Want to eat a more plant-based diet in 2020? This is the guide for you!
Eating plant-based is easier than it’s ever been. And that’s thanks to trends and changes in 2019 and recent years.
No, this isn’t a post with just a bunch of recipes. Rather, it’s tips and strategies you can actually use to eat more plant-based in 2020.
Whether you’re looking to adopt a fully plant-based or vegan diet, or if you’d just like to incorporate more plants into your everyday eating, you’ll love this guide.
Let’s do this!
1. Try plant-based at your pace
Many people approach going plant-based and eating less meat with an “all or nothing” approach. And while jumping straight to eating 100% vegetarian or vegan works for some people, it just doesn’t work for a lot of people. And when it doesn’t work out, many people give up.
Don’t let this happen to you! If you’re not sure you’re ready to go all-in, one of these approaches could be easier for getting started.
Committing to being vegan permanently can be a daunting undertaking. Not ready to make that leap, especially without trying it first? Sign up for Veganuary.
Veganuary is simple: go the whole month of January as a vegan. There are all sorts of resources and other things to help you succeed for a month. It’s a great way to experiment with something new alongside others doing the same.
At the end of the month, it’s up to you if you want to continue with the vegan diet or not. But either way, at least you gave it a shot, right? It could change you life.
If Veganuary has already passed by the time you’re reading this, take on your own one-month vegan challenge anytime you’d like.
Read more: Guide to Plant-Based Diet for Beginners
If the idea of ditching all animal products overnight sounds intimidating to you, try this instead: going flexitarian.
“Flexitarian” is term used to describe those who are part-time vegetarian eaters. They actively eat less meat and more veggies, but they’re not 100% plant-based.
Reducing the amount of meat you eat is likely better than not reducing it at all. So for anyone who isn’t ready or doesn’t want to eat 100% plants, flexitarian may be the way to go.
Remember: just because you start out flexitarian doesn’t mean you can’t slowly progress to eating less meat and more plant protein.
Go easy on yourself
If you want to eat more plant-based foods or be 100% vegan, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go perfectly. Foods (especially unhealthy ones) are extremely tempting, especially when others dangle them in front of us.
Unfortunately, I see people beat themselves up all the time because they committed to giving up animal products only to eat a cheese pizza days later. But hey, it happens! Few, if any, have followed a diet without any missteps.
If you “screwed up” your diet, the best thing you can do: start over again. The past is the past, and you can’t take it back. Forgive yourself, and do your best to get back on track.
- Replacing unhealthy animal products with healthy foods is still better than whatever you were doing before (even if it’s not zero animal products yet).
- This isn’t a competition. Do your best, and don’t worry about anyone else.
2. Make cooking simple
Eating plant-based foods is about a lot more than eating beans and salads 24/7. If you’re eating only big plates of lettuce, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Choosing what to plant-based foods to eat doesn’t have to be complicated.
Eat plant-based substitutes
In recent years, we’ve seen more delicious meat substitutes than ever become available.
While plant-based burgers have gotten a lot of attention, there are plenty of other animal-free options now available.
Some of my favorites are:
- Beyond Sausage
- Impossible Burger
- Field Roast Sausage
- Chao cheese
- Gardein meatballs
- Soy curls
For a full rundown of these foods and more and how they can be used, check out 15 Vegan Meat Substitutes Even Carnivores Will Love.
One thing to keep in mind: while foods like Impossible Burger and Beyond Sausage are both plant-based and incredibly delicious, they’re really not healthier than your standard beef burger or sausage.
The Impossible Burger has more saturated fat than 100% beef patties (100g) as well as about three times as much sodium.
So enjoy these plant-based meats from time to time as a splurge but avoid making them part of your daily diet long term.
Veganize your current favorites
A major myth of going plant-based is that you have to give up all the foods you love. Not true!
It’s possible to make veganized versions of a ton of dishes that you may have thought only existed as non-vegan meals.
The plant-based meats mentioned above can also help with this too.
For example, you can:
- replace the meat in chili with beans or meat “crumble” substitute
- take the cheese off pizza to make it vegan and add other toppings (including vegan cheese, if you’d like)
- make all kinds of veggie burgers
- use seitan or soy curls in place of chicken
People have found ways to create vegan wings, ribs, and other meat favorites from 100% plant-based ingredients. The only limit to what can be made vegan is creativity.
If you’re not sure what to substitute, Google search is your friend (as well as Facebook groups mentioned in this post).
Find free recipes
It’s no secret that there are millions of recipes on the internet. It’s no different for plant-based foods.
Simply googling “vegan recipes” or “whole food plant-based recipes” turns up a mountain of results.
That said, I’ve found it easier to stick to a few different recipe sites I like for most of my recipes. These sites often use similar ingredients in their recipes, so I’m not always running out to buy rare spices and things like I don’t have in my kitchen already.
Some of my favorites:
- MinimalistBaker.com – specializes in “recipes requiring 10 ingredients or less, 1 bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare.” Recipes are generally very tasty, though not all are “healthy.” Note that while the site used to be 100% vegan, there are now some recipes that have non-plant based ingredients.
- ForksOverKnives.com – free database of hundreds of whole-food plant-based recipes. If you’re wanting healthier options, this is the place for you.
- Oh She Glows – covers a wide range of vegan recipes, so there’s something for everyone here.
I’ve also put together some recipe lists right here that can help:
- 107 High-Protein Vegan Recipes (With 20+ Grams of Protein Per Serving – Guaranteed!)
- Complete List of 26+ Best Vegan Protein Sources (With Recipes)
I like to have 5 to 9 go-to recipes at a time that I can make on rotation and enjoy without too much repetition. I often freeze leftovers to eat later on too.
Try a meal plan
The best part about using pre-made meal plans is simplicity. There’s no need to spend time searching for a new recipe then trying to figure out if you have the ingredients (which you often won’t).
Meal plans give you predetermined dishes to cook along with a grocery shopping list. Simple, right? They generally provide enough food for a full week (or however many meals you need). Some meal planning services and tools to use:
Most of these services cost around $14-20 per month or $100-120 per year. While you may be able to get similar recipes for free, these tools add convenience and time saving for planning and shopping as well as variety and customizations to meet your nutritional goals.
Sign up for meal delivery services
Meal delivery services are probably the easiest way to start cooking and eating plant-based foods at home.
Just keep in mind that thanks to the convenience, they’re likely going to be more expensive than other options. But if you’re truly unsure how to get started or short on time, these can be a good way to get started.
Some meal services for plant-based meals include:
Each of the above either has vegan options or is 100% plant-based.
3. Discover your motivation
Plant-based diets are getting a lot of attention right now (as they should!) There are many reasons for adopting such a diet.
With any “new” thing, a lot of people want to try a plant-based diet because off the buzz they’re hearing right now.
While I’m 100% in support of plant-based eating, starting on a plant-based diet just because it’s something new isn’t going to be enough for most people. It can be challenging to stick to any type of diet.
That said, you’re going to want to have some reasons for eating more plant-based foods.
Some other reasons people choose to eat a plant-based diet are:
- Animal welfare
- Climate change
- Human rights
- Air and water pollution
So, what’s your own reason and motivation for eating more plant-based foods?
If you’re not so sure what your reason for eating more plant-based, explore the following resources to learn more.
Watch top plant-based films
Documentaries that cover whole-foods plant-based diets can be both extremely powerful as well as relatively quick and easy to digest. Some of my favorite movies include:
- The Gamechangers (available on Netflix)
- Forks Over Knives (Netflix)
- Cowspiracy (Netflix)
- Eating Animals (Hulu)
Each of these films provides a solid background on at least some of the reasons to adopt a plant-based diet.
Read up on benefits of eating plant-based
If you’re looking for something a bit more in-depth than films, the books below cover a wide range of topics related to plant-based eating:
- How Not to Die by Michael Greger MD
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II
- Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
- The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World by John Robbins
- Proteinaholic by Garth Davis M.D.
There’s no need to read all these books, but you might find learning exciting and be motivated to keep reading.
Join Facebook groups
Even if you’ve read or watched a ton about plant-based foods, you likely still have some questions or just want recommendations on what to eat. My favorite source of support: Facebook groups.
The reason I recommend these groups is:
- You can get support and recommendation from real people
- You can ask your own questions and get specific answers
- You can see and relate to the struggles others go through
Some Facebook groups I’ve found helpful:
If Facebook isn’t your thing, reddit also has various sub-reddits where you can find support too.
Be ready for criticism
Making a major change to your lifestyle often makes others uncomfortable. Choosing a vegan or plant-based diet is certainly no exception.
Considering that around 95% of people on this planet eat meat, you’re definitely bumping up against other peoples’ beliefs by giving up animal products partially or totally.
That said, it can help to have some talking points down about why you’re interested in a plant-based diet. Be honest about why you’re looking to eat more plants and less meat. Some phrases I use are:
- “Eating plants is better for my health since I’m getting more fiber and other nutrients I need.”
- “Why eat a cow when I can eat the same stuff cows eat — plants?”
- “Some of the longest-living people in the world live on primarily plant-based diets.”
- “The American Heart Association actually recommends ‘eating a mostly plant-based diet.'”
Keep in mind that many criticisms come from others’ insecurities. It’s more about them than it is you. And it’s not always possible to change other peoples’ minds or even convince them that you’re doing the right thing.
I like to keep the dialogue open and friendly, but at the end of the day, I make my own choices about what’s best for me.
4. Make Eating Out a Breeze
In 2020, there are more vegan restaurant options than ever. More restaurants are offering plant-based meals. But it still can be tricky to find restaurants that have the most options.
So how do you make it easier? Using a few tools.
Look for these new vegan options
In 2019, vegan options at chain restaurants hit the mainstream. Here’s a list of the most exciting vegan offerings now available:
- Impossible Whopper (at Burger King) – enjoy a whopper with the Impossible plant-based patty at all 7,200 locations in the U.S. Leave off the mayo to make it 100% plant-based.
- Beyond Burger at Carl’s Jr. – get the Beyond Burger at all Carl’s Jr. locations by order the Beyond Famous Star or substituting at Beyond Meat patty on any burger. Hold the cheese and mayo to make it vegan.
- Various options at Taco Bell – choose from Crunchwrap Supreme (remove beef, sour cream and cheese), bean burrito (again, no cheese), and more. Check out a whole list of items here.
- Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich at Dunkin’ – order it on an English muffin with no egg or cheese.
- Beyond Avocado Taco at Del Taco – get a taco filled with Beyond Meat or order virtually anything that adds Beyond and takes out dairy and meat. See a vegan menu here.
- The Impossible Slider at White Castle – enjoy these small sliders for $1.99, and yes, the bun is now also vegan. Just hold the cheese.
There are plenty more options where you can leave off cheese on a Pizza Hut or Domino’s pizza, or piece together various sides to make a vegan meal. See Buzzfeed’s full list for even more options.
Target restaurants more likely to have vegan foods
What about when you want to get a little fancier than fast food? There are still tons of options, though you do have to be selective. It’s less likely that your local steakhouse is going to offer superb plant-based options compared to other types of restaurants.
These restaurant types are more likely to have plant-based options than others:
- Thai – many Thai restaurants offer tofu as a protein in both curries and noodle dishes. Just make sure there’s no fish sauce, egg, or egg noodles used.
- Mexican – burritos and tacos with beans are a great option (just check that they’re vegan), and you generally can’t lose with chips and salsa. And, of course, guacamole!
- Sushi – order options that contain vegetables like avocado, cucumber, carrot and more.
- Ethiopian – non-meat options are generally a wonderful mix of vegetables accompanied by injera, a flatbread that’s also generally gluten-free.
- Mediterranean – dishes like hummus, tabouleh, eggplant, olives, and falafel fill out the many options here.
- Indian – a lot of Indian food is already vegetarian. You’ll need to avoid ghee, paneer, and (often) naan. Chana masala and dosas are often vegan, though.
- Pizza – the crust is often vegan as-is (though ask to make sure). If there’s no vegan cheese offered, just ask for no cheese (it tastes better than you might think!).
In all cases, I definitely recommend scoping out the menu ahead of time. Every restaurant is different, and unfortunately, it’s not always possible to walk in and find a satisfying plant-based meal.
Use the Happy Cow app
Happy Cow is like Yelp except it only lists restaurants that have at least some vegetarian and vegan options. In my experience, it’s much easier than trying to sift through Yelp and Google, which are often inaccurate in terms of figuring out what’s vegan.
Happy Cow also features reviews and ratings from others who eat plant-based foods, so you can more clearly tell if they like the plant-based options without having to sift through reviews of meat dishes.
It works throughout the U.S. and all over the world, too. I’ve used it in New Zealand, Germany, Poland, and other places on my travels.
When desperate, go to the staples
If you’re eating plant-based, there are probably going to be times where you’re stuck eating somewhere without any viable plant-based options.
When this happens, you might have to go the simple, go-to foods. If you’re desperate, you can pretty much always eat:
- French fries
- Pasta (without egg or dairy)
- Baked potato
- Side of vegetables
- Side salad (but hope it doesn’t come to this!)
While so many dishes contain meat by default, you can often request they leave off the meat on things like salads to turn it plant-based.
My strategy: always look at the menu beforehand. If vegan options are slim to none, I either eat something beforehand or plan to eat afterward.
How will you eat in 2020?
I’m excited for all the new vegan options from past years as well as what will happen in 2020; we’re clearly headed in the right direction for plant-based foods!
What are you most excited to try out for your diet in 2020?
Leave a short comment below and let me know!