Transitioning to a Plant-based Diet

Making the change from the standard American diet to a plant-based one may seem daunting, but with just a few gradual changes you’ll be eating a healthier, more satisfying diet before you know it.

Start by eating more of the plant-based meals you already eat. Bean and rice burritos? Pasta Primavera? Cereal? These are vegetarian foods! By focusing on the ones you already eat you are making changes even before you introduce new foods.

Add more plant foods to the mixed meals you are eating. Shift the balance of plant and animal foods toward more plants – the ones you already eat and love.

Don’t give up your favorite animal foods immediately.  If you love cheese pizza more than life itself, keep eating it! Make the easier changes first.

Eliminate animal foods you don’t eat often.  You won’t miss these so let them go first.

Find other vegetarians and vegans!  Most likely they will be excited to share their favorite foods, meals and their restaurants.  There are many types of vegetarians with varying food preferences, so talk to as many as possible.

Find recipes and cookbooks that you like.  Skip the gourmet ones (for now!) and go for the ones that are most similar to your cooking/eating style.

Cook with others.  Invite friends over for a vegan dinner feast. When making changes in your life it’s always easier when you involve others.

Many health food stores and grocery stores carry plenty of healthy vegetarian foods like non-dairy milks, faux meat products and a variety of produce and whole grains.  Take the time to explore different sections of these stores. You may find stuff you didn’t know existed.

The abundance of plant foods that exist in the world is mind-boggling! And the variety of ways to prepare them is incomprehensible. Imagine the possibilities and don’t discount a food immediately, look for other ways to prepare it.

Be prepared.  Stock your kitchen with the healthy, plant foods you want to eat and it will be harder to lapse into old ways.

Stay connected.  Subscribe to our blog and stay informed about the health, ethical and environmental benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

11 Responses to “Transitioning to a Plant-based Diet”

  1. Joan Donelan

    I am looking for 1) recipes and 2) how to make sure I’m not lacking protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vit. B12, omega fatty acids, and iodine which some say are lacking in a vegan diet.

    • Debbie King MS RD LD

      It is great that you concerned about what you eat the great news vegetarian diets are healthy. It is more about food choices and I will recommend reading our blog Got Enough? ( there you can see that plant foods loaded with protein. If you would like a specific analysis of your diet I recommend you use our Find an RD link on the top right of the home page. There you will find a list of Registered Dieitians specializing in plant-based diets and any of them would be delighted to work with you.

  2. I am seriously condsidering changing over to a vegitarian diet, for several reasons. Mostly for spiritual reasons and the belief that the body is the temple and should be respected. I feel that a vegitarian diet would be the most respectful to my body. However, my family is not really supportive of this decision. My husband is a definate meat eater and is afraid that if I start eating a vegitarian diet that we wont be able to enjoy meals together anymore. I do not want to “convert” him into becoming vegitarian, but I also want this to be an easy transition on him as well as myself, seeings how I am the cook of the family, and also our 41/2 year old son. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. I was also an non-veg muscle builder but one of my friend recommended to take plant based diet and said that you will get a healthier, more satisfying diet than any non-veg diet….I have started taking this plant based diet from around last week and to be frank, I am not feeling any kind of weekness after leaving non-veg……

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Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

Matt Ruscigno is public health dietitian, cyclist and a vegan of fifteen years. He teaches community college in South Central Los Angeles in addition to working for the Network for a Healthy California. Matt advises vegan athletes and himself has participated in numerous ultra-endurance bicycle and triathlon events around the world.

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