Plant-based nutrition and healthy living essentials guide

Not eating meat or dairy has been proven to be optimal for a longer, healthier life. You also feel better and have more energy. This guide runs through what's needed when eating plant-based along with additional aspects to maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

The Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, Second Edition
Recommended reading for an in-depth guide on plant-based nutrition and eating and living healthy, with specific info for people of all ages, body types, and health conditions

What to eat

Get a range of nutrients on a regular basis

  • Raw, leafy greens, like a nice salad for lunch
  • Cooked vegetables like a soup or broth, or steamed
  • Beans and other legumes (lentils, peas, etc)
  • Onions (along with leaks, garlic, chives, etc)
  • Mushrooms for decreased risk of breast, stomach, and colorectal cancers
  • Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
  • Other fruits, either fresh or frozen (smoothies not recommended for weight loss)
  • Seeds like flax and chia, along with nuts (you can mix in with your salad)
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats (including oatmeal), whole grain bread

More info: G-BOMBS - Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds

See also: Daily Dozen - daily eating regiment, also available as an app

What's available

There are plenty of plants to eat – around 100 listed below (and this is not the most extensive list)! Refer to this list when grocery shopping or thinking about your next meal.

Vegetables

  • Bell Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Mushrooms
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Snap Peas
  • Squash
  • Artichokes
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagas
  • Pumpkin
  • Beets

Cruciferous Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Radish
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bok Choy

Greens

  • Lettuce/Salad Greens
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Collard Greens

Beans (Legumes)

  • Black Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo)
  • Edamame
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Miso
  • Tempeh

Whole Grains

  • Rice (Brown)
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole grain tortillas
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Popcorn
  • Barley
  • Rye

Fruit

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Tangerines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Passion Fruit
  • Pineapple
  • Mangos
  • Lemons
  • Plums
  • Avocados
  • Apricot
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Papaya
  • Prunes

Berries

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Cranberries
  • Acai

Nuts

  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Macadamias

Seeds

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sesame
  • Chia

Simple meal ideas

  • Salad with nuts
  • Bean or lentil soup
  • Frozen vegetables with rice
  • Canned beans
  • Bean burger
  • Bean and rice burrito with pico de gallo, lettuce, salsa
  • Frozen smoothie
  • Oatmeal for breakfast with almond/soy/oat milk (unsweetened); avoid granola and other processed/sugary cereals
  • Hummus dip with whole wheat pita
  • Baby carrots as snacks
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Roasted/grilled vegetables
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Chili soup
  • Tomato sauce and paste

Pro tips:

  • Keep frozen foods to have on hand
  • Keep vegetable broths and stocks for making soups
  • A cup is about the size of a large banana, medium grapefruit or potato, or ear of corn; see also: serving size examples
  • Refer to Eat by Date for how long food lasts before it goes bad

What to avoid

  • Processed foods
  • Refined foods like flour (cake and regular pasta)
  • Oils (including olive oil); use vegetable broth for stir fried vegetables
  • Too much salt (sodium); no sea salt
  • Sugar (not counting natural sugar from fruits)

Flavoring

What to use instead of too much salt or sugar

Spices

  • Mustard
  • Chili Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • (Black) Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Basil
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Parsley
  • Poppy seeds
  • Turmeric

Additional Flavoring

  • Vinegar - Good for salad dressing (balsamic, apple cider, brown rice, etc)
  • Hot Sauce - Avoid a lot of oil and salt
  • Horseradish
  • Vanilla
  • Peppermint

What to drink

Start with 5 12oz glasses of water a day

  • Tea - Many varieties to choose from, avoid sugar and milk
  • Coffee - Also many options to choose from, avoid sugar and milk
  • Hot Cocoa (Powder)
  • Sparkling/Carbonated Water - Various syrups can be used to flavor
  • Avoid alcohol, sugary sodas, and too much caffeine

Vitamin supplements

What's necessary to take regularly

  • Vitamin B-12 - 2,500 mcg weekly, required with plant-based eating
  • Omega-3's DHA and EPA - 250 mcg daily, also required with plant-based eating
  • Vitamin D - Recommended 2,000 UI daily

More info: NutritionFacts.org - summaries of health studies

Exercise

Enough to break a sweat

  • A simple 1-hour walk, 5-6 times a week
  • Or an intense 7-minute series of exercises a day, 5-6 times a week
  • Optional body building for muscle and form

Sleep

Close to 8 hours a night, waking up between 6-8am

  • Not sleeping well leads to increased risk for illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia; and elevated risks of depression, psychosis, and stroke
  • Sleeplessness causes you to be irritable, moody, and irrational
  • Lack of sleep causes us to eat more than we need to
  • Try not to interrupt your sleep with an alarm (do this by getting enough hours and you’ll wake up before your alarm goes off)
  • Try to avoid screen time an hour before going to bed

More info: National Geographic - The Science of Sleep

Meditation

The practice of mindfulness, at least 10 minutes daily

Mindfulness meditation can positively impact mental and physical health; reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus, and improving relationships.

Meditation is training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well. Via What is Meditation

Mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the here and now, fully engaged with whatever we're doing in the moment. Via What is Meditation

  • Can improve the quality of sleep for individuals with sleeping difficulties
  • Promotes healthy eating behavior, and improves weight loss in overweight or obese individuals
  • Can improve communication in relationships, and improve satisfaction in romantic relationships
  • The American Heart Association has stated it can help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Can help support pain management

More info: The Benefits of Meditation

Recommended: Headspace - iPhone and Android app with specific daily exercises