everyday Value Plant-Based Smoked Gouda.
While dairy alternatives are the most popular on the market, you’ll also need to look out for more off-the-cuff animal-based product replacements such as gelatin — found in jello, gummies, and nutritional supplements — and some sweeteners, such as honey.
When it comes to the gelatin swap, simply opt for a vegan product from the shelf, which will generally source vegetable glycerin. If you’re creating a gelatin-based concoction at home, simply make your own gelatin! There are a few alternatives including agar-agar, pectin, and vegetable gums.
When it comes to that honey replacement, you can’t do better than a high-grade, sustainably sourced maple syrup such as this Coombs Family Farms Organic Grade A Maple Syrup. Of course, if you’re looking for a sweetener that won’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing, then try out one of the newer plant-based options to hit the scene, such as monk fruit sweetener.
Alright, now that you know what to look for, here are a host of resources to get you started:
- The Ultimate Guide to Dairy-Free Milk
- How to Pick the Right Plant-Based Milk
- Which Milk for What Recipe: A Non-Dairy Milk Guide for All Your Cooking and Baking Needs
- Here’s Why Plant-Based Milks Do a Body Good
- These 25 Vegan Cheeses Will Make You Quit Dairy Forever
- The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Cheese
- 15 Recipes That Prove Homemade Vegan Butter is Awesome
- Health Benefits of Monk Fruit an All Natural, Nutrient-Rich Sweetener
- How to Make Vegan Gelatin
2) Avoiding the Sugar Trap
Oftentimes, going plant-based can leave you filling the “hole” of animal products with sugary foods such as refined carbs — white flour bread and pasta, as well as vegan baked goods — and high fructose sugar products — such as fruit juice, maple syrup, and agave. This is especially relevant when you’re swapping out non-vegan ingredients for vegan ingredients in your favorite recipes.
When choosing foods to swap for sugar, try to focus on satiety. This means try choosing plant-based foods that are high in dietary fiber and protein, which will slow digestion and fill your stomach, helping to crush those sugar cravings.
First technique … instead of opting for blood sugar shifting sugar or sweeteners, why not try your hand at using naturally sweet veggies? This is not only an awesome technique to reduce your sugar intake and improve blood sugar levels, but it’s also a great way to infuse your diet with more nutrients decreasing the risk of a deficiency as you eliminate animal products.
Alright, so what are the good swaps?
High on the list are sweet potatoes, — such as this Sweet Potato Maple Mousse Pie — carrots, — such as this Carrot Coconut Salad — and parsnips — such as this Apple Parsnip Oatmeal With Cranberry Sauce. You can also try your hand with bell peppers and corn (always go non-GMO and organic with that corn!) — such as this Roasted Corn and Pepper Soup. You also can’t go wrong with squash! Butternut tops the list on the sweet factor, — such as this Butternut Squash and Apple Galette with Sage — but you can also try acorn, — such as this Maple Roasted Acorn Squash — kabocha, — such as this Wild Rice With Kabocha Squash and Sage Butter — and even spaghetti squash — such as this Cinnamon Spice Spaghetti Squash Cake — has a bit of natural sweetness to it.
Next up, healthy fruits!
Yes, fruit contains higher levels of natural sugar, yet it’s packaged alongside dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which slows the ingestion of sugar and avoids those nasty blood sugar spikes, along with increasing the overall health points of your food.
While pretty much any type of fruit will offer some sort of nutritional value, it’s important to fill your diet with low glycemic fruits — such as berries in this 3-Ingredient Berry Cereal — to counterbalance those wonderful high glycemic (oftentimes high fructose) fruits — such as bananas in this Healthy Banana Bread and tropical fruits in this Healthy Mango Smoothie. Great replacements for desserts also include apples — high in a healthy fiber called pectin such as in this Norwegian Apple Soup — and dates — also a fiber-filled, nutrient-rich swap, such as in this Apricot Bars.
Lastly, always keep some coconut on hand!
Coconut is not only naturally rich in healthy fats, but it’s also naturally sweet. This makes coconut products — shavings, chips, oils, creams, and milk — perfect for those sultry sweet baking recipes that you simply can’t live without such as these Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes With Coconut Whipped Cream, this Coconut Banana Baked Oatmeal, or these Almond Joy Oat Bran Granola Bars. Plus, if you absolutely have to use sugar, coconut sugar is higher in nutrient value. While you still get that blood sugar spike, you’ll at least be balancing it out a bit with a dose of nutrients.
- Curb Your Cravings for Sugar With These Naturally Sweet Foods
- 10 Fruit and Nut Recipes You’ll Go Nuts For
- 10 Healthy Plant-Based Breakfast Bowls with Fruit to Start the New Year!
- Veggies for Dessert? You Bet! How to Use Vegetables to Make Sweet Desserts
- 15 Naturally Sweet Vegan Desserts… No Sugar Added
- Yes, This is for REAL! 10 Low Fat, Low Sugar, Raw Vegan Desserts
- 15 Decadent Raw Vegan (No-Bake) Dessert Recipes
3) Using Veggies to Supplement
A super helpful tip for transitioning to plant-based cooking with any recipe is learning how to use vegetables in lieu of other products that are suddenly missing from your life. This includes meat-based recipes and many processed food-based recipes.
Even though plant-based living doesn’t necessarily mean removing processed foods like refined carbohydrates and sugar, you’ll find that going plant-based — especially vegan — naturally cuts out many of these processed food items due to animal-based ingredients.
This is where veggies, once again, reign supreme!
By swapping processed foods for veggies, you’ll naturally diversify your diet, increase your intake of nutrients, and decrease inflammation-causing foods.
For instance, swap a white flour pasta recipe, such as traditional spaghetti, for zucchini, such as this Zucchini Spaghetti With Tomato Cream Sauce. Swap a white flour pizza recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust such as this Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza. Swap a traditional meatloaf recipe for lentils such as this Lentil Loaf With Smoked Paprika Glaze. Swap a traditional steak recipe for a portobello recipe — such as these Portobello Mushrooms Steaks — or a tofu recipe — such as these Teriyaki Glazed Tofu Steaks.
Don’t count out nuts and seeds either as sweet tooth killers!
Nuts and seeds are some of the best sources of plant-based healthy fat, along with a slew of vitamins and minerals. Some nuts, such as almonds, are also an excellent source of plant-based protein. Add all of these factors up and you’ve got a wonderful, satiating ingredient to curb sugar cravings. Plus, they are excellent ingredients for making healthy sweet bread and dessert-type bars due to their high oil content, such as this Simple Lentil Loaf, these Homemade Granola Bars, this Nut-and-Seed Loaf, these Chocolate Coated Nuts and Seeds Granola Bars, or this Miracle Bread.
- Meat Alternatives Produce 10 Times Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Beef
- Raw Nuts and Seeds That Support Collagen Production in the Body
- 5 Healthy, Whole Food Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
- 10 Must-Have Healthy Nuts and Seeds to Snack On!
- 10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat
- Bacon, Burgers, Beef Crumbles, and More: 12 Soy-Free and Vegan Meat Alternatives Available Online
- 3 Meat Alternatives That Can Be Easily Made at Home (With Recipes!)
4) Veganizing Sauces, Dips, and Dressings
One of the hardest parts of plant-based eating, especially when it comes to transforming recipes, is finding those hidden animal products. They hide in many of your favorite foods including those sauces, dips, and dressings sitting in your fridge right now. Oftentimes, you’ll find heavy dairy-based creams, butter, gelatin, cheese, and preservatives mixed in to make these foods creamy, thick, and long-lasting.
Of course, once you know how to identify these ingredients, it’s easy to avoid them, and even easier to find some amazing, just-like-the-original swaps!
Sauces span the spectrum! They can be super simple, such as this Classic Tomato Sauce, or they can be complex, such as heavy cream-based sauces. This is where plant-based substituting becomes an art!
When it comes to creamy and cheesy sauces, instead of butter, heavy cream, or cheese, think a bit thicker. This recipe sources sweet potatoes, Creamy Nut-Free Cheese Sauce, — while this one taps into the sweetness of carrots, Life-Changing Cheese Sauce, and these go the nutty route, Spicy Cheese Sauce, Green Chili Nacho Cheese Sauce, and Pasta in Creamy Garlic Mushroom Sauce.
Dips, on the other hand, are a bit simpler as these recipes are generally a bit more solid. Opt for legumes such as this Bean Salsa with Homemade Tortilla Chips, this Red Lentil Hummus, or this Thyme and Pistachio White Bean Dip. Don’t forget good old-fashioned guacamole such as this Ultimate Guacamole, which relies on the natural creamy thickness and subtle flavoring of avocadoes. Of course, you’ve got to get a bit creative with dips such as queso. This basic Queso Dip uses a combination of cashews, carrots, and cauliflower to recreate that delicious, creamy texture and flavor. On the other hand, this Cashew and Salsa Queso Dip stays simple with cashews but mixes in salsa for a bit of chunk and a boost of flavor.
While dressings are generally animal-product-free, there are a few ingredients that sneak up on you. For instance, classic Ceasar dressing is made with anchovies, but they can be swapped out for nuts and seeds, such as in this Raw Caesar Salad Dressing, which uses cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, as well as a bit of dill, lemon, and miso for that somewhat spicy flavor.
Other hidden animal ingredients in dressings include albumin, — a “protein component of egg whites” in many processed foods — glycerides, — “glycerol from animal fats or plants” in many processed foods — casein, — a milk protein — and glucose — “animal tissues and fluids” found in many sweet foods.
You can definitely find vegan-friendly dressings on the shelf, but how about making some homemade versions such as this Oil-Free Salad Dressing 3 Ways, this Spicy Chipotle Salad Dressing, this Oil-Free Berry Miso Salad Dressing, or this Creamy Lemon Herb Dressing.
- How to Use Raw Nuts and Seeds to Make Dairy-Free Salad Dressing
- How To Make These Classic Sauces Vegan
- 10 Simple and Awesome Homemade Saute Sauces
- 25 Vegan Sauces That Make Any Meal More Enticing
- The Secrets of Homemade Vegan Salad Dressings
- The Secrets of Homemade Vegan Salad Dressings
- The Best Vegan Salad Dressings
- Homemade Vegan Ranch Dressing Recipes Like the Classic!
- 5 Ingredients That Make an Amazing Vegan Salad Dressing
5) Making Time for Prep
A huge part of going plant-based is giving up many of the easy pre-packaged and processed options. This means that … yes … you’ll be spending a bit more time in the kitchen.
Don’t fear, though! After only a short time, you can become a pro at prepping plant-based, healthy, and vegan foods for the week or even the month. Meal prepping is a great way to stay on your plant-based living course, even on the hardest, busiest of days. Plus meal prep can also help you save money and limit the amount of food waste.
By now, you’ve got all of your favorite vegan alternatives picked out, all of your favorite sweet veggie swaps stocked, and those animal-based vegan ingredients weeded out. Now it’s time to put all your skills together and begin prepping.
Based on this Plant-Based Meal Prep 101: Designing a Prepping Plan for Success article, there are five basic steps to follow.
- Plan around the space that you are equipped with. This means choose your storage containers wisely and plan to prep only long enough for the amount of fridge and freezer space you’re working with.
- Take a deep dive into storage containers. While plastic is definitely cheaper and lighter, it’s also an environmental burden and can leach toxins into the food if you heat them up. Make sure to keep aluminum foil and parchment paper on hand as well! These are great for wrapping such as breakfast burritos!
- Cook in bulk and freeze large batches. For instance, two hours of cooking could create weeks of butternut squash soup. How about baking a batch of veggie patties for burgers? If you’re already putting in the time to create one recipe, simply double or triple the recipe while you’re at it.
- Get your calendar in order! Choose a day that’s “somewhat” free of other responsibilities as your prep day and plan out how many days you want to prep for, whether that’s three days out of the week or maybe the entire week. This step will take into consideration both the space you’re working with, as well as the storage containers you have on hand or can afford to purchase. You may want to go all-in on a month’s worth of meals, but if you don’t have a freezer large enough, then it may not be an option.
- Take into consideration the best foods to prep for the week that can go in the fridge and those that still taste great after being defrosted. When choosing what to make think about meals that reheat easily. These include soups, stews, chili, casseroles, bread, broth, sauce, patties, and burritos. If you run out of your own ideas, here are hundreds of meal prep recipes to reinvigorate that prepping!
It doesn’t hurt to have resources to back you up when you feel overwhelmed. Here are a few resources to help you get your food prep on!
- 10 Foods You Should Prep and Refrigerate So You Can Eat Healthy All Week
- Prepping to Make Daily Fresh Meals is Taking Over Traditional ‘Stock Up’ Grocery Shopping
- 15 Easy Vegan Recipes You Can Prep in Advance That Will Save Time and Money
- Sample Meal Plans for the Female Vegan Athlete
- Weekly Meal Plan
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you just don’t have the time (or energy) to prep meals every week. This is where meal delivery services come in handy! And, lucky for us, as the plant-based trend has amplified the options for completely clean, plant-based meal delivery services. If you’re looking for a bit of break, here are a few to give a try! Purple Carrot, Veestro, Sun Basket, Sakara, Fresh and Lean, and VegReady. Looking for a few more that may fit your taste a bit better? Try taking a look at these plant-based delivery services and apps 12 Plant-Based Meal Delivery Services and a Recipe App You Need to Know About!
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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