Easy Steps to Transition to a More Plant-Based Diet

By Briana Ward, Dietetic Intern, Department of Family, Population, & Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook Medicine

Plant-based foods are becoming more and more popular these days, and for good reason. Plant-based foods are mostly derived from plants, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. Diets containing these foods tend to be higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These things help to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, and help to maintain a healthy weight, which all lowers risk of heart disease. Not only are these foods better for you, they’re also better for the environment. Plants are more efficient, meaning that they cut out the environmental burden that goes along with animal agriculture. They also lower greenhouse gas emissions. Becoming completely vegetarian or vegan isn’t necessary, but including more plant-based foods into your diet is good for you and the environment! Below are some easy steps that you can take to transition to a more plant-based diet.

  1. Start slow.

It’s not necessary to immediately cut out foods and go cold turkey (literally) from things you may enjoy often. Start by implementing a plant based meal a few times a week, and slowly increase from there.

  1. Cut down on meat and processed food intake.

Choosing fruit, vegetables, or nuts instead of more processed food is an easy way to begin introducing more whole foods into the diet. Substituting a plant-based food for a meat will help to cut back on animal product intake.

  1. Stock up on healthy foods.

Having plant-based or healthy options available will make you more likely to reach for these things when it’s time to eat.

  1. Plan ahead.

Planning meals and snacks for the week will help make grocery shopping more efficient, as well as cut back on time when you may be busier. Having a plan will hold you more accountable.

  1. Prepare plant-based foods similarly to how you would animal products.

There’s no need to completely reinvent the way you cook or eat boring meals. Learning how to use plant-based foods and making them taste good will be huge in making you more inclined to choose these products. Things like vegetarian chili or BBQ tofu will help to keep your taste buds happy.

Below is an easy, plant-based recipe, perfect for Taco Tuesday!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos (serves 6)

2 large sweet potatoes, diced

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

Salt + pepper to taste

1 cup red onion, diced

1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained

Corn or flour tortillas

Sliced avocado, salsa, romaine lettuce for serving (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place sweet potatoes on pan. Drizzle with 3 tbsp olive oil and toss evenly to coat. Add seasonings.
  2. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until soft.
  3. In a large skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for about 5-6 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
  4. Reduce heat and add in black beans and corn. Toss in roasted sweet potatoes and serve in tortillas with desired toppings.

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