Eating a Plant-Based Diet: Starter Guide + Recipes
Are you curious about plant-based diets and want to know where to begin? I’ve got you covered with this comprehensive plant-based diet 101 guide, complete with simple and delicious recipes!
The plant-based diet is one of the most popular eating styles today, and for good reason! Adopting a plant-based diet can have several health benefits. As a Registered Dietitian, I am thrilled to hear people are loading up their plates with more plants!
If you have questions about plant-based diets and where to begin, this post will answer everything you need to know. See the table of contents right here – you can click on the links to jump to the section you want:
- What is a plant-based diet?
- Types of plant-based diets
- Plant-based diet health benefits
- Key nutrients for a plant-based diet
- Plant-based diet recipes
What is a plant-based diet?
As it turns out, a plant-based diet is very individualized. Unlike other diets, it doesn’t have strict guidelines for foods to avoid. What plant-based diets have in common is that they limit the consumption of animal products.
Animal products that are limited on a plant-based diet include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and butter. On a plant-based diet, you will replace these foods with plant foods including whole grains, beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit.
The beauty of a plant-based diet is you don’t need to completely eliminate animal products if you don’t want to. In fact, including some animal products in moderation, such as dairy, can be beneficial on a plant-based diet and fill in some nutritional gaps. In a lot of ways, a plant-based diet can be very similar to a Mediterranean diet!
Types of plant-based diets
There is a wide spectrum of plant-based diets, but here are the main variations.
- Vegan: A vegan diet eschews all animal products. It is a 100 percent plant-based diet that relies on whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Instead of dairy products, vegans will enjoy plant-based alternatives, like plant-based milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Vegetarian: A vegetarian plant-based diet eliminates meat, poultry, and fish, but will include dairy products, eggs, and some animal by-products like butter and honey.
- Pescatarian: This type of plant-based diet is like a vegetarian diet but includes occasional fish and seafood. A pescatarian will not eat meat or poultry.
- Flexitarian: This type of plant-based diet is relatively new, and comes from the words “flexible” and “vegetarian”. If you follow a flexitarian diet, you will eat a primarily vegetarian diet but enjoy meat, poultry, fish, and seafood every once and awhile.
As you can see, there is a wide range of options for everyone on a plant-based diet! It’s approachable and simple to incorporate even for beginners.
Plant-based diet health benefits
- Weight management
- Prevention or management of diabetes
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Blood pressure management (1)
- Digestive health and gut health benefits
Key nutrients for a plant-based diet
While it is possible to meet your nutrient needs when following a plant-based diet, it can take a bit more planning than you might be used to. There are a handful of nutrients which can be harder to get enough of on a plant-based diet.
- Iron: Many plant foods contain iron, but it is less readily available than iron found in animal products. Plant foods high in iron include lentils, chickpeas, seeds, kale, spinach, cashews, cabbage, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is primarily found in animal based foods. Those who follow a strictly vegan plant-based diet may need to supplement with Vitamin B12 in order to get enough of this important nutrient.
- Calcium: Many plant-based foods contain calcium, including chia seeds, tofu, almonds, edamame, kale, and broccoli. So, most people can meet their calcium needs while following a well-balanced and planned plant-based diet.
- Vitamin D: A well-planned plant-based diet should include Vitamin D fortified foods, such as plant-based milk, tofu, or fortified cereals. Otherwise, it is a good idea to consider Vitamin D supplementation.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This type of fat is essential in our diet because we cannot make it ourselves. The type of omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies absorb well (DHA and EPA) are only found in animal foods. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) such as walnuts and flaxseeds are not efficiently absorbed by our bodies. If you follow a vegan diet, you may want to consider taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement that has DHA and EPA.
You may have noticed that protein is not on this list! That is because a majority of those following a plant-based diet get enough protein. There are tons of plant-based sources of protein you can enjoy, like tofu, edamame, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Easy plant-based diet recipes
Below, find over 30 easy recipes that fit within the plant-based diet. You’ll find plant-based recipes for whole grains, tofu, tempeh, vegetables, beans, and legumes!
Lemon Roasted Cauliflower with Capers
Roasted cauliflower gets crisp and caramelized in the oven, then tossed with zesty lemon juice and capers. A healthy, easy, and delicious side dish! As a Registered Dietitian, I love to get creative with vegetables. I enjoy making caulilfower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, and cauliflower mashed “potatoes”. But my favorite way to enjoy cauliflower is
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Bring your broccoli to the next level with this creamy, dreamy lemon tahini sauce! Everyone will love this healthy, addicting side dish. Do you have a favorite vegetable? I have to say mine is broccoli. I love it sauteed, steamed, on top of pizza, and tossed in pasta. Now, I ESPECIALLY love it drizzled with
Sautéed Honey Balsamic Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms
This sautéed brussels sprouts and mushrooms recipe is an easy and delicious side dish. The Brussels sprouts and mushrooms get perfectly brown and caramelized with garlic and shallots on the stovetop. Make it for a quick addition to any weeknight dinner! As a Registered Dietitian, it’s practically my mission in life to share ways to
Crispy Air Fryer Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary
These rosemary fingerling potatoes get perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside cooked in your air fryer! Seasoned simply with salt, rosemary, and garlic powder, they make the perfect side dish to any meal. Ready to eat in under 30 minutes for an easy weeknight win. These rosemary air fried fingerling potatoes
Sweet and Smoky Baked Sweet Potato Fries (Vegan, Gluten Free)
These baked sweet potato fries are loaded with sweet and smoky flavor! Seasoned with cinnamon and smoked paprika, you will want to make them again and again. They are so simple to make, and everyone will love them. I love sweet potatoes in pretty much every form. Roasted whole, mashed, in baked goods, and especially
Air Fryer Carrot Fries
Make this delicious air fried carrot fries recipe for a nutritious weeknight side dish! Made with a handful of ingredients and ready in about 20 minutes. If you have an air fryer, add this air fryer carrot fries recipe to your list! They’re so easy to make in under 20 minutes, and you need just
Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta
You won’t believe this sun-dried tomato pasta is completely vegan! The decadent, velvety sauce coats the noodles perfectly to create this healthy pasta recipe (yes, pasta can be healthy!). Top this pasta off with fresh basil or parsley for an easy weeknight dinner win! A warm bowl of pasta is one of the most comforting
Creamy Rosé Wine & Tomato Pasta Sauce
This creamy vegan pasta recipe combines ripe tomatoes with rosé wine and fresh basil to create a comforting blush pasta sauce that’s completely dairy free. The rosé pasta sauce is velvety, comforting, and packed full of flavor. As a Registered Dietitian, I am here to tell you that pasta can absolutely be part of a
This ratatouille pasta is the best warm, comforting, and healthy recipe. The ratatouille sauce is packed with vegetables and delicious flavor. Even though it’s the middle of December, this ratatouille pasta is on the menu this week, featuring late summer produce. I had a craving for these classic French flavors because they are super cozy
Creamy Broccoli Leek Soup
This vegan broccoli and leek soup is light, nutritious, and delicious. It’s packed with nutrition and extra creamy thanks to a secret ingredient – white beans! Ready in about 30 minutes, make a batch today for an easy lunch or dinner. As a Registered Dietitian, I find it easy to pack in tons of vegetables
Curry Cauliflower Buttercup Squash Soup
This curry cauliflower buttercup squash soup is the perfect easy recipe to make on a chilly fall night. It’s loaded with comforting flavors like ginger, garlic, curry, and coconut milk. If you love curry flavors, you will adore this soup! A warming and comforting soup recipe Some nights are just made for soup. Once the
Roasted Pumpkin Apple Soup
This creamy roasted pumpkin apple soup is filled with comforting flavors like rosemary and nutmeg. Made without cream, it is still silky smooth. This easy vegan recipe takes just about one hour to make, and is a nutritious addition to your weeknight dinner line up. As a Registered Dietitian, I love to see such enthusiasm
Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Tacos
Taco night is the best (and easiest) night with these vegan sheet pan roasted vegetable and chickpea tacos! Ready in 30 minutes, healthy, and delicious. Tacos deserve their own food group, don’t you agree? It’s one of those meals I never get tired of! Tacos are so simple but pack so much flavor, and can
Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro Lime Tahini Sauce (Vegan, Gluten Free)
These roasted cauliflower tacos are seriously the best. Roast cauliflower with lots of spice and add homemade cilantro lime tahini sauce, avocado, pickled red onions, and fresh herbs. A flavorful vegan taco recipe Tacos make people happy…that’s a fact. They’re super flavorful, easy to make, and customizable based on taste and preferences. You can eat
Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos
These butternut squash and black bean tacos are the most delicious seasonal meal that will surely please everyone at your next taco night! Pretty much any way you serve them, tacos are delicious. Tortillas (delicious) wrapped around Mexican spiced ingredients (delicious) with toppings like guacamole, salsa, and cheese (extra delicious). My advice: don’t trust anyone
Wholesome Vegan Butternut Squash & Black Bean Chili
Usually, chili is a meat-heavy dish. But I promise you won’t miss the meat in this vegan butternut squash and black bean chili! There is still plenty of comforting chili spice flavor, and meatiness from the beans and mushrooms. This vegan chili recipe comes together quickly in one pot on the stovetop. It’s a comforting,
Farro White Bean Salad with Asparagus and Radishes
This vegan farro salad recipe is full of fresh spring flavor! Ready in about 30 minutes, this recipe is perfect for meal prep because you can enjoy it warm or cold. As a Registered Dietitian, I love to celebrate in-season produce with simple, delicious recipes. This farro salad recipe highlights spring asparagus and radishes, along
Easy Vegetarian Mushroom Enchiladas
This flavorful vegetarian enchilada recipe is packed with veggies like mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Enchiladas are easy to make and are ready to eat in about 45 minutes. A perfect weeknight dinner recipe that reheats well as leftovers! If you have been a blog reader for a while, you probably know that I love Mexican
Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Cups
These apple cinnamon baked oatmeal cups are the best healthy make-ahead breakfast or snack! They’re lightly sweetened, soft and chewy, and filled with apple cinnamon flavor in every bite. What’s your favorite fall flavor combination? I do enjoy a good #PSL, but I think apple cinnamon has my heart. It reminds me of warm apple
Berry Banana Stovetop Oatmeal
This easy berry banana stovetop oatmeal recipe is a healthy and delicious breakfast option. Made with old fashioned oats, it’s ready to eat in just about 10 minutes. Call me a creature of habit, but I eat oatmeal for breakfast 99 percent of the time. I truly enjoy it so much because it tastes great,
Coconut Quinoa Porridge with Cinnamon and Ginger
Mix up your morning oatmeal with quinoa! This coconut quinoa porridge is a delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast idea. It’s filled with plant-based nutrition and warming flavors. You guys know I love a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning – no matter the time of year. I adore the sweet flavors of the oats
Greek Quinoa Salad with Lentils
This Greek quinoa salad recipe is so easy to make! It’s a perfect recipe for a warm summer day or meal prep, and is sure to please a crowd. If I had to choose one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, I’d pick Greek. It has pretty much everything I love –
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
This vegan, gluten free Mediterranean quinoa salad is the best make ahead recipe for a healthy lunch or dinner. It’s easy to make and super nutritious. You know those meals that you just feel HAPPY eating? This is one of them for me. Everything about this Mediterranean quinoa salad just makes me feel good. It’s
Blueberry Basil Salad with Avocado and Farro
This healthy blueberry salad makes a perfect summer side dish. It’s packed with simple ingredients including farro, walnuts, arugula, and avocado. Ready in under 30 minutes, it’s a delicious and nutritious weeknight win! As a Registered Dietitian, I love the summertime because of all the fresh in-season produce. From berries to zucchini to tomatoes, you
Vegan Cilantro Lime Quinoa Salad with Avocado
This vegan cilantro lime quinoa salad with avocado is a healthy and delicious summer side dish. Make it in under 30 minutes for an easy weeknight recipe. As a Registered Dietitian, I love to incorporate lots of whole grains into my diet. Some of my favorites include brown rice, wild rice, farro, and quinoa! This
Mushroom & Kale Farro Risotto (Farrotto)
This kale & mushroom farro risotto recipe is creamy, hearty, and comforting. Farro risotto, aka farrotto, is a nutritious twist on traditional risotto, but just as delicious! Enjoy this vegetarian meal for your next at home date night. This mushroom & kale farro risotto is something I would order at a nice restaurant! It’s creamy,
Nourishing Fall Farro Salad with Butternut Squash
This fall farro salad recipe is the perfect vegetarian dinner or side salad! It’s packed with nutritious ingredients like farro, butternut squash, pomegranates, and goat cheese. Serve warm or cold, you choose! In case you’re new here, I absolutely adore making grain salad recipes. As a Registered Dietitian, I love that they are nutritious, easy
Beet Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Pecans
This beet quinoa salad is the perfect healthy lunch recipe to make ahead for the week. It’s loaded with nutrients, flavor, and texture – everyone will love it! Quinoa salads are so versatile. Whenever I’m in a recipe rut, I reach for a quinoa salad recipe and it never disappoints. They are healthy, flavorful, easy
How to Prepare Different Types of Tofu for Cooking
Learn how to cook and season different types of tofu (extra firm, firm, soft) with this simple guide! These recipes for baking or frying tofu unsure it’s crispy every time. As a Registered Dietitian, I always encourage you to try new plant-based meal ideas. One of my all time favorite plant-based protein to add to
Honey Balsamic Tofu
Make this honey balsamic tofu when you’re looking for a quick, flavorful, and healthy way to prepare tofu! It’s made with simple ingredients and comes together in 25 minutes. Tofu is probably my favorite plant-based protein to make and eat. Because it has a neutral flavor, I consider tofu a blank canvas for any flavors
Miso Grilled Tofu
This miso grilled tofu recipe is easy to prepare and super tasty. It’s marinated and dressed with a delicious homemade sesame ginger miso dressing. Add this vegan tofu dish to your next cookout menu! What’s your favorite way to enjoy tofu? I like mine baked until crispy or hot off the grill! Grilled tofu is
Crispy Buffalo Tofu (Vegan)
The perfect vegan game day snack, everyone will love this crispy buffalo tofu! Serve with your favorite creamy dip and get snacking. I’m not big into spicy food, but I absolutely love buffalo sauce. In college, I used to eat buffalo chicken wraps regularly, and the flavor really brings me back! Since I stopped eating
Peanut Tofu Bowls
Put these easy peanut tofu bowls on your dinner menu ASAP! It’s the perfect balanced vegan meal – brown rice, broccoli, and tofu drenched in the best homemade peanut sauce. If you haven’t noticed, we love anything and everything made with peanut butter in the DB house. I put it on oatmeal, in desserts, and
Crispy Air Fryer Tempeh
This air fried tempeh recipe is bound to become a staple in your kitchen! The air fryer gives tempeh an irresistible crispy texture that is cooks up in under 15 minutes. You can add this air fryer tempeh to salads, grain bowls, stir fries, and more. If you are trying to eat more plant-based, it’s
A healthy, easy, and filling plant-based breakfast that tastes like dessert! Chocolate peanut butter oatmeal will become your new favorite way to prepare oatmeal.
- 1 3/4 cups water (or milk of choice)
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 ripe banana, mashed
- 2 tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp peanut butter, divided
- Optional: chocolate chips for topping
- Bring water or milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Add the oats and chia seeds, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
- Cook oats for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened up and all the water has been absorbed.
- Stir in the mashed banana and cacao powder until well combined.
- Portion into two cereal bowls, and add a drizzle of peanut butter to each bowl of oatmeal.
- Stir to combine everything. Add chocolate chips, if using.
Best served right away.
Easily make this a single serving recipe by halving the ingredients.
Keywords: plant-based diet 101, plant-based diet for beginners, chocolate peanut butter oatmeal