Five Easy Ways to Eat a Plant-Based Diet

These tips benefit the environment and your health.

Burger versus salad

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A recent study published in Climactic Change presents a pretty shocking theory: one crucial dietary swap could almost single-handedly help the United States reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2020.

The switch? Eating beans instead of beef. If all Americans made that simple adjustment, the study says, it would help the United States achieve between 46 and 74 percent of the cutbacks necessary to reach its goals. And choosing plants over meats isn’t just good for the planet—it’s good for you, too. Many a study has shown the benefits of a plant-based diet, and nutritionists have been extolling the virtues of veggies forever.

Still, change can be difficult, whether you’re going full-on vegan or just cutting back on animal products. Here to ease the transition is Andrea Nordby, the head chef at local plant-based meal delivery service Purple Carrot. Follow her five easy tips, and you’ll be embracing a plant-based diet in no time.

1. Start slow. There’s no need to quit cold turkey, as it were. “All at once, that’s going to be a hard change to sustain long-term,” Nordby says. Instead, start with a manageable goal, like having a big, plant-based salad for lunch each day, or swapping your weekly burger for a veggie patty. Over time, these small changes will add up.

2. Enlist helpers. Plant-based versions of your favorite meat and dairy products can make the switch feel less daunting. Your local grocer probably stocks everything from coconut milk yogurt to cashew cheese—just be sure to look for minimally processed products without a ton of ingredients, or, better yet, make them yourself. Things like cashew alfredo and non-dairy milks are quite easy to whip up at home, Nordby says. “We’re all busy people,” she says. “These products can help with that.”

3. Eat smart. Yes, you’ll be hungry if you just munch on leafy greens all day. But Nordby says you’ll stay satisfied if you take care to incorporate plenty of fiber-filled whole grains; starchy, filling vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, yams, and parsnips; and plant-based proteins, including beans, nuts, tofu, and lentils.

4. Mimic meat. You’d be surprised how well some vegetables sub in for meat. “There are some vegetables, like mushroom and eggplant, that have that meaty quality to them, that umami flavor that very much resembles what meat does for your palate,” Nordby says. (Jackfruit and tofu are also great substitutes.) And, she adds, “using things like miso or tamari or soy sauce that have that umami flavor to them will make you feel full and satisfied after a meal.”

5. Choose the right cuisine. Asian and Mexican dishes lend themselves quite well to plant-based eating, Nordby says. She recommends Thai noodle dishes like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew, sans meat; sushi bowls using sweet potato and avocado; watermelon poké; and quesadillas with black beans, rice, and avocado. Those are far from the only options, too—creative thinking is all you need to turn your favorite dish into a vegetarian feast.