If you have found your way to this post, you are probably looking for how to start a plant based diet for beginners. You might even have a few questions. First, will you get enough protein? Then, what the heck are you supposed to eat? Finally, are there specific rules you have to follow?

Our plant-based family has been there and we are ready to help you. The road to a 100% whole food, plant-based diet has been a journey for our family. With 3 small children and a wife who has Ulcerative Colitis, it seemed like a new adventure daily. I often get asked how we got started making the transition to a plant-based diet, so I figured it was time I put it down in writing.

Let’s Fight Parental Overwhelm And Transition To A Plant Based Diet

As a busy parent, I know first-hand how hard it is to juggle all of the things that come along with one kid, let alone three. In fact, sometimes as a parent, you feel helpless and really upset when it comes to food for your kids. Maybe you’re stopping by the fast-food window and telling yourself “I’m too busy so just this one time,” but then that one time becomes the weekly expectation for your kids. Or maybe you are just too darn tired and the thought of cleaning your kitchen dishes is simply too much and you just order a pizza delivered to the house. “I will do better tomorrow,” you tell yourself. You’re stuck in a cycle of frustration and just like heading to the gym to work out for the first time in a long time, the task ahead of you and the thought of making easy vegan meals for your family is just too much to handle. I completely and totally understand.

There Are Three Things You Must Have To Get Started On Your Plant Based Journey

There are three phases to a plant-based diet. I am going to walk you through each one, step by step, to make sure that we demystify plant-based eating for you and your family and set you up for being plant-based at your pace.

PHASE I: Start Substituting For Plant Based Protein

Phase I is for the person or busy parent who wants to try a plant-based diet, but might not know where to start. As you know, a plant-based diet does not contain meat and dairy, which can be tough to cut when it is all you have known for most of your life. In this phase, I want you to substitute your meat with one of the many plant-based brands that I recommend. Our favorite is Gardein and the Beyond Burger, which both can be found in many major grocery stores around the United States. If you are trying to make a change for your family and you miss your meat, these are a perfect option to help you transition. 

When it comes to cheese, I am going to be honest with you and tell you that there is no substitute that will taste exactly like dairy cheese, but the benefits of making the switch are well worth it. There are so many wonderful products out there that melt, smell, and taste similar to your favorite cheese. We absolutely love Chao cheese and Daiya cheesy shreds are always in the fridge to top our tacos. Remember though: the meat and cheese substitutes in this phase contain small amounts of canola oil or some other types of oil, which we will want to avoid in phase III.  

PHASE II: Start Leaning Into Being A Whole Food Vegan

In the next phase of your journey to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, I want you to eat fewer and fewer meat substitutes. Begin to really think about what the difference is between a processed vegan meat patty and a whole food ingredient. Meaning: could you make the same patty or something similar from mashed black beans? The main reason we are leaving our “meat-free copycats” behind in this phase has to do mostly with the fact that they contain oils.

By cutting down on your oil intake you are saving a ton of empty calories. At nearly 4,000 calories per pound, oils are empty, many grocery store oils are concentrated saturated fat calories that can be bad news for your heart. We have been told that olive, coconut, sunflower, and many other olive oils are good for us. Sadly, unless you press your olive oil fresh from the olive, you are probably buying stale, rancid olive oil from the grocery store.

PHASE III: Embracing A Whole Food Plant Based Diet

Phase III recipes are the cleanest, healthiest, and easiest way to be a plant-based superhero! When you are cooking recipes in this phase you have every right to wear a cape when you’re preparing your family’s meals. Forget the meatless meats and oils altogether. Instead of oil in the pan, consider using vegetable broth or water. Open up your body to the wonderful benefits of eating foods that will fuel your body and mind with the best ingredients the world has to offer…plants! Specifically, we are talking about fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Foods that most civilized folks have been consuming for centuries. 

In our family we bounce around between all three of the phases I am going to mention to you, with most of our meals happening in phase three. Everyone loves a little comfort food sometimes and when you get to the point when you are eating in phase three for most of your meals, you deserve an indulgence from time to time!

My Family’s Favorite Plant-Based Recipes

Hearty Chickpea Salad

Cory Warren
You can also make this recipe completely oil-free by subbing mashed avocado for your vegan mayo
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Lunch/Snack
Cuisine 2 (3 if using avocado)
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 can of organic chickpeas 15 oz. can
  • 1/4 cup of crushed cashews optional
  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite vegan mayo *OR* use an avocado for WFPB diets
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1/2 of a chopped onion red adds some great color, but white works too
  • 1/2 cup of diced organic carrots
  • 1/2 cup of diced organic celery
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of dijon or spicy yellow mustard
  • sprinkle of fresh dill

Instructions
 

  • Pour all ingredients in a big bowl, mix it together and eat it! I like to put all of the ingredients into my blender or food processor and pulse it a few times till it gets a creamy consistency. Up to you...some like it chunky and some like it smooth. It is all a matter of personal preference. Either way, put it in a sandwich or eat it on a healthy cracker and you are all set! Doesn't get much simpler than that, does it? Enjoy!

 

Nutty Plant-Based Taco Night

Cory Warren
Advanced Prep Work: Overnight walnut soaking
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Dinner
Servings 8 tacos

Ingredients
  

  • Old El Paso vegetarian re-fried beans
  • As many avocados as you desire
  • Your choice of organic salsa
  • Fresh red onion
  • Organic green bell peppers
  • Butter romaine lettuce or any leafy green you desire
  • Organic grape tomatoes
  • Corn tortillas or no tortillas for a taco salad
  • 1/2 to 1 lb. of fresh walnuts soaked overnight in water and drained

Instructions
 

  • Once your walnuts are soaked and ready to go, drain them in a strainer and put them in your food processor or blender. Blend them up to get that taco meat consistency you desire. Don't over-blend.
  • Put your blended walnut meat into the skillet on medium heat and add your homemade taco seasoning (featured below). Cook for about 5-7 minutes until warm.
  • While your "meat" is cooking, dice up your veggies and sort them in several different bowls to create a taco bar-type feeling for you and your guests.
  • Place your taco ingredients into a corn tortilla or make a salad out of it! Enjoy!

Notes

Lean Green DAD Taco Seasoning:
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper powder*
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes*
*May not suitable for kids. HOT STUFF!
Phase 2 - If you are missing cheese, try substituting your normal cheddar for Daiya Cheddar shreds for this dish. Sprinkle over top and you’ve got yourself a yummy addition!
Phase 1 - If you are still transitioning from eating meat, or allergic to nuts and are looking for a substitute to take its place, try the Gardein Meatless Crumbles in place of the crushed walnuts. Season them up just like you would your meat and you will never know the difference (but your body will)! You don’t have to follow the directions and cook them with olive oil. Water or veggie broth is an excellent substitute and will save you a ton of calories!
Lean Green Meal Plan Signup