To start, get a recipe and start cooking, and get a guide.
The very first dinner recipe we made was Tangy White Beans and Zucchini from Joel Fuhrman, MD. We were ready to shift from Standard American Diet (SAD) to whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) but didn’t know with what, so I found this recipe on the internet. Just four ingredients and easy to make. One new plant-based meal down! We still make this one.
Second dinner recipe we made was Ann Esselstyn’s Minty-Lemon Lentils with Spinach from the Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way To Health , the how-to companion to the film. We licked the plate and pan on this one, vowing to double it the next go.
I quickly placed an order for what became my two trusty guides, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way To Health and The Starch Solution and started cooking my way through them. I was immediately fond of Ann Esselstyn and Mary McDougall’s recipes. We had a flop or two from other sources, one was a baked bean loaf of some sort. I remember putting it in the oven, hoping that baking would work exceptional magic, but it did not. We pitched it and reheated some beans and rice. Leanne Campbell’s The China Study Cookbook became a third go-to guide providing many of our full-flavored standbys such as Quick Three-Bean Soup, a curried Lentil Soup – both absolute favorites – African Veggies, Thai Wraps, and Pumpkin Pancakes.
Along with my book guides, I found a couple of websites that backed up the books and kept me fortified with recipes and encouragement. Check out the cookbooks on my shelf, as well as favorite websites and find what clicks with you.
Some people like to work with recipes and meal plans all mapped out for them, and there are several, among them 21-Day Weight Loss KickStart Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, And Dramatically Improve Your Health by Neal Barnard, MD.
Barnard goes farther in helping newbies with his free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program, which helps groups of people from the first through 21st of each month providing recipes, tips, videos, and community. The program is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian versions, and there’s a maintenance version.
While you’re finding recipes that you like and getting familiar with eating whole-foods, plant-based, these tips are helpful.
- Go all the way. Your results – weight loss, improved health – come faster and more powerfully. Mine did, and there is nothing like tangible success to keep a person on course. If not 100%, go as far as you can. There’s an exponential relationship between being on course and results.
- Get your guides and keep them close. Cookbooks, recipe source websites, as mentioned above. I carried my cookbooks in my bag and car, handy for figuring out dinner on the way home from work. Saving recipes to an internet resource such as Evernote helps me pull up online recipes in a flash, as does hitting up a recipe site. McDougall and Forks Over Knives have smartphone recipe apps; I’ve not used them but they might be more efficient yet. This entire tip is a variation on “plan a week’s worth of meals at a time”. That’s not me, and it may not be you.
- Keep some meals same and aim to build an arsenal of recipes. Doing so keeps the chaos of newness short and manageable. We eat fruit and oatmeal and fruit for breakfast every day. (Actually, Erin does. These days I often eat vegetables for breakfast, even rice and beans. On weekends I might make pumpkin pancakes from Leanne Campbell’s The China Study Cookbook or a McDougall’s sweet potato-apple-banana parfait. For dinner, once you have an arsenal of 5-10 recipes that you like, you can lean on those to rotate, aiming to sample one or two new recipes each week.
- Figure out your at home snack food and have it ready. Having munchables visible helps build new habits. We chomp freely on carrots, and I usually have a batch of rice or cubed, cooked potatoes ready for a quick reheat to eat with salsa. During this recent chilly winter binge-TV season, we’ve been setting a big bowl of chopped cabbage between us, sweet and crunchy. Our preschool granddaughters like this, too!
- Plan and carry your out-and-about food. This is what you’ll eat while others down donuts at that work meeting, what you’re going to choose instead of a candy bar at the grocery checkout, and what you’ll lunch on when you find yourself away from what you’ve planned. This food is your answer to both emotional and social eating, and real hunger. I routinely stash carrots in my bag, even a bag of romaine heads. If that seems costly, compare them to the current price of a candy bar and soda. Same or less! I can pull these out at a meeting, down them when I’m driving, bored, anxious, or even hungry. Be ready for people to ask if you’ll share, or to find them following suit. I’ve taken to carrying a small soft-sided cooler with veggies and also a big container of dinner leftovers, or cooked rice and peas, or potatoes and salsa. Leftover soup can also dress a batch of rice or cubed potatoes. Hint: Take more than you think you’ll need. Better to come home with some leftover than to give in to the donut.
- Get social with your new food priority aka “new box of crayons. Join a Facebook or Instagram group of people sharing recipes, insights, tips. You can dip in and out of them as you like. Because the starch component is so critical to me – starch for satiety – I started with McDougall Friends (nationwide) on Facebook, and later found two groups in my home state of Iowa, through both of which which I’ve made dear friends, whom I’ve actually met in person. YAY!
- Keep learning. Watch movies, read books, websites, exercise to podcasts and YouTube videos of talks and presentations. Doing so builds the why to the what, the goal to the means.
Enjoy your health!