My transition to a Plant Based Whole Food diet. The decision process, the steps I took, the effects, grocery staples, resources, and tips!
Before I get into my own experience, I want to stress how important it is to do your own research and make decisions that are best for you. I am not a doctor or nutritionist and don’t claim to be anywhere close to an expert on this subject. This is simply me sharing my own personal experience with plant based whole foods.
My Transition To A Plant Based Whole Food Diet
Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with this post! I feel like I have way too much to say about this process, so I’m going to go ahead and apologize for being long winded. I know how many questions I had along the way and am hoping that this can be a helpful resource to anyone else looking to make the transition to a plant based whole food diet as well!
I wanted to start by saying that this transition was not brought on by a medical issue or a quick fix to lose weight, but as a desire for a lifestyle of prevention and health. I’ve always been very fortunate in that I have never had any serious issues with food intolerances or allergies. I say this because I remember time and time again looking into plant based eating and all I found were people’s stories about having extreme health conditions that led them to switch to a plant based lifestyle. When I would read things like this I would think, “Oh, then there’s no need for me to worry about changing it up until I have something wrong with me.” I know, WOW. How warped my thinking was. It wasn’t until 2019 when we read In Defense of Food, followed by watching the documentary The Game Changers, that my interest was seriously peaked.
From that point in 2019, Michael and I both started talking about the idea of shifting to a more plant based whole food lifestyle. Our diets weren’t all that bad when compared to the standard American diet, but I think we all know that isn’t saying much! We desperately wanted to know our stuff when it came to what seemed like the most important decision for our health; what we were putting into our bodies. When I started doing more research, I quickly realized that my current diet had an embarrassingly low amount of variety. I won’t speak for Michael in this post, but I’d say my own diet pitfalls were definitely too many processed sugars and a serious lack of vegetables, beans, and seeds.
At that point, I began phasing meat out of my diet and adding more whole foods in. Ditching meat was pretty easy for me because I never really craved it. I honestly think I ate it because I thought I was supposed to. Plus, I hated cooking it so this was a very welcome change! The adding in of vegetables, specifically greens, was my biggest challenge. My taste buds were completely warped from all of the processed foods and sugar that I had eaten up to this point, so I didn’t like much of anything at first taste. The bright side to that? I found so much joy in the challenge of creating a recipe or trying a new food that I was actually excited to eat and still do. I knew I wanted plant based whole food meals that were around 30 minutes, had a lot of variety, and were so flavorful that I would actually crave them. I have been and will continue to post them here if you want to take a look at what we eat. Spoiler alert… I now crave kale and all things green!
Fast forward a few months into 2020 when I downloaded Dr. Michael Greger’s book, How Not To Die. I flew through this book in a matter of three days! Michael and I like to read some of the same books so we can discuss, kind of like our own little book club, and he picked up this one thinking it would be a great read. For context, we had someone very close to us just battle cancer and the global health pandemic was starting to make headlines, so health and prevention were at the very forefront of both our minds.
I’m not going to even try and explain all of the goodness that this book contains, but I will tell you that I have never had something flip a switch in my brain the way that this book did. Everything made so much sense and when I heard it (I listened on Audible) it felt like common sense! The part that stuck with me the most was that we are either healing or hurting our bodies with every bite of food we eat. There is an analogy saying that if you hit your shin once then your body will heal itself, but if you hit your shin over and over again it will never get the chance to heal itself. Same with what we eat day in and day out. I mean, common sense, right?! The book goes into the top fifteen causes of death in America (like heart disease, various cancers, and other chronic diseases) and explains with FACTS and peer-reviewed scientific evidence which foods and lifestyle changes help prevent and reverse these for healthier lives.
I especially loved part two of the book where he goes through his “Daily Dozen” list of foods that we should be eating every day and the science and health benefits as to why. I am reading this book again for the 3rd time as I write this because it is just loaded with good information! The fact that the author doesn’t profit from these books himself and isn’t selling any type of supplements or diet plans to go along with it spoke volumes to me. I also loved that if I wanted to see the actual studies that he is talking about and do the research for myself, I can. So while this book is a great resource, I always want to do research on my own too. Further down in this post I’ve listed some of my favorite resources.
This was the turning point for both me and Michael. I wouldn’t say I went cold turkey because I had kind of eased my way up to this point already, but it was definitely the moment where I decided I was going all in. I started following the “Daily Dozen” checklist app (it’s free!) and creating meals and grocery lists with it in mind, while also cutting out the remainder of processed sugars and animal products that I was still eating. That is when I really began feeling all the change happen in my body, from the inside out!
When I decided to go all in, I started noticing some positive changes within as little as 2 or 3 days. I wasn’t necessarily looking for any of these changes to happen when I made the plant based whole food decision, but it was very obvious that good things were taking effect. Below are a few of the changes I have noticed along the way:
- More energy. I immediately started noticing that I was going through my workdays with quite a bit more energy and completely avoiding my usual 3pm slump.
- Clearer mind. My focus level felt like it shot through the roof pretty quickly.
- Weight loss. My weight had pretty much stayed the same for the last 4 years and while I never really had a goal to lose weight, losing any unnecessary excess is always a positive! I lost 3 pounds in the first full week (and I only worked out one time that week!) and now can definitely see the changes in my upper arms, butt/hips, and thighs. I don’t weigh myself often, but I feel way lighter in my clothes!
- Brighter, clearer face skin. By the end of the first week I felt like I had this super healthy glow in my face. Michael kept saying how amazing my skin looked and I hadn’t even told him that I could tell a difference yet! I had worn foundation since I was 16 years old and one week on a plant based whole foods diet I quit wearing it all together. That is reason enough for me, ha. Plus, I haven’t had any hormonal acne flare ups like I did before.
- Tighter, smoother skin. My skin actually feels so much tighter and smoother now. I’m talking all over my body! Specifically my legs.
- Hair growth. I just noticed this one a few weeks ago, but my hair has never grown so quickly in my life! I’ve used the same hair products and don’t take any supplements, so I know for a fact that it is my diet.
- Better sleep. Big fan of this one! I’ve noticed that I fall asleep faster and sleep way deeper now.
Plant Based Whole Food Grocery Staples
These are from our most recent grocery hauls and the staples that we try to keep on hand!
- Berries: Frozen blueberries, frozen cherries, frozen cranberries
- Fruits: Apples, avocados, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes
- Beans: Black beans, white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas
- Lentils: Green, black, & red
- Greens: Lacinato kale, curly kale, spinach
- Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, arugula
- Other Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, snap peas, onions, garlic
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
- Seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Herbs: Basil, cilantro, parsley, mint
- Spices: Cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, turmeric
- Whole grains: Brown rice, farro, quinoa, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, popcorn
- Beverages: Green tea, hibiscus tea, coffee, sparkling water
Plant Based Whole Food Diet Resources
There are so many amazing resources out there on a plant based lifestyle! So many so that it can feel overwhelming at times. These are the resources that I’ve found and truly love and trust!
- Documentary: In Defense of Food
- Documentary: The Game Changers
- Documentary: Forks Over Knives
- Book: In Defense of Food
- Book: How Not To Die
- Book: How Not To Diet
- Book: Fiber Fueled
- Website: Nutritionfacts.org
- Website: Forks Over Knives
- Recipes: Oh She Glows
- Recipes: Forks Over Knives
- Recipes: Love & Lemons
- Cookbook: Love & Lemons Everyday
- Cookbook: Plant Based Diet in 30 Minutes
- Cookbook: How Not To Diet Cookbook
- Cookbook: How Not To Die Cookbook
- Cookbook: Oh She Glows Every Day
- App: The Daily Dozen Checklist
Tips to Transitioning To A Plant Based Whole Food Diet
- Small steps are better than no steps. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed or keep pushing things to “tomorrow”, but there is no reason you can’t start making small changes today. The sooner you start, the better you’ll feel.
- Prepare to succeed. Pack a lunch, pack a snack, bookmark recipes that you are excited to try. The more prepared you are, the easier your transition will be. For me, that means packing my lunch the night before and always having an extra apple or nuts on hand for those inevitable moments of weakness.
- Have a partner. I have to say that it is sooo much easier when someone is doing it with you. Having Michael on board and just as passionate made all the difference on the days where all I could think about was a big bag of sour candy (my achilles heel!).
- Find your swaps. For example, I swapped sour candy for no sugar added dried fruit, dark sweet cherries for any kind of dessert, and sweet potato nachos (recipe coming next week) for regular nachos.
- Keep a clean, whole food kitchen. If you don’t have any processed foods in your house, you’re bound to eat an apple instead! This is my biggest tip. Just don’t keep the tempting stuff around if possible.
- Have fun with new recipes. Make it a challenge to find at least 3 recipes that you can fall back on. Always keep those ingredients on hand and those can be your go-to when you have no idea what you want for dinner and are on the verge of just getting take out. Some of ours that I have already shared are these easy bowls (sans cheese), this vegetarian chili, this lentil salad, and this healthy crisp for when I need something sweet!
- Focus on whole foods. I say I am plant based whole food because the whole food part is extremely important. It’s easy to get in the mindset of “fries are vegan!” and there are many processed vegan foods on the market that aren’t good choices. If you focus on eating whole foods and stay away from the processed stuff, you’ll be golden.
- Do your research. Don’t make a diet change based off of headlines on a supermarket magazine stand. Put in a little effort to finding the reasons why someone says something is good for you and then make your decision based on facts. There are so many amazing resources out there if we take the time to research. See some of my favorites on plant based whole foods in the above section!
- Live in grace. Let’s be honest, there are days where I want a slice of cheese pizza. I have no issue with eating a piece of cheese pizza once in a while, but my old days of eating it every Friday night are long gone because I know how good I feel eating other options. I have days where I eat cheese on my salad or an entire bag of veggie straws, but I give myself grace and move on knowing I’ll do better tomorrow!
Did you find this post helpful?
I can’t wait to hear if you found this post about my transition to a plant based whole food diet helpful! Be sure to leave any questions, comments, or reviews in the comments below!