Plant-Based Diet: Feel Your Best Starting Today - A Step-by-Step Guide

This article introduces a well-planned plant-based diet that focuses on nutrient-dense plant-based foods, protein intake, and supplementing essential nutrients that may be lacking in plant-based diets. The article also discusses the pros and cons of a plant-based diet and answers commonly asked questions about plant-based eating, such as what foods provide complete proteins and how to obtain sufficient iron. Furthermore, the article provides recommendations for satisfying plant-based snacks.

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Plant-Based Diet: Feel Your Best Starting Today - A Step-by-Step Guide


Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods

The healthiest plant-based foods are those that provide the most nutrition for the fewest calories. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds should make up the bulk of your diet. Some of the most nutrient-dense plant-based foods include:

Dark Leafy Greens

Foods like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and collard greens are packed with vitamins A, C, K and folate. They are also a good source of antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol which help reduce inflammation in the body.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and bok choy are high in compounds like sulforaphane that may help reduce the risk of cancer. They also provide fiber,B vitamins and various antioxidants.


Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries contain anthocyanins, giving them their bright color and acting as antioxidants. Berries are also rich in vitamin C, manganese and fiber.

Whole Grains

Choose less processed grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa and farro. Look for the word "whole" as one of the first ingredients. Whole grains provide more fiber, B vitamins and minerals than refined grains.


Beans, lentils and peas are excellent sources of plant-based protein, fiber, iron, folate, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Aim for 1-2 cups per week. Some options include lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and edamame.

Watch Your Protein Intake

Getting enough protein is important for health, muscle maintenance and appetite control. Most plant-based diets can provide adequate protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables, but you may need to be more mindful. Aim for 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day from these foods. Higher needs can be met by incorporating plant-based protein powders.

Supplement Key Nutrients

Some nutrients like B12, calcium, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids may be lacking in plant-based diets. Consider supplements or consume foods fortified with these nutrients. The few nutrients that may be difficult to obtain purely from plant foods include:

Vitamin B12: Found in some nutritional yeasts, fortified foods, or supplements.

Calcium: Almond milk, tofu, collard greens and broccoli are options, but you may still need a supplement.

Iron: Pair iron-rich plant foods like beans, lentils and cashews with vitamin C for best absorption. A supplement may still be needed for some.

Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas and beans contain zinc, but a supplement may be beneficial.

Omega-3 Fats: Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts contain a plant-based omega-3 called ALA. Algae oil provides DHA and EPA omega-3s similar to fish oil.

The Pros and Cons of a Plant-Based Diet


• Reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

• Healthy weight maintenance. Plant-based diets tend to be low in calories and high in fiber which aids weight loss and management.

• Better for the environment. Plant-based diets require fewer crops and natural resources to produce compared to meat and dairy.

• Compassion for animals. Avoiding animal products is more humane and ethical.


• May need extra effort to get all essential nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, zinc, B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Paying attention to possible nutritional deficiencies is important.

• Can be more expensive if relying on packaged meat and dairy alternatives. Whole foods plant-based diets tend to be very affordable.

• Challenging when eating out or at social gatherings. Plant-based options may be more limited. Some extra planning may be required.

• Digestive difficulties for some. An increase in fiber may take time for your gut bacteria to adjust to, possibly causing temporary gas, bloating or cramps. Start slowly and drink plenty of water.

In summary, a well-planned plant-based diet can provide many health benefits. Focus on eating a variety of whole plant foods, getting enough protein and key nutrients, and make the necessary adjustments based on your own nutritional needs. With time, eating a plant-based diet can become second nature! Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Eggs On A Plant-based Diet?

Eggs are not a plant-based food since they come from chickens. Strict plant-based diets exclude all animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. However, some people follow a vegan diet that includes eggs. If eggs are acceptable for your needs, choose free-range, organic eggs. But for a purely plant-based diet, exclude eggs.

What Foods Provide Complete Protein?

There is no need to combine plant proteins at each meal to get all the amino acids you need. Complete protein can be obtained from the following foods over the course of a day:

Quinoa: Provides all 9 essential amino acids. One cup has 8 grams of protein.

Buckwheat: A pseudo-grain that provides all 9 essential amino acids. One cup cooked has 6 grams of protein.

Amaranth: Another pseudo-grain that provides all 9 essential amino acids. One cup cooked has 9 grams of protein.

Soy foods: Tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy milk provide all 9 essential amino acids. Aim for 2-3 servings per day to meet your protein needs.

Nutritional yeast: 2 tablespoons provide 8 grams of protein with all amino acids. Use as a seasoning or make cheese sauces and dressings.

Hemp seeds: Just three tablespoons have about 10 grams of protein with all amino acids. Sprinkle on salads, yogurt or blend in smoothies.

Chia and pumpkin seeds: About 1/2 cup of either provides 10-12 grams of complete protein.

How Do You Get Enough Iron?

Plant-based sources of iron include:

Beans, lentils, and peas: 1 cup of most beans provides 3-4 mg of iron

Spinach and Swiss chard: 1 cup cooked provides 3-4 mg of iron.

Potatoes with the skins: A medium russet potato has 2 mg of iron.

Cashews: 1 ounce or about 18 nuts has 2 mg of iron.

Blackstrap molasses: 1 tablespoon has 3 mg of iron.

Nutritional yeast: 2 tablespoons provides 2 mg of iron.

• Use cast-iron pans for cooking and avoid drinking coffee and tea with meals which can inhibit absorption.

Pairing iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C like citrus juice or bell peppers helps with absorption. An iron supplement may also be necessary for some, especially menstruating or pregnant women. The RDA for most adults is 8-18 mg per day.

What Are Some Filling Snacks?

Some satisfying plant-based snacks include:

Hummus and veggie sticks: Hummus is chickpea-based dip that comes in many flavors. Serve with celery, carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers.

Trail mix: Nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, and dried fruit make a perfect energizing snack.

Smoothie with plant-based protein powder: Blend a scoop of protein powder with banana, berries and nut milk for a balanced snack.

• Guacamole and whole grain tortilla chips

PB&J on rice cakes: Top rice cakes with peanut butter, banana, and berries.

Roasted chickpeas: Toss chickpeas with oil, salt and spices and roast at 400 F for about 30 minutes until crunchy.

Avocado toast: Mash half an avocado and season with lemon or lime juice. Spread on whole grain toast and top with sliced tomato, sprouts or red pepper flakes.

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