How to Eat More Whole and Clean Plant-Based Foods
Avoiding processed foods, eating more plant-based foods, and buying more whole foods sound like it’s going to take some work.
Not only that, when you buy better foods, they can get expensive.
So how do you eat better while on a budget?
Read the tips below and find out what you can change RIGHT NOW and start eating healthy.
Eat Beans, Lentils, and Grains
If you want to go more “whole and clean” plant-based with your diet, start by purchasing these food items in the bag.
You will buy …
- big bags of rice in bulk
- rinse and soak them
- cook them over the stove or in your rice cooker
The same can be said for all sources of grains, beans, lentils, and oats.
This will save you money, and while it takes a little longer, they are easy to prep in bulk for meals.
Avoid All the Packaged and Processed Foods
Another way to ensure you are eating as clean and whole as possible is by avoiding anything that is processed.
What this means is avoiding most of the
- bagged foods
There are some exceptions like buying rice or grains in bags, but for the most part, try to stay away from stuff that comes in a can.
Get Fresh or Frozen Produce
A good amount of your plant-based food is going to be produce, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Try to get it as fresh as you can if you want to follow a clean, vegan lifestyle.
- Check out local farmer’s markets and CSAs, as they provide local produce cheaper than traditional supermarkets.
If you can’t get all fresh produce, the next best thing is to get it frozen.
Cook Everything at Home
While you can find healthy, vegan options when you go out to certain restaurants, there is really no telling what they put into their food.
If you can’t be certain it is completely clean, you are better off cooking as much as you can at home.
But if you must eat out…
Things to Know Before Starting Your First Plant-Based Diet
Any time you switch to a new way of eating, it can be a big process.
Know WHY You Are Going Vegan
You should always start a plant-based or vegan diet by understanding your own motives.
What motivates you to go vegan?
- Is it for the environment?
- Or is it for your overall health?
To stay motivated, you have to find YOUR reason for going plant-based, whether it is for physical health, better skin, longevity, or moral reasons.
- Read Vegetarian and Vegan Diet
- Read Why Vegan Diet Sucks for an opposing opinion
Slowly Start Adding Vegetables
Before you transition fully to a plant-based diet, start adding more plant-based foods into your existing diet.
Do this slowly instead of going straight to a vegan diet.
- If you’re making mac and cheese for lunch, make it with loads of broccoli.
- If you love spaghetti, put more veggies in your sauce.
- Love eggs? Make a scramble with onions, bell pepper, and mushrooms.
Make vegetables the star of every meal, gradually having more vegetables and less meat
products every day.
Learning About Nutrients
Next, make sure you are aware of the nutrients you need to focus on with your vegan meals.
When you eat an animal-based diet, you get a lot of your iron, calcium and protein from meat and dairy, but this is different when you are consuming all plant-based foods.
You can still get the nutrients you need, but you need to be even more careful with having a balanced diet.
This includes understanding what foods contain all the vitamins and minerals you need, like adding a combination of vegetables and fruits with whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans, and other ingredients.
Don’t Forget The Emotional Benefits of Going Vegan
Many people talk about the physical benefits of going vegan, as well as the environmental benefits.
But, emotional and mental benefits are not often talked about, and just might be what helps you to stick with this way of eating and stay motivated to see it through long-term.
- Read Vegetarian Diets Are Associated With Healthy Mood States
- Read The Vegan Brain Plant-based diets, micronutrients, and Mental Health
Plant Based Diet Reduces Stress
Do you know what happens when you switch to a new way of eating and no longer have to yo-yo diet? You lose a lot of that diet stress.
By committing to a plant-based diet, you will soon discover that you can naturally maintain your weight just by sticking to a whole,
No more counting calories or carbs, or going on extremely restricting diet.
As long as everything you eat is fresh, plant-based food, you don’t have to worry too much about what you are eating.
Plant Based Diet Reduces Anxiety
There have been studies that look at the mental health of people on prolonged vegan or plant-based diets, and found something amazing – it really helps with your anxiety, mood swings, and stress levels.
Plant-based diets appear to influence mental health positively. Vegetarians, in cross-sectional and interventional studies, showed fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and mood disturbance than omnivores.
This can be from any number of things, from no longer eating hormones that was in the meat you were eating, to mood stabilization from reducing dairy and having many more vitamins and minerals thanks to all the veggies and whole grains.
You Feel Healthier All Around
Don’t rule out the benefit of just feeling better and healthier all around.
Being on a plant-based diet can help with a lot of your gut issues, especially if you had an allergy to certain meat or shellfish, or to dairy, which is very common.
Lazy Meal Ideas for the New Vegan
Let’s start making these simple, low-effort meal to kick start your plant-based diet.
1. Rice Bowl
The simplest meal you can make when you are on a plant-based diet is a rice bowl aside from a salad.
But when you want a warm meal, you really can’t go wrong with a bed of rice or grains topped with your favorite veggies, nuts and seeds.
There are many ways to go about this.
- You can make it really simple with brown rice, topped with roasted butternut squash, chickpeas, carrots, and your favorite vegan sauce.
- Another option is to do a mix of rice and quinoa for even more fiber and protein, with any of your leftover mixed veggies and some black beans.
Get creative and throw all your favorite foods together.
2. Baked Potatoes
When you go vegan, baked potatoes take on a whole new meaning.
- No longer are they the side dish to an animal protein source, but the main course!
- This makes it a lot of fun since there are so many ways to top a baked potato.
- If you miss your old baked potato with cheese and bacon bits, look for the vegan versions of them!
Otherwise, you can just top it with anything and everything, like hummus and veggies, beans and lentils, even fried tofu!
Chili might seem like a hassle, but when you use your slow cooker, it is incredibly easy to do.
Vegan chili is really just about adding all the ingredients and turning on your slow cooker.
When you aren’t browning meat beforehand, this is made even easier.
- The only real prep work you have is measuring out spices and chopping any veggies you intend to add.
- You can throw in your choice of beans, vegetables, onions, garlic, and any of your favorite chili spices.
- Turn on the slow cooker and let it cook for as long as you want.
There are plenty of other vegan meal options that won’t take a lot of time and effort.
This might include putting together a vegetarian sandwich or wrap with hummus and your choice of veggies, or using a bag of frozen vegetables with your favorite vegan jarred sauce and microwave rice.
High-Protein Vegan Food Ideas
If you are on a vegan diet or just thinking about transitioning to a plant-based diet, one of the nutrients you need to focus on is your protein.
A lot of healthy, vegan food has all the protein you need each day.
1. Lentils for Protein Source
First up, you have your lentils (again).
- Lentils, beans, and legumes are popular options on a plant-based diet, since they provide a lot of nutrients you might be missing from your new vegan diet.
- Lentils are an amazing source of protein, with about 8.84 grams of protein for just ½ cup.
- If you have a cup or more, or combine them in a bowl with other protein-rich foods, you have yourself a protein-dense meal.
- As an added benefit, lentils will also provide you with iron, fiber, and potassium.
A similar protein source is chickpeas.
In fact, it is not uncommon to have a bowl or dish with chickpeas and lentils, along with other beans and legumes, and lots of healthy vegetables, and maybe even some nuts and seeds as well.
- With chickpeas, ½ cup provides you a little more than 7 grams of protein.
- You can eat them cold or cooked in something, in salad, and of course by making your own hummus.
If you are a fan of nuts and seeds, add in some almonds to your meals and snacks!
- You can have a handful of almonds as a snack, top slivered almonds to your soup or salads, or made your own almond butter to dip other fruits and vegetables in.
- While many nuts contain protein, almonds are one of your best options.
- You will get over 16 grams of protein in just ½ cup of almonds, not to mention all the other nutrients these give you.
4. Tofu for Protein Source
When you are on a plant-based diet, sometimes you want a main course that resembles a look or flavor to meat, without actually having meat.
This is where tofu comes in.
It can be intimidating at first, but it is loaded with protein and other vitamins and minerals, and takes on the flavor or whatever you cook it with.
You are going to get about 10 grams of protein for each ½ cup of tofu you have.
The Top 5 Plant-Based Foods with Iron
Whether you have been a vegan for a while or are just starting out, you might notice that your typical diet doesn’t have as much iron.
In addition to an iron supplement, there are also some great foods with high iron content that are completely plant-based.
Here are some of the best options.
1. Nuts and Seeds
Start with your nuts and seeds, which are so easy to add to meals and snacks.
You can just munch on a snack of your favorite nuts, like cashews or walnuts to get more iron, or have iron-rich seeds on salads and in Buddha bowls, like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
Another good nut with iron?
These are always a fan favorite.
2. More Vegetables
A good amount of your diet will consist of vegetables, but when you want iron, you should be sure you pick the right balance.
For more iron in your diet, vegetables like the following are going to be great.
- collard greens
- swiss chard
The next category of foods with iron are your grains.
You will eat a good amount of grains while on a plant-based diet as these are going to really bulk up your meals and help you feel full, even by changing to a vegan lifestyle.
Some excellent grains that are delicious and iron-rich are…
- brown rice quinoa
- fortified cereals
Next up are your legumes!
If you have been plant-based for a while, you probably already eat a good amount of legumes, whether as a side dish to the main course, in a rice bowl, or a Buddha bowl.
Legumes with iron are
- tempeh lima beans
Make up a bowl of chili with legumes, have some tofu as your main course, or have a probiotic-rich meal with tempeh.
5. Tofu for Iron
We already talked about tofu, but this really does deserve its own category.
- It is extremely easy to cook, picks up any seasoning or flavor it is cooked with, and goes with just about everything.
- It is the perfect meatless option for main courses and side dishes, plus it has a good amount of iron and other nutrients.
- Not only iron, but you can also get a good amount of calcium with tofu, which has between 80 and 150 mg, depending on the type of tofu
Don’t Forget the Vitamin C
Iron is a tricky supplement, because you often need a booster in order to enhance how much your body is able to absorb.
For this reason, it is a great idea to incorporate vitamin C foods (or a supplement) into your regular routine to be sure you absorb as much iron as possible.
Some great sources of vitamin C include
- citrus fruit
- brussels sprouts
How to Get Calcium in Your Diet Without Dairy
When you can’t have dairy, whether because of a dairy allergy or you have gone completely plant-based, you will need to find alternative sources for many nutrients.
- Read this extensive list of calcium source
This includes calcium, which you might have gotten primarily from milk and cheese before. Luckily, there are plenty of great dairy-free sources of calcium.
1. Dairy-Free Milk
The first way to get more calcium without dairy is to still drink milk!
- Instead of drinking milk from animals like cows or goats, you are going to look at dairy-free alternatives.
- The simplest way is to choose a nut milk like almond milk, or go with a rice or soy milk.
- These options provide about 30 to 50 percent of your daily requirement for calcium in just 8 ounces – which is really easy to fit into your day.
2. Getting Calcium from Beans and Legumes
Since you will be eating a good amount of beans and legumes to stay full throughout the day while eon a plant-based diet, they are great to use as a calcium source.
- Navy beans provide about 65 mg of calcium in one serving
- Pinto beans have about 50 mg of calcium
3. How Fruits and Vegetables Provide More Calcium
Plenty of fruits and vegetables contain calcium, and are really easy to add to your different meals and snacks. For example, oranges not only give you vitamin C, but 1 cup of oranges has 70 mg of calcium.
For vegetables, enjoy…
- turnip greens
- mustard greens
- collard greens
- bok choy
Looking for something sweet?
- Dried figs have 120 mg of calcium in about ½ cup.
Figs are great because they are sweet like fruit, but they don’t spoil as quickly.
How to Stay Plant-Based Diet While Traveling
One of the lifestyle changes you will need to make when you switch to a plant-based diet is related to traveling.
No longer can you just eat whatever the airplane provides or stop by any restaurant or café.
Here are some tips for traveling while on a plant-based diet.
1. Do Your Research First
Before you start traveling, do as much research as you can.
- You are looking into all the cities you will be at, as well as what your airplane is going to serve, if there is food at your hotel and what kind, and what restaurants are around.
- Don’t just look at restaurants near your hotel, since you are probably going to explore the city.
- Look around town, near tourist spots you want to visit, and make sure you look up their menus for vegan options.
If you are going on a road trip, look at any stops along the way that have plant-based options for you.
2. Bring Your Own Snacks
When all else fails, having some vegan snacks with you will help with any situations that might arise.
Plus, these are great to have with you on road trips when you’re not sure where all the convenience stores are.
3. Tell Your Host About Your Diet
If you will be staying with family or friends, just let them know ahead of time that you are on a plant-based or vegan diet.
They don’t need to change all their meals just for you, but it does help them when meal planning to at least have a few meatless options that
you will be able to enjoy.
4. Find Out What the Plane is Serving
This is absolutely essential if you are going on a long trip on an airplane.
If it’s just a few hour flight, you could always find something to eat at the airport or a restaurant near there.
However, longer flights require you to eat onboard, so unless you can bring enough food with you, you will need to choose from on board menu items.
When choosing your airline, look to see which have the best food options, and always be prepared with snacks just in case the vegan options sell out.
Cheap Plant-Based Meals and Snacks
Here are some meal and snack ideas that will allow you to stick to your food budget.
1. Get Out Your Slow Cooker
If you have a slow cooker, it is going to become your new best friend.
Not only will it allow you to make large meals with food items you purchase in bulk, but it helps to save you time on preparing food as well.
If you tend to dip into your food budget for last- minute trips to vegan-friendly restaurants near you, you will definitely save money by prepping meals beforehand.
With a slow cooker, you can easily make big batches of vegetable soup with whatever veggies are in season, or by making big pots of beans, rice, or vegan chili.
2. It Doesn’t Get Cheaper Than Pasta
This is such a simple and cheap way to have a meal at home.
- Buy bags of vegan pasta in bulk as well as some jars of tomato sauce.
You can use the sauce right from the jar if you’re in a hurry, or add stuff to it, like seasoning and more vegetables to bulk up your meal.
Pasta and sauce is usually on the lower side of your budget, or you can make your own sauce to save even more when tomatoes are on sale.
Tips for Raising Plant-Based Kids
It is one thing to follow a plant-based diet on your own, but when you want your kids to also be plant-based, it might take a different method.
This is especially true if they have been eating meat and dairy previously, but you want to transition them more into vegan options.
Here are some easy tips for raising plant-based kids.
Feed Them Plant-Based Foods They Love
Don’t try to switch your kids to nothing but plant-based foods just yet, and don’t introduce new foods right away.
- Start by giving them more of the vegan foods they already eat that they love.
- This might be a selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, vegetarian chili with loads of beans and veggies, or pasta with a tomato sauce that doesn’t contain any meat in it.
- You can start gradually adding more of the plant-based foods they love, with some new ones you want them to try.
Sweeten it Up with Fruit
Kids love sweet foods, so fruit is the best thing when switching them to a plant-based diet.
- Instead of candy which is not only loaded with sugar but often animal products like gelatin and dairy, give them their sweet cravings with healthy, fresh fruit.
It contains all natural sugar and is a great way to show them how yummy a vegan diet can be.
Focus on Proper Nutrients
It is really important that you make sure your kids are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow big and strong.
When switching to a plant-based diet, this just means a proper balance of nutrients with each meal.
Focus on adding
- whole grains
- nuts and seeds
- beans and legumes
This combination ensures their meals and snacks have all the calcium, vitamins, electrolytes, iron, protein, and zinc your kids need in their growing bodies.
Make it Fun for Them
You can take their new vegan foods and make them a lot of fun to eat.
Whether you cut their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into fun shapes, or you add vegan cheese sauce to their pasta or veggies at dinnertime, you can make it to where they don’t even miss the meat and dairy and eggs from their favorite meals.
It is really much simpler than you think to make plant-based foods your kids will not only eat, but will actually have fun with.
Going vegan takes consistency and work.
Slowly adding more healthy fruits and vegetables while maintaining balanced vegan diet by introducing iron, calcium, protein and other nutrients that you would otherwise consume when eating meat based foods.
Try to eat more at home by cooking, not only for just for the budget, but also that you can what exactly go into your foods.