If you’ve considered going vegan, you’re not alone. Veganism has seen rapid growth in popularity in recent years. In 2021, plant-based food sales grew three times faster than overall food sales. As interest grows, so does accessibility to plant-based foods and vegan alternatives. But the idea of eliminating all animal products can be daunting. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Adding just one plant-based meal to your day can have hugely positive health and environmental impacts over time.
Eating plant-based is much easier than it may sound, especially with all the information, vegan restaurants, and alternative products that have been popping up more and more. Plus, we’ll help break things down to get you started.
In this beginner’s guide, we go over what it means to eat a plant-based diet, the potential health benefits, how it helps the environment, and some tips and tricks to get started. Plus, we share some of our favorite plant-based products and recipes to give you an idea of what awesome vegan foods are out there.
What is a plant-based diet?
With so many different terms surrounding food, labels can get super confusing. While some people use “vegan” and “plant-based” interchangeably, others think of plant-based as focusing more on whole foods.
A vegan diet eliminates foods that contain any animal products, including meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, etc. Some people who consider their diet plant-based eat mostly vegan, but this label can be less strict. For the sake of this article, we’ll use vegan and plant-based interchangeably.
A whole foods are unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, plus meat, fish, and eggs if you aren’t vegan. A whole foods diet doesn’t mean strictly vegan.
No matter what your diet is, focusing on whole foods derived from plants is a great way to improve your health, even if it means taking small steps.
Plant foods tend to be lower in calories but higher in volume than other foods, meaning you can fill up on a large amount of food without the high calorie count. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which lowers cholesterol, helps maintain a healthy microbiome, keeps you fuller for longer, and more.
Along with the essential vitamins and minerals found in plants, phytonutrients are plant nutrients that play many roles in how your body functions. They contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, immune-boosting properties, and they contain many other benefits. Phytonutrient-rich foods include colorful fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, aromatics, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, tea and coffee.
Because plant foods typically contain lots of nutrients, you can’t go wrong with adding more of them into your diet.
Raising animals for food uses up a huge amount of resources, including water, land, and fossil fuels. Livestock emits greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, contributing to more than 14% of total emissions.
Deforestation is a huge environmental issue caused, in part, by cutting down trees for farmland. According to Earth.org, if everyone went vegan, global farmland would be reduced by up to 75%.
The use of this land for livestock and their feed also threatens native animal species. Plus, instead of growing crops to feed livestock that eventually feeds humans, simply consuming the crops themselves would be a much more efficient way to use those resources.
Does one meal a day make a difference?
Eating just one vegan meal a day absolutely makes a difference for you and for the planet. Those 365 meals add up to a savings of 200,000 gallons of water and a carbon footprint of about 3,000 miles driven in your car.
Choose a meal that’s easiest for you to turn vegan. For example, if you normally eat eggs with toast for breakfast, simply swap out the eggs for an egg alternative or a different protein like crumbled tofu. Use any of the myriad milk alternatives in your coffee instead of dairy. And that’s it! It might just take one or two swaps to veganize a meal.
Tips and tricks
Start small. Try implementing a Meatless Monday into your routine, swap out your beef for tofu, try a plant-based milk, there are so many ways to cut back on animal products and eat more plants. You can even start by going vegetarian first and then slowly swap out the rest of the animal products you usually eat. Or, eat plant-based at home but allow yourself some wiggle room when you eat out.
Follow vegan creators. There are countless vegan creators that post blogs, videos, pictures, podcasts, you name it that can provide inspiration for your plant-based meals. Find a creator you like and pick a recipe or two to try.
A little planning goes a long way. Keep a list of your favorite plant-based meals that you can go to whenever you’re stuck on what to make. From smoothies to salads to avocado toast to pasta, there are so many easy meals that can be made vegan in a pinch. Keep some vegan snacks on hand like nuts, chips, peanut butter, and fruit. Write out a grocery list when you go to the store and be sure to check the labels for hidden animal ingredients.
Easy plant-based products
We may be a little biased, but we love Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods products. They’re vegan, oil free, and made with mostly whole foods. All you need is hot water to prepare our tasty instant noodles and soups.
Here are some of our best-sellers, which are perfect to keep on hand for a quick snack or meal:
Vegan Miso Ramen: organic steamed noodles in a savory miso broth
Split Pea Soup: thick plant-based soup made with green peas and warming spices
Pad Thai: rice noodles full of aromatic spices, pairs well with roasted peanuts and extra veggies
When looking for vegan products at the store, if it isn’t already labeled vegan, look out for any dairy, eggs, meat, and fish in the ingredients list.
Going plant-based is good for you, the environment, and for animals. It may seem like a big step to go vegan, but there are so many resources out there and new vegan products to make your life much easier. Even taking small steps like adding more plants into your diet, cutting out meat or dairy, and cooking plant-based at home can make a huge difference.
With a trusted vegan brand like Right Foods, you don’t have to spend time wondering what you’re eating for dinner or wandering the grocery store aisles looking for vegan options.
For recipe inspiration, find vegan creators on social media, look for plant-based bloggers, or check out our recipe page.
Find some of our favorite recipes below: