The ultimate beginner guide to a whole food plant-based vegan diet.
World Vegan Month is fast approaching.
Your close friends have recently decided to shun animal products and go vegan. They are constantly telling you how wonderful they feel, how their digestion is amazing. How silky and shiny their hair is, and most importantly, how energetic they are.
Yet, here you are – lethargic, bloated, heavier than you would like to be and feeling downright miserable!
You want to go vegan too, but you don’t know where to start. You can stop eating meat and poultry cold turkey. But, how do you give up cheese? How do you bake cakes without eggs? What will you fill your sandwiches with? Will you become protein deficient? And how will you get vitamin B12?
All of these questions are valid. And the truth is unless you learn how to eat a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet, staying healthy without animal foods will be challenging.
What is a whole-foods, plant-based vegan diet?
Generally speaking, a vegan diet is one that includes plant-derived foods and eliminates animal foods and their by-products. All foods, including processed foods, refined grains and flours, and high sugar foods, are permitted as long as they lack animal products.
A standard vegan diet is unhealthy. In fact, it is just as unhealthy as a standard American diet.
Medical professionals recommend a whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet for optimal health. Fundamentally, it:
- Includes plant foods in their whole, unrefined form (whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds),
- Excludes animal-based foods like meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs, and,
- Minimises or excludes processed foods like white flour, added sugars, and refined oils.
And as long as you eat enough food, you should get sufficient protein. You need to take a vitamin B12 supplement or use fortified products (fortified plant-milk, nutritional yeast) consistently to avoid a deficiency; plant foods lack vitamin B12. You also need a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you live in a temperate climate.
WFPB vegan diets are popular nowadays.
Whole Foods Plant-Based Vegan Diets = Tremendous Health Benefits.
Especially if you’re switching over from the standard American diet.
In fact, leading plant-based doctors like Dr Caldwell Esselstyn of Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and Dr Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine use low-fat WFPB vegan diets to reverse heart disease and improve blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. But wait, it gets better.
Effortless Weight Loss
You’ve been on more diets than you’d like to admit. Weight Watchers diet? – you’ve been there. Slimming World diet? – you’ve done that. Atkins diet? – you’ve got a t-shirt for it! The list could go on, but you’d rather stop there.
The sad fact?
You’re no closer to your goal weight. Ughh!
Dieting is such a drag. I hate to admit it too. But I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I’ve got numerous t-shirts for countless diets. And yes, I too was no closer to my goal weight until I learned how to eat WFPB.
You see, WFPB vegan diets are superb because you don’t track calories. You don’t track macros, and you don’t track exercise. Your only focus is to eat whole, plant-based foods. You know these foods already – whole grains, starchy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit.
Nuts and seeds are included in the plan. But avoid or eat them sparingly until you reach your target weight.
WFPB vegan diet is more effective for weight loss than other diets is because it is rich in fibre (hello satiety!). It is low in saturated fat. And it is low in calories.
Science supports these claims.
A randomised, controlled trial (RCT) showed that after 6 months, vegan dieters lost 7.5% of their body weight compared with 6.3% in vegetarian dieters and 3.2% in participants eating other diets. In another large trial, overweight and obese type 2 diabetics participants eating a low-fat vegan diet for 22 weeks lost 5.1 kg of body weight while the control group gained 0.1 kg over the same period. Finally, an RCT of type 2 diabetics and heart disease patients showed that WFPB vegan dieters lost 11.5 kg over 12 months, compared with 1.6 kg in the control group.
Controlled Blood Pressure
Do you know your blood pressure?
Possibly not. But it is worth checking.
Hypertension is deadly for Blacks.
I wish I were exaggerating. Sadly, I’m not.
Here are some shocking statistics:
- Blacks are 1.5 – 2.5x more likely to report high blood pressure than Caucasians.
- Blacks are 2 x more likely to die from stroke (a complication of hypertension) than Caucasians.
- Blacks are 5 x more likely to die from end-stage kidney disease (another complication of hypertension) than Caucasians.
Hypertension develops earlier in life in African-Americans compared with Caucasians. And it is more severe. More than 40% of African-Americans have hypertension.
Luckily, you can control your blood pressure by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. You can achieve this effortlessly with a WFPB vegan diet.
Scientists haven’t studied the effect of WFPB vegan diets on blood pressure in hypertensive patients. But, they’ve shown vegans have lower rates of hypertension than omnivores, pescetarians, and vegetarians. They’ve also shown that vegan diets are more effective than vegetarian and omnivorous diets at lowering high blood pressure.
Be careful with your salt intake, especially if you’re Black. Blacks retain salt and water much more than other races. And science shows that salt and water retention increases the risk of hypertension.
Mother Earth Benefits too
Scientists say humans have ruined Earth.
We have caused climate change. We have killed many animals. And we have interfered with nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the air.
These disruptions are making Earth unstable and less conducive for human survival. Disastrous consequences await unless we change our ways.
Scientists say eating a WFPB diet is one way to rebuild Earth.
Well, compared with animal protein, plant protein requires less land, water and energy to produce. Plant proteins also emit fewer greenhouse gases during production. Furthermore, life cycle assessment studies show that 1 kg of protein from beef generates 45-640 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents. In contrast, tofu generates just 10 kg of carbon dioxide per kilogram.
Greenhouse gas emissions are not the only problem. Another environmental concern exists that has received less publicity – phosphorus.
Phosphorus is essential in fertilizers for food production. Unfortunately, phosphorus reserves are depleting rapidly, and could completely deplete within 50-100 years if we keep using it at current rates. Fortunately, plant-based diets require considerably less phosphorus to produce than meat-based diets.
Even if you can’t eliminate meat from your diet, reducing your consumption will benefit Earth.
Now you know some of the health and environmental benefits of WFPB vegan diets, I bet you’re raring to stock your kitchen with healthy plant-based foods. So, what should your shopping basket contain?
Whole-Foods Plant-Based Vegan Grocery List
|Food group||Shopping list|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Grains1-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Grains1.png, Plant-based vegan Shopping list - wholegrains||WHOLEGRAINS & STARCHY VEGETABLES||Bulgur wheat, Butternut squash, Cassava, Oatmeal, Plantain, Potatoes (all varieties), Sweet potatoes, Taro, Yam.|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Legumes-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Legumes.png, whole food plant based vegan shopping list - legumes||LEGUMES||Beans (Adzuki, Black-eyed, Cannelini, Haricot, Kidney), Lentils (Brown, Green & Red), Peas (Green, Yellow), Tempeh, Tofu.|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/18.104.22.168/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Green-leafy-vegetables-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/22.214.171.124/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Green-leafy-vegetables.png, whole food plant based vegan grocery shopping list - non starchy vegetables||NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES||Asparagus, Aubergine, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Ewedu, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Okazi, Okra Runner beans, Spinach, Spring greens, Ugwu,|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Fruit-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Fruit.png, whole food plant based vegan grocery shopping list - fruit||FRUITS||Apple, Avocado, Banana, Coconut, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Mango, Orange, Papaya, Pear, Satusuma, Soursop.|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Nuts-and-seeds-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Nuts-and-seeds.png, Whole food plant based vegan shopping list - nuts and seeds||NUTS & SEEDS||Almonds, Almond butter, Brazil nuts, Cashews, Macadamia, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Hemp Seeds.|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/18.104.22.168/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Herbs-and-spices-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/22.214.171.124/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Herbs-and-spices.png, whole food plant-based vegan shopping list - herbs & spices||HERBS & SPICES||Basil, Chives, Coriander, Chillli powder, Curry powder, Cumin, Nutritional yeast, Thyme, Turmeric.|
|, https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Almond-milk-300x300.png, https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/534.4cd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Almond-milk.png, whole food plant-based vegan shopping list - accessories||ACCESSORIES||Balsamic vinegar, Coconut milk, Chilli sauce, Ketchup, Salsa, Dairy-free milk, Dairy-free yoghurt.|
So you’ve got your kitchen stocked with healthy essentials. It’s time to address the elephant in the room – the vegan substitutes for eggs, cheese and milk.
You’re in luck because many vegan substitutes exist in supermarkets nowadays. But beware, some of these foods are heavily processed! If eating vegan the WFPB way is your goal, you should avoid or minimise your consumption of butter, cream, cheese and fake meats.
Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Meat, Milk, Cheese and Eggs
|Butter||Flora plant butter|
|Heavy cream||Soya cream |
|Cheese||Violife cheese |
Vitalite dairy-free block cheese
Smoky cheese alternative
Coconut oil alternative to cheese
Follow Your Heart
|Meat & Chicken||Tofu |
Meat free chicken pieces
Meat Italia free sausages
|Eggs||Flax eggs: Combine 1 tablespoon (7g) of milled golden flaxseeds |
with 3 tablespoons (45ml) water. Whisk and leave to stand
for a few minutes until thickened and viscous
|Milk||Almond milk |
|Mayonnaise||Vegan mayo |
7 – Day Meal Plan
Organising your meals when starting a plant-based vegan diet is daunting. Keep things simple by eating foods you’d normally eat but omit eggs, meat, chicken, fish and dairy.
Expect to make mistakes. Many mistakes. But don’t despair.
You’ll eventually get the hang of it and proudly claim your pro status.
Meanwhile, the following nutritionist-approved 7 – day meal plan will get you started.
|Monday||Oatmeal with raspberries, soya yoghurt and mixed seeds||Rice noodles with tofu, asparagus and broccoli||Cauliflower rice and butter bean curry||Hummus and crudités|
|Tuesday||Weetabix with banana, strawberries & roasted almonds||Bean burrito||Teriyaki tempeh stir fry with steamed brown rice||Dried apricots, grapes, kiwi fruit & soya yoghurt|
|Wednesday||Pinto beans on toast with a glass of fortified almond milk||Rigatoni pasta with broccoli and dairy-free feta cheese||Gnocchi with tofu and veggies||Cashew nuts and berries with soya yoghurt|
|Thursday||Oatmeal with berry compote, soya yoghurt & mixed seeds||Black bean and mushroom stroganoff with tagliatelle & steamed broccoli||Roast potatoes with baked tempeh and greek salad||1 medium apple, 1 medium orange|
|Friday||Pinto beans on toast with a glass of fortified soya milk||Chickpea and sweetcorn sandwich||Ginger chilli tofu with broccoli with rice noodles||Roasted almonds|
|Saturday||Granola with cashew yoghurt, berries and macadamia nuts||Tofu and black bean stir fry with noodles||Creamy chilli mushrooms pasta||Carrot batons and hummus|
|Sunday||Pancakes with berries||Black bean and mushroom stroganoff with tagliatelle & steamed asparagus||Cauliflower rice and butter bean curry||Dried apricots, grapes, kiwi fruit & soya yoghurt|
Are you ready to get started?
Giving up animal products is no mean feat! But feeling lethargic, bloated and unhappy about your appearance is much worse.
Now you have a simple but powerful dietary solution in your hands. A whole food plant-based diet will energise you, nourish you and melt stubborn fat – making you feel awesome inside out!
This post has given you all the information you need to include more whole, plant-based foods into your diet successfully.
Put it to use and watch your health transform.
- Turner-McGrievy, G.M., et al. (2015) Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: A randomised controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition 31(2), 350-358.
- Ferdowsian, H.R., et al. (2010) A multicomponent intervention reduces body weight and cardiovascular risk at a GEICO corporate site. American Journal of Health Promotion 24(6), 384-7.
- Wright, N. (2017) The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition and Diabetes 7(3), e256.
- Barnard, N.D., et al. (2009) A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5), 1588S-1596S.
- Najjar, R.S. and Feresin, R.G. (2019) Plant-Based diets in the reduction of body fat: Physiological effects and biochemical insights. Nutrients 11, 2712.
- Lane, D., Beevers, D.G., Lip, G.Y.H (2002) Ethnic differences in blood pressure and the prevalence of hypertension in England. Journal of Human Hypertension, 16, 267-273.
- Lackland, D.T. (2014) Racial differences in hypertension: Implications for high blood pressure management. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 348(2), 135-138.
- Appleby, P.N., Davey, G.K., Key, T.J. (2002) Hypertension and blood pressure among meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans in EPIC-Oxford. Public Health Nutrition (5), 645-654.
- Lee, K.W., Loh, H.C., Fan, K.H., (2020) Effects of vegetarian diets on blood pressure lowering: a systematic review with meta-analysis and trial sequential analysis. Nutrients, 12(6), 1604.
- Spence, J.D., Rayner, B.L (2018) Hypertension in Blacks: Individualised therapy based on renin/aldosterone phenotyping. Hypertension, 72(2), 263-269.
- Blaustein, M.D., Zhang, J., Chen, L., Hamilton, B.P. (2006) How does salt retention raise blood pressure? American Journal of Physiology, Regulatory and Integrative Comparative Physiology, 290(3), R514-23.
- Rockström, J., et al (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, 472-475.
- Lynch, H., Johnston, C., Wharton, C. (2018) Plant-based diets: Considerations for environmental impact, protein quality and exercise performance. Nutrients, 10, 1841.
- Mejia, A., et al. (2018) Greenhouse gas emissions generated by Tofu production: A case study. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 13, 131-142.
- Hallström, E., Carlsson-Kanyama, A., Börjesson, P. (2015) Environmental impact of dietary change: A systematic review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 91, 1-11.
- Fresán, U and Sabatè, J. (2019) Vegetarian diets: Planetary health and its alignment with human health. Advances in Nutrition, 10, S380-S388.