Making A Plant-Based Diet Easy – Q&A

making a plant-based diet easy

I have been a plant-based nutrition coach for over 10 years, shortly after I started my own journey to a plant-based (vegan) lifestyle. I have coached hundreds of people to make the switch and continue to inspire more, especially as this lifestyle gains more and more popularity. Science shows that eating a diet rich in whole, plant foods is the healthiest way to eat for those who want to lose weight and reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and other deadly diseases. In this blog, I will answer your questions and share some simple hacks that will make eating a plant-based diet easy and dispel the myth that eating this way is hard. 

Can anyone eat a plant-based diet?

Science has shown that everyone can, and does, thrive and will enhance their health on a plant-based diet regardless of gender, activity level, body shape or blood type if the focus is on whole, plant-foods. However, so many people choose not embrace this plant-focused lifestyle because they are worried about what others may think. If you’ve refrained from going plant-based for this reason here are a few things that may help.

1) WHO CARES what other people think! It’s no ones business what you eat, especially if what you’re eating is healthy! I can see people being concerned if you’ve professed to going vegan and all you were eating was vegan junk food, like cinnamon buns, cookies, cakes and chips. But if you have chosen to eat a plant-based diet and you are no longer eating, or have drastically cut down on sugary, processed foods, you cut out dairy (which is high in saturated fat and other harmful chemicals and hormones), you no longer eat meat (which is also high in saturated fat that’s been proven to increase risk of heart disease and stoke) and you are now eating more hearty, fibre rich soups, salads, whole-grains (such as rice, quinoa and oatmeal) and legumes (beans, lentils and peas) you will be much healthier! Anyone who doesn’t want you to be healthier is someone you may want to rethink being in your life. It’s important to be surrounded by people who want the best for you and that includes you being at your best health. 

If you get sick, and let’s say have a heart attack or stroke, because you continue to eat the foods you know aren’t good for you just because you’re scared of what others may think of you, who does this affect? No one else will be lying in that hospital bed but you. Which leads me to the next point… 

2) Always do what’s best for you! This is no one’s life but your own. If you want to eat a more plant-based diet, for whatever reason you choose, just get started. You don’t have to profess to the world that you are now vegan, just start eating that way. When you go out, ask for a salad and have them hold the chicken. If you’re not comfortable saying this in front of the people you’re with then pull the server aside and let them know your preference quietly and discreetly. No one needs to know. If you’re at home, make a big pot of soup or bean chilli and just serve it for dinner. You don’t need to announce that there’s no meat in it just say this is what we’re having tonight. Most people won’t even notice that there’s not meat in it especially if it’s filled with other delicious, hearty ingredients. 

Why Do I Get Gassy When I Try To Eat More Veggies And Legumes? 

Scientists have actually studied the reasons why people get a build up of gas in the colon (could you imagine running that study?) and they found that 80% of the gas that’s in the colon is the result of a person swallowing air. Only 20% was from the gas release of fermented sugars in the gut. 

If you find that you have a problem with gas in the colon, here are a few things you can do to reduce it:

  • Take time to fully chew your food until it forms a cream or paste in your mouth. There is air between the food particles that is swallowed when a person eats too fast.
  • Refrain from drinking carbonated beverages with your food. This can cause air bubbles to get trapped in the colon and cause gas build up. 
  • Be sure there is no hidden dairy in your diet. Dairy is often the cause of stomach upset and gas; I know it was for me. Dairy, especially milk powder, can be used as a filler and can be a hidden ingredient in things you may never think of. That’s why it’s important to read all labels before you eat a food and better yet… eat whole foods that don’t require a label or have hidden ingredients. 
  • Check to see if you have a gluten intolerance. You can check your tolerance, or sensitivity, to gluten (products that contain or are made from wheat, rye and barley) simply by taking it out of your diet for a period of time, say one week. Then eat three pieces of gluten bread and notice how you feel. Many people are staying away from gluten that don’t need to do so. Of course, it’s always a good idea to stay away from, or drastically reduce, flour based products but whole grains such as wheat, barley and rye in their whole form are rich in fibre and can be beneficial to the body even though they contain the gluten protein. 
  • Cook all legumes thoroughly. If you choose to cook your own legumes (beans, lentils and peas) be sure to cook and rinse them thoroughly before eating. The starches released during the cooking process are often what cause stomach upset, gas and bloating. Another reason why legumes may be causing gas and stomach upset in people who aren’t used to eating them is that these foods are rich in fibre and begin to clear out old backed up waste that has perhaps been stuck in the colon. Often, once this old junk is cleared out and the person’s diet regularly includes an abundance of fibre, this discomfort will subside. 
  • Don’t chew gum. People who chew gum often take in more air than people who don’t. So, if you have a gos issue, stop chewing gum. 
  • Don’t smoke. Smokers inhale a lot of air which can get trapped in the gas and cause bloating and gas. If you are a smoker, consider quitting as there are nay health benefits from releasing this habit including reducing gas build up in the gut. 
  • Relax. It has been shown that people who are anxious and breath short, quick, shallow breaths take in more air and may get a build up of gas in the gut. Take some time to practice stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga. 

How Can I Lose Weight On A Plant-Based Diet? 

Some people people seem to struggle with losing weight on a plant-based diet and often carbohydrates take the blame. It is not the carbohydrates that are the problem. It’s the kind of carbohydrates and what a person eats with the carbs that is preventing fat loss and causing weight gain. 

Here are some rules to follow if you’re trying to lose weight:

1) Refrain from eating starches (carbohydrates) with fat. The reason is, the body will burn the carbohydrates and store the fat for later. If you want to lose weight, it’s best to eat carbohydrates and fats separately. It takes about two to four hours for carbohydrates to be fully digested so wait about that much time before eating a fat-based food or meal. 

For example, rather than eating:

  • baked potatoes with oil or butter top with it with salsa instead.
  • pasta with oil just add a tomato sauce with no oil instead. 
  • toast with jam and peanut butter just eat toast and jam instead and eat the peanut butter later with celery sticks. 

This rule of thumb only applies to persons looking to lose weight. If you have no weight to lose and want to maintain or you want to gain weigh then eating carbs and fat together is not an issue. 

2) Minimize, or cut out, flour-based products. Baked goods and breads are some of people’s favourite foods. However, these foods are often highly processed and are usually the reason why people struggle to lose weight. Remember, it’s not carbohydrates that are the problem, it’s processed carbohydrates that are preventing weight loss. If you want to eat bread, choose minimally processed and sprouted, whole-grain bread options. If you choose to eat baked goods so your best to keep them as a treat on occasion. Eating them daily will not allow you reach your weight loss goals. 

3) Always be prepared. Make large batches of food and store them in the freezer for later. It’s also important when you have to be out of the house all day long that you pack a cooler rather than falling victim to being hungry and eating fast food. It doesn’t take that much time to prep meals and have them ready to go. It just takes a little thought and planning. 

What Kinds Of Foods Should I Eat When Switching To A Plant-based Diet?

The best way to thrive on a plant-based diet is to keep it simple! Choose whole-foods as much as possible. Things don’t need to be fancy or complicated. 

Here are a few suggestions that may help get you started:

1) Breakfast is optional. Experts say that there is no real research to support the claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It essentially came from big companies who market their breakfast products (cereal, granola, bars) to the public. Most of the so-called breakfast foods are unhealthy anyway and should be avoided as much as possible. 

During the night your body is working hard to clear toxins and waste from the digestive tract. If you find that you’re not hungry first thing in the morning just drink water until you are hungry and let the body keep going with the night-time cleansing. When you feel hungry, then eat. 

I you do eat in the morning, and if you’re planning on being active first thing, eat a light meal that’s easy to digest such as fruit and oatmeal or a fruit smoothie. This will prevent bombarding the digestive tract with heavy food it needs to work hard to break down. Ease the body into the day with a light first meal to get the juices flowing again. If you are a breakfast fan, like I am, click here from some recipes.

2) Focus your diet around these types of foods and meals:

  • Soups:
    • Make soups, stews and chilli’s that are that are very hearty and full of fibrous food like vegetables, starches, whole-grains and legumes. 
    • Make a big pot and eat from it all day or package leftovers and refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready for more. 
    • Soups are excellent guilt-free, healthy meals as they are mostly just fibre and water. 
    • Click here for recipes. 
  • Salads:
    • Eating raw leafy green salads are very important to have in the diet as these ingredients are rich in digestive enzymes that support healthy digestion. 
    • Salads can be made as a main dish; topped with a variety of ingredients such as leafy greens, root veggies, legumes, whole-grains and and nuts and seeds.  
    • Make a large bowl and save to eat over a few days.  
    • Use non-oil dressing such as this one from the Forks Over Knives website or simply throw in a few veggies from the salad into blender, at a little water, vinegar and some its or seeds and blend until smooth.  
  • Steamed Veggies:
    • Eat as much steamed green and yellow veggies each day. They are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. 
    • Make a big batch and save for another meal. 
    • Steam them in the morning and leave them to snack on all day long. 
  • Starches:
    • Don’t be scared of starchy foods. We are starch (carbohydrate) burning organisms that needs sugar to fuel the body. 
    • Starches will NOT turn into fat! It’s not chemically possible for this to happen not matter what the fad diet community wants you to believe. You need carbohydrates to support protein breakdown and use in the body.
    • Starches are a clean burning fuel so start eating potatoes again!
  • Nuts & Seeds:
    • Start with a couple of nuts or seeds per day and move to about a handful each day to allow the body time to get used to the fat. 
    • Eat alone or with veggies rather than with carbohydrates to prevent weight gain. 
    • I like to use nuts and seeds as a base for many desserts, such as raw cheesecakes. Click here for some favourites.
  • Fruit: 
    • Healthy source of carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
    • Eat fruit for dessert rather than calorie rich foods such as cookies and ice cream.  
    • If you have a Vitamix or food processor you can make your own fruit ice cream. All you do is add two to three frozen bananas, one to two cups of frozen fruit and half a cup of pant-based milk to the blender, or food processor, and blend, or process, until smooth. 
    • Click here for a fruit salad recipe that’s perfect for breakfast, dessert or snack.

I hope that you have found this information useful and that it inspires you in some way to get started on plant-based diet today. If you have any questions about how to make the switch to a more plant based diet please contact me, sign up for my courses or coaching programs, or purchase my latest book, A Beginner’s Guide To Going Meatless. 

Until next time,

Namaste my friends,

Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc. ,MBA


The Easy Way To Switch To A Plant-Based Diet: