There’s no doubt that embracing a whole foods plant-based diet can be life-changing for your health, but making the transition can be overwhelming or confusing if you’ve never ventured into this new territory. I asked top experts to provide advice for those looking to transition to a whole foods, plant-based diet, and I couldn’t be more impressed with the responses I received.
Below are AMAZING and honest tips from 26 influential experts in the plant-based world, including health professionals and trusted healthy-minded food bloggers. If you are curious about moving to a healthier lifestyle, looking for tips or suggestions, or if you just need some motivation to keep going, this post is for you. =)
Click the names to jump to an expert or start scrolling!
26 Experts Share Best Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet
VICTORIA MORAN, Main Street Vegan
1. First, embark on this with a spirit of adventure. I think of it as adding more to your life than you subtract. Discover ethnic cuisines, cool fruits and veggies you’re unfamiliar with, new recipes, and new restaurants.
2. Abandon ‘diet think’; this is so much more. Look at embarking on this lifestyle as a way to increase vitality and beauty and slow the aging process, and to explore the wonders of vegan living beyond simply what you eat. In addition to health and nutrition, the ‘vegan wheel’ includes environmentalism, animal rights, fashion, cruelty-free cosmetics, culinary exploration, vegan dating, pregnancy and parenting, travel, entrepreneurial pursuits, and investment opportunities. There’s a whole world behind the door marked ‘vegan’; explore as much of it as you find fascinating.
3. Find your peeps – ideally in person, but online works too. Doing anything different is difficult when you feel all alone in the world, but easy and fun when you have friends and colleagues supporting your process. Get to know people through vegan/plant-based/animal rights organizations, Meetup groups, vegfests, conferences, classes, Facebook groups, cruises, educational programs – we’re everywhere, and we’re friendly.
Victoria Moran has been a Main Street Vegan® for 32 years and currently holds the title of Peta’s Sexiest Vegan Over 50. Victoria is an obesity survivor, maintaining a 60+-pound weight loss, and is the bestselling author of 12 books.
Cited by VegNews among the Top 10 Contemporary Vegetarian Authors, Victoria appeared twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show and is a celebrity coach for PCRM’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. Her articles have appeared in Yoga Journal, Mothering, Natural Health, Woman’s Day, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, VegNews, & Vegetarian Times. Her work has been noted in USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, Self, Elle, Glamour, Allure, and O, the Oprah Magazine.
back to top ↑
MARK REINFELD, Vegan Fusion
Whether you’re interested in preserving your health, the environment or creating a more peaceful world, the benefits you will gain from a plant-based diet are endless. Not only will you bring a positive change to the planet, but there are many tips to help you along the way. Below you will find a few helpful suggestions while transitioning to a plant-based diet.
1. Get creative with salads. Add different ingredients to your salads such as toasted nuts or seeds, legumes, grains such as rice or quinoa (botanically a seed), cubed and roasted tofu or tempeh, and any other ingredients you are drawn to. Explore the produce section and discover the many options that are available seasonally.
2. Add a superfood smoothie to your breakfast. Adding superfoods such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, cacao nibs and or nut butters such as almond or sesame, will give a burst of nutrients to your morning routine.
3. Create ethnic spice blends. Creating ethnic spice blends gives you the World’s cuisine at your fingertips. Add them to soups, stir-fries and even a simple rice dish to easily enhance the flavor of your meals. Consider starting with Mexican, Italian and Indian blends. Then expand to Moroccan, Ethiopian, French and others.
Mark Reinfeld is a multi-award winning chef and author of seven books, including the 30 Minute Vegan series and his latest book, Healing the Vegan Way. Mark has over 20 years experience preparing creative vegan and raw food cuisine. Since 2012, he has served as Executive Chef for North American Vegetarian Society’s Vegetarian Summerfest and has offered consulting services for clients such as Google, Whole Foods, Bon Appetit Management, & more. Mark was the founding chef of The Blossoming Lotus Restaurant in Kaua’i”, voted “Best Restaurant on Kauai.”
His first cookbook, Vegan Fusion World Cuisine, has won 9 national awards, including “Best Vegetarian Cookbook in the USA.” He is the recipient of Vegan.com’s Recipe of the Year award, and Aspen Center for Integral Health’s Living Foods category Platinum Carrot award. Through his Vegan Fusion company, he offers consulting, chef services, culinary workshops, chef trainings and teacher trainings internationally.
back to top ↑
HOLLI THOMPSON, HolliThompson.com
1. Don’t overdo processed carbs, like breads and pasta.
These are processed carbohydrates and often contain gluten. Gluten can be inflammatory in many people and processed carbs convert to sugar and can create bloating, weight gain, and digestion issues. Go for gluten free whole grains and seeds, like quinoa, teff, millet. Or try ancient grains like farro.
2. Eat more vegetables!
But be careful to not overload your digestive system too suddenly. Adjust slowly if you are increasing your veggie intake so your digestive system can adjust, and you don’t back up. Try pureed soups and smoothies. Remember that vegetables contain protein, so if you’re eating lots of vegetables, you’re getting protein.
3. Explore protein sources to find the right one for you. Dairy is an easy one because it’s so prevalent, but many people are intolerant to dairy and it can be addictive, creating weight gain, inflammation and mucous. Try nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, or organic tofu, to see which suit you. Be creative with your meal preparation, explore vegan recipes so you don’t get bored!
Holli Thompson is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Certified Natural Health Professional, as well as a Myers Briggs Certified Practitioner. She shares her philosophy about health, nutrition and food on her blog hollithompson.com, as well as through private consults and public appearances. She is the author of “Discover your Nutritional Style“.
back to top ↑
LINDSAY OSTROM, Pinch of Yum
1. Learn to make amazing sauces! The right sauce can MAKE a meal, even if that meal is as simple as rice, veggies, and tofu. Adding a sauce takes it from blah to WHOA, and it’s super easy to make a quick and flavorful sauce. A lot of my sauces involve herbs, oils, garlic, citrus, and something for texture or thickening, like nuts.
2. Buy a food processor – there is so much you can do to food (especially plants) with a food processor to make it interesting and delicious. For example – kale, almonds, garlic, olive oil, lemon and salt can become the best nutritious kale pesto you’ve ever tasted. Or toss some cauliflower florets in there and pulse for a few seconds and voila – you have cauliflower “rice.”
3. Keep plant based pantry staples on hand – rice, quinoa, pasta, canned tomatoes, canned beans, and frozen vegetables. Even if you don’t have any other ingredients, you can effortlessly make a soup or a pasta or a stir-fry out of these pantry essentials.
Lindsay and her husband Bjork are the team behind pinchofyum.com, a food blogging empire with millions of monthly visitors. They also built Food Blogger Pro, a food blogging community with videos, podcasts, and other tips.
back to top ↑
KATHY PATALSKY, Healthy Happy Life
1. Veganize your favorites. Instead of feeling like you have to ban your fave meals, search far and wide for delicious recipe alternatives. Amazing vegan pizza, veggie burgers, ice cream, pasta, whatever! Even cheese…
2. Take it slow. Forcing yourself to go all in with plant-based right away may shock your system and leave you feeling emotionally drained and culinarily deprived. Try one vegan meal a day. Then add more meals and see how you feel.
3. Learn How to Cook. This is so important or I guarantee the call of takeout food and other not-always-healthy-options will be whispering your name. Snag a few amazing vegan cookbooks, watch YouTube, read some blogs. And start playing in your kitchen. Cooking skills take time and experience.
Kathy Patalsky is the author of the popular food blog HealthyHappyLife.com, as well as the two cookbooks 365 Vegan Smoothies and Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen. She also created FindingVegan.com.
back to top ↑
MICHAEL GREGER, MD, NutritionFacts.org
1. I would encourage folks to sign up for the NutritionFacts.org newsletter, which is a strictly non-commercial, science-based public service, providing free updates on the latest in nutrition research via bite-sized videos.
2. I would also recommend checking out 21daykickstart.org, to kick start your health with a whole foods, plant-based diet.
About Dr. Greger:
Dr. Gregor is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Greger is licensed as a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition. He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine.
His latest book, How Not to Die, became an instant New York Times Best Seller. 100% of all proceeds he has ever received from his books, DVD’s, and speaking engagements has always and will always be donated to charity.
Follow Dr. Greger:
back to top ↑
ELLEN JAFFEE JONES, The Veg Coach
1. Ask what Mother Nature intended. What did our ancestors really do? When you try to answer these questions, you almost always find the answer to questions you have about how to transition. Stick to a whole foods, plant-based menu and you’ll be good to go.
2. Trust the long-time vegan doctors, dietitians, athletes and other experts who have been eating and living vegan for decades. They have lots of resources on their websites that are usually free which other websites may charge for.
3. Be easy on yourself. Transition takes time to figure out what works best for you. This is not rocket science, but it does help to have a support community. Hopefully you can find that in-person through meet-ups, Thanksvegan and other holiday and non-holiday vegan potlucks and vegfests in your area. Surround yourself with vegan support groups online, especially on Facebook. Do a search of vegan groups and pick the ones that most resonate. Depending on your athletic interest, you can find a vegan group in almost any area, geographically or online…vegan runners, for example.
4. Pick your favorite non-vegan foods and figure out or find recipes to veganize them.
5. Tune out the noise and naysayers. The meat and dairy industry are losing followers and money by the minute. It’s a war out there, and corporations and industries will pay hugely for misinformation, negative reviews and biased research to try to win back their followers.
6. Remember, there’s no money in broccoli. There’s no company that makes broccoli, no Broccoli Lobby, Association or corporation. When you understand that, then you have to be your own investigative reporter to figure out the truth about food.
Ellen Jaffe Jones is an inspiring motivational speaker, personal trainer, running coach, author, and instructor of healthy cooking classes. She’s written numerous books such as Eat Vegan on $4 a Day, Paleo Vegan, Kitchen Divided, and Vegan Fitness for Mortals.
Ellen, an accomplished endurance and sprint runner, has won 104 5K+ Age Group awards since 2006. She placed 7th in US National Senior Games, W60-64 1500 Meters in 2013, and 1st in Florida’s W60-64, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1500 meters races in 2014. In 2014 Ellen was also named PETA’s “Sexiest Vegan over 50.”
back to top ↑
LUKE TAN, Evolved Generation
1. Join a community. Whether it is for health, the animals or the environment, when you first decide to begin your plant-based lifestyle, it can feel overwhelming and isolating. ‘Where do I even start? What will I do in social occasions?’ you ask yourself.
The world is more connected than ever before. There are scores of plant-based/vegan communities that exist around the world; people that are genuinely wanting to help and support you in your journey. Depending on where you are, there may already be a local meetup/group that you can tap into. Search on social media or google ‘plant based’ or ‘vegan’ and something is bound to come up. Being into health and fitness, here are some groups that I can recommend: Fit Vegan Movement, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, Evolving Alpha, Vegan Bodybuilding and Nutrition, Plant Pure, Wholefood Plant-Based Aussies.
As humans, we thrive in tribes. Whether it is health, fitness, animal welfare or ecology, find a tribe that shares your passions and interests.
2. Model success- When you are new to a plant-based lifestyle, you might worry whether it’s detrimental to health or hinders fitness goals. You may be wondering ‘where do I get my protein?’ or even ‘Is this going to be another fad diet?’.
The best thing that you can do is to look to those that are successful and thriving through the lifestyle. Read articles or books about them, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts and model what they do. More and more high level athletes are turning to a plant-based diet to improve their performance. Medical doctors too are now advocating a whole foods plant based diet to treat chronic degenerative diseases. Run a search online for these inspirations: Rich Roll, David Carter (300 pound vegan), Tim Shieff, Brendan Brazier, Team Plantbuilt, Matt Frazier, Hilary Biscay, Patrik Baboumian, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish just to name a few.
See what they see, hear what they hear, do what they do. You will eventually find what works best for you, then inspire those around you.
3. Research- There is so much conflicting information out there. When you find one study that proves a finding, there is always an equal and opposite study that shows otherwise. It can be confusing and frustrating at times.
Before you start getting into the stats and facts, remember why you are transitioning into a plant based lifestyle in the first place. For whatever reason, do your due diligence and look at both sides of the coin. There will reach a point for you to decide which ‘side’ to choose. However, if you look at the body of research on health and the environment, a plant based diet is definitely a viable alternative.
To start, try watching these movies: Plant Pure Nation, Cowspiracy, Food Choices, Forks Over Knives. Read books such as: The Food Revolution by John Robbins, Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier, China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell, Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, The Starch Solution by Dr John McDougall and How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger.
The more you research and learn, the more you will realize that a plant based diet is the future of food.
Luke is a published author, coach and vegan strength athlete. As an internationally awarded sports person, he is also the founder of Evolved Generation, a brand based in Australia promoting health and athleticism through conscious consumption. He specializes in helping conscious professionals become leaner and healthier while making a difference.
back to top ↑
SOPHIA DESANTIS, Veggies Don’t Bite
1) Go slow. Studies show that most people can’t change cold turkey (pun intended, LOL). It takes time to make a lifelong change. A slow ease will allow your body to get used to new flavors and also slowly rid itself of any “addictions” to foods that aren’t the best for your body.
2) Prepare yourself. Before we began to change our diet I took a month to research recipe ideas, new ways to create things we loved, etc. I practiced a few times so then once we started I felt ready and prepped! There is nothing worse than starting something new without preparation. It’s almost a guaranteed failure.
3) Meal plan. When you are hungry, your blood sugar goes down and you can’t always make the best decisions. By meal planning each week, you go into the week stocked full of healthy plant-based food ready at your fingertips. It really helps make grocery shopping and meals much easier.
4. BE EASY ON YOURSELF. Changing your eating lifestyle (versus simply a fad diet) is not easy. You should allow room for error, and when it happens don’t look back but keep looking forward. Plus, life is all about balance. I don’t believe veering off now and again is huge deal. Not stressing about it will keep your mind and body in a much healthier state.
Sophia is behind the blog Veggies Don’t Bite, where her mission is to help families get healthier one small step at a time. She provides healthy plant-based, gluten free and refined-sugar free recipes.
back to top ↑
LANI MUELRATH, lanimuelrath.com, Plant Based Journey TV
1. Discover what favorite foods you are already enjoying that are plant-based. Pasta marinara? Black Bean Enchiladas w/ Guacamole and Salsa? Crunchy granola w/ fruit and nuts? Peanut butter on toast? Veggie burger with the works? Take a week to explore, taking note, & consider the possibilities. Building your menu on tastes you like is key! You can initially flesh these menus out with vegetable side dishes such as stir-frys, baked yams and potatoes, veggies and hummus or black bean dip.
2. Decide which favorite foods you can easily “plantify” to nudge them into the whole-foods plant-based column. Replace half the rice in the pot with brown rice, and gradually up the portion of the brown rice. Fold baby kale, spinach, or other tender greens into hot pasta to up the quantity of colorful plants on your plate. Chop peppers and onions and fold them into cornbread before baking. See these and more ideas in the video here: Five Fast Ways to Plantify Your Plate.
3. Build a menu around the above choices and add a new recipe each week to try out new tastes and expand your repertoire. Keep it simple, keep what you like and toss out those you don’t. Food has to taste good and be satisfying to be sustainable, so don’t force a new flavor, yet at the same time stay open to finding new favorites. And speaking of menus, build yours on the familiar, too. For example, my mom always prepared dinners with main dish (tuna casserole, chicken and rice), a couple of vegetables, and some fruit. If a pattern like this is familiar to you, simply overlay it with plant-based options – for example, main dish becomes Black Bean Polenta Pie, Portobello Pot Roast, or Chili (recipes in The Plant-Based Journey) stir fry your favorite vegetables to go with, and fruit or fresh banana ice cream for dessert.
Lani Muelrath, M.A., is an award-winning teacher, author, TV host, and top plant-based vegan lifestyle coach. Certified Specialist in Behavior Change, Plant-Based Nutrition, and Mindfulness Meditation Instruction, Lani has been featured on CBS TV, ABC TV, Prevention, USA Today, Huffington Post, and The Saturday Evening Post. Presenter for Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Plant Pure Nation, Complete Health Improvement Program, and guest lecturer at San Francisco State University,
Lani is Associate Faculty at Butte College where her book has been adopted as required text. She is the author of the Doctor and Dietitian recommended The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight, recognized by VegNews as Top Media Pick, and Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Workouts, and a new book vegan lifestyle book coming out in 2017.
back to top ↑
ASHLEY MELILLO, Blissful Basil
1. Pin down a few staple recipes that are easy to throw together and offer a variety of tastes, textures, and nutrients. I love making “power bowls” that consist of a grain or legume, a roasted vegetable, hummus or mashed avocado, and fresh leafy greens. There are countless ways to modify this type of meal, and it’s easy to eat seasonally, because you can adjust the vegetables to align with whatever is freshest and most vibrant at any given time in the year. My favorite summer combination is roasted cinnamon-paprika sweet potatoes, spicy chili-garlic cauliflower rice, baby arugula, and a dollop of mashed avocado. In the fall, I love roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash with lentils or brown rice, cranberry sauce, and garlicky kale.
2. Embrace this lifestyle choice with kindness, peace, and compassion, not only for animals but also for the people in your life that follow a different path and might not understand yours. We’re far more likely to have an impactful, encouraging presence by leading with empathy and love as opposed to judgement and disdain.
3. Ditch the numbers— be them calories, pounds, grams, or points. Instead, eat with the rhythm of your body and focus on adding vibrant, wholesome foods to your plate. Healthfulness isn’t about what we deprive ourselves of, it’s about what we nourish ourselves with.
Ashley Melillo is a psychologist and the writer, photographer, and plant-passionate recipe creator behind the blog Blissful Basil (www.blissfulbasil.com). With roots in psychology and plant-based nutrition, she’s fascinated with the way small daily habits affect mind, body, and spirit. Her cookbook, Blissful Basil, will be out December 20, 2016!
back to top ↑
DR. JOEL KAHN, Plant-Based Cardiologist
Years ago I read the wisdom of health guru Kathy Freston. I have passed on this advice to hundreds if not thousands of my patients and followers as:
1) Get off milk and on to “milk”. There are so many options from organic soy, hemp, coconut, almond, cashew, oat and others that any meal can be fully non-dairy. I am amazed how many of my patients enjoy better gut health, fewer colds and nasal congestion, and relief of rashes.
2) Eat an apple a day. As the goal is to transition to whole plant based foods, the humble apple packed with vitamins and fiber is a great place to start a new and lifelong habit.
3) Replace beef with bean burgers. Put all the trimmings on you enjoy, except cheese and bacon, and enjoy the delight of a plant based burger. There are so many now to choose from, and taste and mouth-feel are no longer reasons to stay with ground up cow muscle.
About Dr. Kahn:
Dr. Joel Kahn is a plant based cardiologist known as “America’s Holistic Heart Doc” and graduated Summa cum Laude from the University of Michigan. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Kahn has improved the lives and vitality of thousands of his patients taking many of them from chronic health to vibrant living.
Dr. Kahn has also written many books, such as The Whole Heart Solution, an Amazon #1 Top Selling book. His second book, Dead Execs Don’t Get Bonuses, was published in 2015 and is on the Bestseller List as well. Dr. Kahn’s medical views are published by the Huffington Post and Mind Body Green and he is a frequent radio, TV and podcast guest. Dr. Kahn also appears regularly on Fox TV 2 in Detroit as a health commentator and a Member of the Yahoo Health Advisory Board.
Follow Dr. Kahn:
back to top ↑
BETH HORNBACK, Eat Within Your Means
1) Think in terms of what you CAN have, not what’s off limits. By focusing on the foods that are available to you, you are more likely to think creatively about what you choose to include in your meals. You may just discover a huge variety of foods that you wouldn’t have even considered before.
2) Steer clear of faux meat and cheese storebought products, especially at first. Very often they are just as processed (if not more so) than their animal-based counterparts, and could potentially derail your efforts if you don’t like the flavor/texture. I am speaking from experience here. 🙂
3) Many plant-based foods can still give you the satisfying experience of meat and dairy. It’s ok to want a recipe that reminds you of your favorite meat sauce to serve over pasta, or something cheesy to put on top of a pizza. It might take some digging and experimentation to find the recipes that you really love, but it’s worth the effort! Bonus: Once you find these recipes they are great to share with omnivores because they appeal to (almost) everyone, and you will get less of the “ew, is that vegan food?” type comments. And you will get those, it’s just going to happen. Smile, and say, “more for me!” 🙂
Finally, enjoy the process! After a while, you start seeing food in a totally different way, and it’s both freeing and enlightening.
Links to my top performing recipes that are loved by vegans and meat-eaters alike!
Chickpea Salad Sandwiches
Mexican Cauliflower Rice
Beth is the blogger behind Eat Within Your Means. She shares plant-based vegan recipes and cooking tips to fatten your wallet and skinny your jeans.
back to top ↑
LINDSAY NIXON, GetMealPlans.com
1. Do whatever it takes to get you to the party. It’s not “all or nothing”!
2. Do the best you can in each moment. Make it work. Ask for help. Use whatever resources you can. A little bit of planning has a huge return on investment.
3. Take shortcuts. Take small steps. Just keep making progress even if you make a big mess along the way. PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION!
Lindsay S. Nixon is author of the bestselling Happy Herbivore cookbook series and CEO of Meal Mentor (GetMealPlans.com), which releases new meal plans for busy people & families every week. Make eating healthier a little bit easier with Lindsay’s help. Follow her on social media for recipes and make-it-work tips.
back to top ↑
ALEXIS JOSEPH, Hummusapien, Cofounder of Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe
Making the switch to a plant-based diet may sound a tad overwhelming; but rest assured that there are tons of simple steps you can take to make the transition a smooth one.
1. The biggest thing to remember is to not to put too much pressure on yourself. Over-stressing over food and nutrition can be worse for you than the food itself. No need to go cold turkey! Adopt a few small changes each week and don’t move forward until you feel comfortable. Remember that what works best for you may be different than what works best for your sister or your husband.
2. Start with breakfast tweaks and make them simple. Instead of eggs, breakfast meat, and dairy yogurt, try coconut milk yogurt with fruit, oatmeal with almond milk, nut butter, and berries, sprouted whole grain toast with avocado or nut butter and toppings of choice, or a big smoothie. I like to make Freezer Smoothie Packs for extra convenience during busy weeks. This will start you off on the right foot and motivate you to stay plant-powered through the day!
3. Find plant-based versions of your favorites. You’d be shocked to know how similar they taste and how truly satisfying they are! I started by saying no to cheese. Since cheese is proven to be addictive, it probably seems hard to shake. Try using cashew cream, nutritional yeast, cauliflower, blended chickpeas, or coconut milk in recipes for extra creaminess. Add avocado or hummus to sandwiches. Load pizza with tons of sauce, veggies, and “cashew parm” (blended cashews with salt, garlic, and nutritional yeast). Out of sight, out of mind!
4. Lastly, stay inspired! Try reading whole food, plant-based blogs. That’s honestly what got me so excited when I first embarked on my plant-based journey. Get in the kitchen and start cooking! Experiment with ingredients you may not have tried like tempeh, chia seeds, almond meal and flax seeds. It’s SO fun to see the amazing things you can do with plants! Tried and true recipes are the best way to start.
Alexis Joseph, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian, nationally-recognized food and nutrition expert, and media personality specializing in nutrition communications and recipe development. Her food blog Hummusapien features tasty, simple, approachable plant-based recipes complemented by writing that’s just as humorous as it is informative. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, CNN, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health, Fitness, Self, Elle, Prevention, and Shape Magazine.
Highlights of her career include co-founding Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe, being named a Top 10 Dietitian in 2016 by Today’s Dietitian Magazine, a 2016 Tastemaker by Columbus Monthly Magazine, and Slow Food US Delegate for the international Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016 conference in Turin, Italy.
back to top ↑
EMILY VON EUW, This Rawsome Vegan Life
1. Be kind to yourself: no one is “perfect” (what does even mean?) so when you accidentally eat some dark chocolate and find out it has milk powder in it, DON’T STRESS! It really doesn’t matter. <3
2. Go at a comfy pace for YOU. This transition doesn’t have to be black and white or overnight. Do what works for you, and take however long you want to make the change(s).
3. Eaaaaaaattt. Very generally-speaking, vegan foods are often lower in calories, so please: stuff your face. Make sure you eat enough, and eat what you want! I feel best when I eat nutrient-dense foods but vegan junk foods are super delish too.
Emily von Euw is the creator of the popular award-winning food blog, This Rawsome Vegan Life, where she creates, photographs and shares wholesome plant-based recipes that everyone can enjoy. She is the author of the best-selling vegan cookbooks, The Rawsome Vegan Cookbook, Rawsome Vegan Baking, and 100 Best Juices.
back to top ↑
JESSI HAGGERTY, jessihaggerty.com
1. Try not to get overwhelmed with the abundance of advice, new and unfamiliar foods and recipes. Pick a couple of “go to” dishes to get started with and slowly expand from there. Making the transition simple will help you stick with the changes long term.
2. While it’s great that you’re committing to a diet that consists of more nutrient dense foods, it’s also not the end of the world if a few of your favorite not-so-nutrient-dense foods make their way into your life. Don’t beat yourself up if you indulge in some cheese or ice cream (two of my favorite foods).
3. Consult with the pros. Sometimes when you’re looking to eliminate foods that may currently take up a lot of space in your current diet (like meat, cheese, and eggs), it’s difficult to find replacements that are both tasty AND meet your nutrient needs. Consult with a dietitian to make sure your diet has enough variety to meet the needs of your body.
Jessi Haggerty is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, with a decade of experience in the health & wellness industry to offer her clients a completely integrated wellness experience. She has expertise in nutrition therapy, gastrointestinal disorders, and functional movement and works with clients through integrative nutrition counseling, personal training, and community building.
back to top ↑
CHRISTIE NIX, Juice Plus
1. Ask for support. Switching to a plant based diet can be like debating politics or religion. Friends and family may not understand, or even get angry about this change. Typically such a switch is motivated by something significant in your life. Come from a loving and vulnerable place when sharing WHY you are going plant based, and ASK your friends and family for support. Host a “Coming Out” party and invite people whose support you need over to your house to watch the “Forks Over Knives” documentary. It will give them an idea of why eating more plants is encouraged. You may even encourage bringing a vegan dish to pass. Stress that you’re not trying convert anyone, rather simply asking for support in this new journey.
2. Have a plan and find some buddies. Avoid substituting the meat/dairy for the fake stuff. The goal should be to eat more plants. After grocery shopping, immediately wash, chop, and then store your produce in clear containers. That way, you are less likely to let the produce rot in your refrigerator. So your produce doesn’t go to waste, seek out those who’ve paved the way before you. Find some local vegans to meal prep with you on a weekly basis. Salad jar parties are great for this! Do these simple things and you’ll make the transition simple, while surrounding yourself with a support group of like-minded individuals!
3. Eat JUICE PLUS! Your goal: Eat a variety of as many plants as possible! Unfortunately, most of us are creatures of habit; we tend to eat the same things on a daily basis. Plus, most produce is picked before the peak of ripeness and is covered with herbicides and pesticides. The quality of our food continues to go down, while the toxic load continues to rise. We do our best, but typically we fall short. Juice Plus bridges the gap between what we do eat and what we should eat. It’s been my backup plan since 2006 when my doctor recommended it. It’s changed so many people’s health (you see it in their blood work) so I unapologetically share it with everyone, especially parents with children. “The Children’s Health Study” is a program that allows children (age 4-18/full time undergrad college students) to eat Juice Plus for FREE for four years. Juice Plus is a catalyst to living a healthier life, and a must in your plan for better health!
Christie Nix wasn’t always healthy. Through college, she sustained herself with McDonalds cheeseburger happy meals. Her friends knew her as “McChristie”.
In 2008, Christie adopted a vegan diet after reading the first chapter in “The China Study”. She became so passionate about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables that she gave up her successful cinematography business and locked arms with the Juice Plus Company. In less than five years, she achieved the highest position in the company as National Marketing Director. She now lives her mission of “inspiring healthy living around the world” as a health food agent, a yoga instructor, and water sports junkie who truly believes your DNA is not your destiny!
back to top ↑
TERESA HOWES, Eat Drink and Be Skinny and Clean and Colorful
1. Make the connection between food and its physical impact on your body so that the motivation to make the change is evident and well understood. Simply thinking “what is this food going to do in my body?” before you eat anything can have a massive impact on one’s ability to make sustainable change.
2. If making the entire transition all at one time sounds too overwhelming, it’s ok to take a phased approach as well. Any positive change you make to your diet will have a good impact on your health and could be less intimidating and more sustainable. Using something like the Clean & Colorful Solution can be a baby step towards adopting a Whole Food Plant Based diet and you’re simply making the effort to focus on eating more whole food (less processed stuff out of a box), all 5 colors every single day (in the form of fruits and veggies), having a plant powered juice or smoothie (in lieu of a traditionally processed meal or snack), and exercising 21+ minutes every day.
3. As those skills are mastered, removing things like dairy and then the remaining animal products can be a simpler process on the journey to adopting a 100% Whole Food Plant Based Diet.
Teresa Howes is a nutrition expert, fitness enthusiast and health advocate. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Science, a Masters in Business, a CPT from ACE and 14+ years of professional experience in the weight loss industry working on a corporate level for Jenny Craig and as an independent Health Coach with clients across the globe.
She is an avid runner with 14 marathons under her belt including two Boston Marathons. She’s now fitter and happier in her late thirties than she was in her early twenties and attributes that to research, education and learning how to properly fuel for performance and trim down at the same time.
back to top ↑
ELLA MAGERS, Sexy Fit Vegan® and 6-Week Plant-Empowered Coaching Program
1. Think of Your Transition as A Fun Journey of Exploration! The process of ditching old habits as you develop new ones takes work and can feel overwhelming. However, if you go into your transformation with a mindset of having fun with finding new foods to explore, and even adding in some humor to the process, it won’t seem so daunting!
2. Set yourself up for success with a solid plan of action. Everyone is unique in how they will be most successful transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, and for most people, attempting to turn vegan overnight is unsustainable. Creating a plan of action is therefore a must. Depending on where you are in the process, you may choose, for example, to eliminate an animal product every week until you have eliminated animal products from your diet all together. Or maybe start with eating vegan 3 days per week for the first month, 4 for the second month, etc. until you’re eating vegan 7 days a week.
It’s essential that you also choose a plant-based food to replace the animal product you are giving up every week. That way, you can consistently introduce new vegan food into your diet, adding a variety of nutrients, textures, and flavors to your eating routines. Variety is a key component of a healthy, vegan meal plan.
3. Become comfortable reading nutritional labels. In order to maintain a healthy vegan diet, it’s important to become proficient at reading food nutrition labels so you can shop with confidence. The first thing to tell yourself when you pick a packaged food from the shelf is, “Skip the marketing and go right for the facts.” Phrases like, “All Natural,” “Sugar Free,” “Low Fat,” and “Gluten Free” are marketing ploys to convince you to buy something without reading the nutrition facts.
Go straight to the ingredient list to first make sure it has no animal products or bi-products. Second, ask yourself, “Is the first ingredient one that I want to put in my body? What about the second and third?” Generally, the fewer ingredients the healthier the item is. Look for whole food ingredients like “dates” or “sesame seeds.” If you can’t even pronounce an ingredient or it sounds like a chemistry experiment, chances are it’s not good for you! If the ingredients pass the test, you can take a look at the serving size (very important), calories, fat, sugar, sodium, and protein content, keeping in mind that not all calories are created equal.
Other quick tips:
- Watch a documentary every month for information, motivation, and inspiration.
- Create a support system for yourself (locally in your community and/or online).
- Stay stocked with healthy vegan staples (so you never get to the “starving” point when it’s easy to make poor food choices).
- Take a B-12 supplement (this is a must)!
Ella Magers is a fitness and wellness professional, behind the blog Sexy Fit Vegan® and the 6-Week Plant-Empowered Coaching Program. She has certifications in Personal Training, a Masters Degree in Social Work, and she is currently working toward her Doctorate in Holistic Sports Nutrition.
Ella has been featured as a fitness expert in the media, including regular appearances on CBS Health News Reports, as well as in publications for Prevention, Ms. Fitness, and Modern Bride magazines, and in fitness videos, including Crunch Boot Camp and Brazil Butt Lift. She won the FAME Fitness World Championship, was featured in BodyBuilding.com, and was honored in Shape Magazine’s Top 50 Trainers in America, 2014.
back to top ↑
SAM TURNBULL, It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
1. Replace old habits with new habits! I think going vegan is all about changing your habits. If you used to have milk in your coffee, switch it to soy milk. If you used to snack on cheese, start snacking on popcorn (or whatever you find delicious). Once your old habits are broken you won’t be reaching for the same old anymore.
2. Clean out your kitchen. If you have an entirely vegan kitchen, you don’t even have to think about eating vegan because whatever you grab is already vegan! Make sure to stock lots of snacks, and ingredients for simple to prepare meals.
3. Of course, find your favourite vegan bloggers. 😉 Not only will they have lots of delicious recipes for you to try, but you will probably find many tips and tricks along the way.
Sam Turnbull is the popular blogger behind It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, where she provides easy, step by step vegan recipes with clear instructions that will satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike. She is currently working on her first cookbook, coming out in 2017.
back to top ↑
HEATHER BELL & JENNY ENGEL, Spork Foods
1. Try to go plant-based with a buddy. Just one person to embark on this journey with you may be the trick to sticking with it. It’s great to have a sounding board and someone to cook delicious meals for, even if it’s just once in a while. If you don’t have anyone close by that’s willing to take the plunge with you, try seeking out resources like PETA, the Compassionate Cook, or VegNews magazine for tips, recipes and general information.
2. Examine what foods you eat on a regular basis and try some easy swaps. Try almond milk for cows milk, Vegenaise for an egg-based mayonnaise or a non-hydrogenated buttery spread like Earth Balance for butter. Once you can replace a few items in your diet with plant-based alternatives then you can make the switch feel less intimidating. There are so many tasty plant-based versions of every meat and dairy product out there – so find the ones you love.
3. Watch some documentaries or read some books about transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle. Seeing, hearing or reading about some facts on animal welfare, or your health can empower you to make the change and keep it up. It may seem far fetched to hear about how your food choices can have a positive impact on the planet, animals, and your longevity, so dig into the details and see how you’re in control in so many ways. Some of our favorites are Diet for a New America, The China Study, Vegucated, and Cowspiracy.
About Heather and Jenny:
Los Angeles-based Spork Foods (sporkfoods.com) is a gourmet vegan food company owned and operated by sisters Heather Bell and Jenny Engel. They offer vegan organic cooking classes, chef trainings, recipe development and private chef work in Los Angeles and worldwide. Their cookbook, Spork-Fed, is currently in stores, with a foreword by fellow fans, actors and sisters, Emily and Zooey Deschanel. Their second cookbook, Vegan 101 just launched.
Follow Heather & Jenny:
back to top ↑
MARGARET CHAPMAN, The Plant Philosophy
1. When transitioning to a plant-based diet, it’s so important to not look at food as “I can’t have this” and instead change your mindset to “I can have this”. Focus on the foods that give you energy, are nutritionally dense and genuinely make you happy. Have fun counting colors, not calories. Try to eat an abundance of fruits, veggies, greens and grains. Focusing your diet on whole-foods will save you money in the long run and keep you fueled for optimal health.
2. If you’re having a hard time giving up meat and/or cheese, try finding a vegan alternative to indulge in once and awhile. Depending on where you live, there are so many more products now available for vegans. You’re bound to find a non-dairy cheese and/or mock meat that’s infinitely better tasting and healthier overall.
3. Last but certainly not least, reach out to likeminded people. Make new friends that share a similar outlook on this lifestyle. It’s hard in the beginning if you don’t have a friend or family member that supports your decision to eat cruelty-free. In those moments you must never forget that there are so many vegans out there, that understand the struggle. Make a connection and thrive together! Leading by example is a great way to show others the beauty of the plant-based diet.”
Margaret Chapman is behind the popular blog, The Plant Philosophy (originally The Plant Strong Vegan). She created the site as a platform to showcase her passion for cooking, to connect with like-minded individuals and grow as a community that thrives on a vegan lifestyle. Whether you’re vegan or looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, she has tons of recipes, guides and advice based on her own personal experience.
back to top ↑
TONI OKAMOTO, Plant Based on a Budget
Transitioning to a plant-based diet is one of the most rewarding decisions you can make. Not only is it better for your body, for animals, and for the environment, it’s also easier on your wallet. And who doesn’t love saving money? If you’re considering making the change, I suggest remembering the following:
1. Go at your own pace. You can start by implementing Meatless Mondays, phasing out eggs in your baking, choosing the veggie option at restaurants, keeping your fridge 100% plant-based, and buying non-dairy milk instead of cow’s milk. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Set yourself up for success.
2. If you mess up, no big deal. When I was transitioning to a plant-based diet, I messed up all the time and I didn’t allow it set me back. Sometimes I didn’t even know an ingredient was animal-based — even recently, after being vegetarian for over ten years, I had a friend tell me that the fancy, organic, frosted shredded-wheat cereal I was eating contained gelatin. I didn’t beat myself up, I just stopped buying that cereal. And sometimes my slip-ups were intentional. When I first became vegan, my aunt made me albondigas (a Mexican meatball). She asked the clerk at the grocery store about vegetarian hamburger meats, put a lot of effort into veganizing the family recipe, and then gave me a whole batch for Christmas to freeze for the rest of the year. When I went to her house, I saw that she used Gardenburger — a brand that uses animal ingredients in most of their vegetarian meats. I graciously accepted the gift, thanked her for her kindness and thoughtfulness, ate what she prepared for me, and went on striving to eat compassionately and healthfully. I keep in mind that my goals are about progress, not perfection.
3. Regardless of whether you choose this path for health or environmental reasons, or because you care about animal welfare, do your best to stay informed about all three. Although I originally became vegetarian for health reasons, I have stayed committed to my lifestyle change because of all the ethical concerns I’ve learned along the way. I recommend visiting your local farmed animal sanctuary, watch Cowspiracy, and read Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die. Knowledge is power!
Toni Okamoto is the founder of Plant Based on a Budget. She is the co-author of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, a recognized personality and speaker within the vegan movement, and has been a public figure for several leading animal advocacy organizations. Her website has been featured in Reader’s Digest and US News and World Report, and she continues to share her passion for making vegan food accessible to all through her popular YouTube videos. Toni resides in Sacramento, CA with her cat Yosha McBean, is a burrito enthusiast, and spends her free time swing dancing across the county.
back to top ↑
JODI KAY, Happy Hearted Kitchen
1. Explore! It’s not about cutting things out, it’s about more possibility. Explore new spices, new grains, new sauces. Start with your favorite flavors and build from there.
2. Know what’s in season. Plant based diets are based on, well – plants. Know what vegetables are in season where you are and seek out the best ones you can find. They will taste better and fresher. Farmer’s markets are a great starting point.
3. Know that hummus can be put on anything and it will taste delicious. Embrace the chickpea 🙂
Jodi Kay is the voice, photographer and recipe developer behind the blog Happy Hearted Kitchen. She creates healthy vegetarian and vegan recipes for every season. Jodi lives in Canadian Rocky Mountains where she enjoys hiking, skiing or any adventure involving trail mix. 🙂
back to top ↑
NIKOLE GONCLAVES, Healthnut Nutrition
1. Get yourself a good blender. Making green smoothies every morning has been a staple for me because its not only packed with nutrient dense superfoods like kale and spirulina, but it keeps me energized and my blood sugar balanced throughout the whole day.
2. Buy 80% of your groceries from the perimeter of the grocery stores and limit yourself to about 10% from the middle aisles. Real foods are usually in the refrigerated sections but you can still grab legumes, grains and other non-perishable essentials from the middle sections.
3. Carry snacks with you at all times! I can’t stress this enough but when hunger kicks in and you’re really craving some junk food you’ll be happy you put that nut bar in your purse/bag. This will help keep you full until your next meal and say goodbye to Mr. Hangry once and for all!
Nikole is a huge advocate for healthy living. HealthNut Nutrition was born out of Nikole’s love of teaching others and a passion for food, fitness and more. She promotes a vegetarian, clean diet, free from preservatives and additives.
back to top ↑
Want to learn more? Sign up for my email list below and receive a FREE “Plant Based Cooking Starter Guide” + plant-based recipes to your inbox.