What Is a Plant-based Diet and How to Get Started?

Plant-based Diet

The plant-based diet has been garnering a lot of positive responses. In case you are new to the idea of a plant-based diet, read further to learn what is a plant-based diet and the reasons to follow such a diet. I will also highlight a few easy steps to include more plant-based foods in your meals.

What Is a Plant-based Diet?

The plant-based diet is all about utilizing nature’s gifts: fruits, veggies, pulses, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds, etc. You try, as much as possible, to stick to eating natural foods and prepare your meals and snacks with natural foods alone.

This is NOT a fad diet or a restricting diet. You are NOT required to fast for ridiculously long hours, avoid certain food groups, stop eating non-vegetarian, etc. None of that. The idea is to include as many plant-based ingredients as you can in your meals. Although, I would add that a fully plant-based diet is ideal.

I started looking for plant-based alternatives for milk when we couldn’t get good quality milk. The more I searched the more I realized that a lot of what we eat lacks freshness and hence, reduced nutritive value. And that’s when I and my mother started making small changes to our meals.

Now, for those of you folks having a hectic time managing work and children, I know it sounds crazy to not use at least some processed, ready-to-cook, or ready-to-eat foods. This post is a humble attempt to simplify a plant-based diet for you. 🙂

Before starting a plant-based diet, you would be interested in knowing why you need to consider a plant-based diet. There is plenty of scientific evidence to show the benefits of a plant-based diet.

I will list a few benefits of a plant-based diet:

  • Lower incidence of illness
  • Reduced risk of heart ailments, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and obesity
  • Saves or reduces money spent on medicine or doctor consultations
  • Stay more active
  • Keeps you full for a longer time
  • Good for weight maintenance
  • And it is Planet-friendly 🙂

Now, let’s move to the next question.

How to include more plant-based foods in your diet?

I would like to mention a few simple steps to include more plant-based foods:

Start by stacking more natural foods: seasonal fruits and vegetables, dry fruits, millets, pulses, etc. You will soon notice that this is more pocket-friendly.

Include more whole grains and pulses. It’s not just beneficial in terms of giving satiety but also adds loads of nutrients.

Do not go shopping when you are hungry. Because the body simply says, “Eat!”, you are most likely to buy fast foods, processed foods, or anything that easily appeases your hunger. So next time you go shopping for groceries, remember to have a nutritious, filling snack or meal!

Start by making vegetables the star of your favorite recipe. For example, you love having a giant burger. Try making it as colorful and appealing with a variety of greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc.

Keep a fruit, nuts and seeds handy for a quick snack or mid-meal hunger pangs. This can also give you an energy boost and add good dose of proteins and healthy fats.

Connect with like-minded people. This will help you develop a mindset and also inspire you to stick to your diet.

Share your food or dine with like-minded people.

Plant-based Food Ingredients List

Whole grains: Brown Rice, Bamboo Rice, Whole Wheat, Steel-cut Oats, Flattened Rice flakes (or Jada Poha), Broken Wheat (or Daliya)

Pulses (including Lentils and Legumes): Green Gram, Chana Dal, Chickpeas, Black Gram, Fresh and Dry Peas, Fresh and Dry Beans, Soybeans, Pigeon Peas, Red Lentil

Millets (Minor Cereals): Proso millet (Chena/Barr), Foxtail millet, Little millet (Sama), Finger Millet (Ragi), Barnyard millet (Sanwa), Kodo millet (Arke)

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables: I emphasize on ‘seasonal’ because these grow as per the geographical factors like climate, soil, etc. Such locally produced fruits and veggies are more suitable for the people living in that place.

Dry fruits and Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Dates, Hazelnuts, Raisins,

Seeds: Sesame seeds, watermelon, seeds, pumpkin seeds, cantaloupe seeds, cucumber seeds

Cold-pressed Oils: Coconut oil, Groundnut oil, Sesame oil, Olive oil, Clarified butter or Ghee

Condiments and Spices: Pink Salt (or Sendha Namak), Jaggery, Mace, Dry ginger, Anise seeds, Cumin Seeds, Turmeric powder, Fennel seeds, Pepper, Sri Lankan /Ceylon Cinnamon, Cardamom

Plant-based Meal Prep

In my opinion, spices and condiments are super important in adding a zing to your diet. They add taste, flavor, aroma, color, and most importantly, subtle health benefits (which is most often overlooked). You would want to prepare certain Masalas (powdered mixture of condiments/spices) and Powders so they are ready to use for cooking. Following is a list of Masalas for Indian cooking:

  • Garam Masala
  • Sambar powder
  • Rasam powder
  • Dry Ginger powder
  • Red Chili powder
  • Idli Powder- famously known as the ‘Molaga-podi

Plant-based Diet Meal Plan

Meal planning is essential especially because you don’t want to be staring at the fridge wondering what to cook when you are hungry. Ideally, you need to be ready with a meal plan for a week before you go grocery shopping. So, you will have a list handy and know what exactly to buy. The result- you spend less time shopping.

I’m listing a few recipes for each time of the day and I’ll link them to individual recipe pages for your reference.

MealRecipes
BreakfastMillet dosa with coconut chutney, Idli or millet idli with Molaga-podi, Millet upma, Flattened rice flakes upma
LunchMix Vegetable Pulao, Veg Raita, Chapati (Indian flatbread) with Veg curry or gravy,
SnacksLaddoos or Balls made with Nuts and/or Seeds
DinnerVegetable Salad, Veg-Millet upma,
Plant-based Meal Plan

How to Store Veggies and Keep Them Fresh?

Storing the vegetables is crucial for two reasons: for retaining freshness and nutrients, and for easy meal preparation.

For leafy greens: Simply separate the leaves from the stem and store them inside a plastic container or better yet- a packet with internal aluminum coating to retain freshness. When you need to use it, wash it under running water.

For the rest of the veggies: Wash the veggies in running water and clean off the mud, if any. Now arrange on a clean piece of cloth and allow it to dry. Or else, pat-dry the veggies so they dry faster. Store in clean cloth bags in the refrigerator.

Conclusion

I’d like to add a few more points to remember:

Sometimes I do have ice-creams, or a packet of salted coconut chips, fried veggies, etc. It’s okay to enjoy and have your moment. The idea is to not go overboard with your diet, to the extent that you alienate yourself, stop socializing just because you follow a ‘diet’.

Moderation is key– and your diet is no exception.

So, the bottom line is: Have more natural foods or freshly cooked foods, and keep the consumption of processed foods to a minimum or for times when you just can’t avoid resorting to processed food.

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