Easy Guide to a Plant Based Diet (Benefits, Food List, Tips)

Plant Based Diet

Even a decade ago, saying you’re cutting back on meats and sugars got you weird looks at parties by friends and family. But, oh boy, has this trend changed! Between 2004 and 2020, 9.7 million Americans have embraced a plant based diet – an increase of a 3000%! This number is 2.6 million in the EU, with more and more people electing to cut their meat consumption. In this case, the pattern is easy to see. The global shift towards a plant based lifestyle is clear, and it’s here to stay. 

Despite the growing popularity, there are still some lingering (and valid) questions in the minds of many: What is a plant based diet anyway? Why is it so popular? What are its benefits? How does one go about adopting this lifestyle? 

Fear not, because we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to a plant based diet to answer all your burning questions! Scroll down to find out what exactly this diet involves, its advantages, and how you can get started on your plant based journey. 

What is a plant based diet?

Does going plant based mean going vegan? Is it vegetarianism? Or is it a semi-vegetarian diet with less meat? There’s a bit of confusion around the true meaning of a plant based diet. Well, here’s the truth: there is no one official definition. People going for plant based diets exist on a spectrum – with a majority of their diet comprising plant based foods and minimizing (but not completely eliminating) the intake of dairy, meat, and fish. 

In the purest sense, it means embracing a diet only consisting of plant based foods with no-animal-based food sources. But in reality, the overarching definition of a plant based diet remains the same: a diet rich in plant based sources of foods such as veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, while discouraging animal-based food sources. 

Food List for a Plant Based Diet

If you thought a plant based diet is limited and boring, we’ve got news for you! There is a mind-boggling variety of fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and more that you can enjoy on this diet. Here’s a list of plant based food suggestions that you can consume daily.

Print this out and put it up on your fridge as a handy planner for grocery shopping! 

VegetablesFruitsWhole GrainsNuts & SeedsLegumes
Leafy greens (Spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula)ApplesWhole wheatAlmondsChickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Root Veggies (Carrots, Radishes, Beets, Turnips)BananaRiceCashewMung Beans
Cruciferous (Broccoli, cauliflower) OrangesQuinoaPeanutsPeas
TomatoesPineapplesWhole-Grain BarleyMacadamia NutsRed Lentils
EggplantPeachesWhole OatsHazelnutBlack Eyed Peas
PotatoesGrapesBuckwheatCoconutRed Kidney Beans
CarrotsBerries (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) MilletPistachiosBlack Beans
Sweet PotatoesWatermelonWholewheat CouscousPecanBlack gram
CucumbersHoneydew MelonCornPine NutsPigeon Peas
MushroomsPomegranate Whole Grain BreadsWalnutsYellow Gram
ArtichokesGuavasWhole Grain PastasChestnutSoybeans
OkraSweet LimeWhole RyeBrazil NutLima Beans
Bell PeppersPapayaFarrowPumpkin seedsCannellini Beans
CabbageFigsBulgurFlaxseedsFava Beans
French BeansPearsFreekehSunflower seedsCranberry Beans
OnionsPumpkinAmaranthSesame seedsNavy Beans

What Are The Benefits of A Plant Based Diet?

There are many reasons why more and more people around the world are opting for a plant based diet:

Low Environmental Footprint

Did you know that it takes over 15000 liters of water, 20kg of feed and over 70 times as much land to produce 1kg of beef, compared to growing wheat and veggies? Consuming a meat-based diet unwittingly ends up supporting an industry that is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gasses in the world. By encouraging deforestation and methane production, the meat industry puts extraordinary pressure on the Earth’s natural resources and is a huge contributor to climate change

Over 2/3rds of all agricultural land goes into growing feed crops for livestock, causing soil degradation and desalination. Gasses such as methane (a byproduct of the livestock industry) have up to 23 times higher impact on global warming than carbon dioxide.

Switching to a plant based diet is one of the biggest steps you can take towards living more sustainably and reducing your environmental footprint. Opting for a plant based diet devoid of meat and dairy can cut your carbon footprint by almost three-quarters!

Holistic & Nutritious

A well-planned plant based diet has a vibrant variety of macro and micronutrients that make it easier for you to easily hit your daily nutrient goals! A diet rich in vegetables, whole grain, fruits, and nuts supplies the body with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fiber it needs to thrive physically as well as mentally. 

Plant-based sources of protein such as legumes have been found to have a wider range of amino acids than animal protein. Together, these food choices help lower inflammation, improve gut health, and increase metabolism. 

Lower Risk of Lifestyle Diseases + Longer Life

A US study with over 96,000 participants found that following a strictly plant based diet significantly cut the risk of type-2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases by upto 40% vs. those who followed a non-vegetarian or a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (vegetarian diet with dairy and eggs). 

Another study with 135,000 participants found that a diet rich in legumes, fruits and vegetables (3 to 4 servings per day) was linked to a lower risk of early death. Moreover, a plant based diet full of nuts and seeds on a regular basis has also been found to lower the levels of ‘bad cholesterol in your body. 

Kinder To Animals

Last but definitely not least, a 100% plant based diet is an important step towards ending animal cruelty. Animals that are reared for poultry and meat live their short lives in overcrowded, often unsanitary, and inhumane conditions in factory farms. By shifting our food choices to plant based sources, we will do our bit towards preventing the cruel treatment of animals. 

How To Start Your Plant Based Diet: 6 Things To Know

The beauty of a plant based diet is that it’s not a fad or a ‘diet’ in the conventional sense of the word. Rather, it’s a lifestyle change that opens up a whole world of delicious (and healthy) plant based food choices! But like any other lifelong habit, the key is to take it one step at a time and not overwhelm yourself. Here are a few pointers that can help you successfully transition to a plant based lifestyle.  

1 – Find Your “Why”

The key to sticking to any habit is to have a reason behind doing it – one that you truly believe in. Maybe you’d like to go plant based for its health benefits! Or you’re making the switch to reduce your carbon footprint. Perhaps you want to embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle, and this is a big step towards that goal. Each reason is equally meaningful and valid. Recognizing it will do wonders in embracing this change and will help you stay steady during the transition. 

2 – Start Small 

If meat, eggs, fish, and/or dairy has been a major part of your diet so far, then cutting these foods out overnight can be jarring and hard to deal with. Instead, you should start small so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Begin with restricting your consumption of animal-based foods to a single meal a day, while choosing plant based meals for the remaining meals. Do this for at least a week. Once you start enjoying your plant based meals and don’t miss your meat, fish, dairy, and eggs as much, you can slowly start phasing out that solitary meal-based meal as well!

3 – Go For Quick Recipes

There are a plethora of plant based recipes available online – from quick, one-pot dishes to lavish, three-course meals. To make your life easy, we suggest sticking to quick and easy plant based recipes at first. This will ensure that cooking plant based meals don’t seem daunting or a chore to you. Go for veggie sandwiches, easy curries, rice bowls, lentil soups, oatmeal, veggie stir-fry to begin with. Once your daily plant based meals seem easy enough, then you can graduate to the more complex recipes!

4 – Keep Healthy Plant Based Snacks Handy

Sure, french fries are technically plant based, but are they a healthy snack? Haha, not by a mile! It can be hard to stick to a diet if you’re hangry with no snacks at hand. That’s why we suggest you prepare ahead by keeping a variety of plant based nibbles to graze on to bust your cravings. Fresh fruits, beetroot chips, dates, nuts, veggies sticks with hummus make for delicious (and nutritious) alternatives. This will also make sure that you don’t overindulge in calorie-rich plant based foods like fried snacks, vegan cookies, or rich desserts.

5 – Find Plant Based Meat and Dairy Substitutes 

Some of us may find it hard to let go of indulgent foods like ice-creams, cheeses, meats, and more from our diet. Thankfully, we have some really good news. Over the last few years, we have seen a wave of brilliant plant based food brands come up with delicious and equally indulgent dairy-free and meat-free alternatives!

6 – Be Kind to Yourself

We are only human, after all – so please don’t be harsh on yourself if it takes a while to transition your eating habits. Personal growth and lifestyle changes are not a linear process – you’ll face ups and downs all along the journey. In such times, cut yourself some slack and remember that this is a lifelong journey, not a race to be won. Plus, this is exactly the time when remembering your ‘why’ will help (see point no.1 of this section!)

Does a Plant Based Diet Mean You Have to Be Vegan?

While it’s true that all vegans follow a completely meatless diet, it isn’t necessarily true that a vegan diet is healthy or totally plant based. Gummy bears are vegan after all. Choosing to adopt healthy, plant based eating habits doesn’t mean you have to identify as a vegan. You are still in control of your own meal plan and your own diet.

We also want to make it clear that veganism encompasses not just one’s diet but other lifestyle choices as well. It is a lifestyle dedicated to eliminating all use of animal-based products.

Having said that, we’re BIG believers in the transformative powers of veganism here at New Habitz! Not only does this practice benefit one’s physical and mental well-being, but it’s also a far more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, and advocates for compassion towards all animals. All of the brands showcased in our online market are proudly vegan, natural, and environmentally sustainable!

We’re thrilled to have plant based food brands like Botanic Bites in the New Habitz community. Their menu of mouth-watering mushroom burgers, shawarmas, vegan stews, and plant based meatballs will leave you spoiled for choice. More importantly, this Netherlands-based brand is a pioneer in eliminating food waste, and they do this by only sourcing rescued veggies to prepare their delicious foods. These vegetables are fresh, organic and nutritious, but would’ve been otherwise discarded only because they are not 100% visually perfect!

Your diet, your choice!

The food that you decide to eat with each meal is your choice. Choosing to eat plant-based diet, be a vegetarian, or go completely vegan might feel a little scary at first because it goes against a lot of societal norms around you.

But the world is waking up to the health and environmental benefits of plant based diets. And a plethora of food brands are offering delicious and nutritious plant based meat and dairy substitutes. So embracing this lifestyle is no longer a compromise. In fact, it may be the biggest thing you can do as an individual to care for your well-being and that of our planet.