The Beginner’s Guide to Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

Wondering how to transition to a plant-based diet? It’s easier than you’d think! Find helpful tips, grocery suggestions, and recipe ideas.

various plant-based foods from breakfast, lunch to dinner

Making the transition to a plant-based diet shouldn’t be complicated. In fact, this transition has the potential to benefit your health, your wallet, and your taste buds!

In this article, I’m sharing my best advice, including eight simple steps, to help you adjust to the new way of eating.

Why choose a plant-based diet?

You may have heard that plant-based eating is healthier than a diet that’s mostly animal based. It’s true that a plant-based diet comes with health benefits, including benefits to your heart, digestive system, and even your mind.

If that’s not enough to convince you, then consider that choosing a plant-based diet may also be more environmentally sustainable.

There are plenty of reasons to make the swap to a plant-based diet. The best way to ensure you can stick to it is to follow my step-by-step guide for a smooth transition.

woman in the kitchen making a salad with various vegetables

Step-by-step guide to transitioning to a plant-based diet

Switching over to a plant-based diet may seem overwhelming. But if you follow this step-by-step guide, it won’t be! “When you’re trying to do something bold, start with a smaller version of the larger problem.”

These words of wisdom from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, ring true when attempting to tackle a significant behavior change.

Diet changes can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re faced with several dramatic shifts to how you eat every day. Now, let me help you with these eight simple steps to make the transition easier.

woman with pink fingernails eating a bowls of salad with chop sticks

Step 1: Decide your strategy.

The only right way to make the change over to plant-based eating is the way that works best for you.

Some people may find it easier to go cold turkey by eliminating animal products from their diets completely, while others may choose a flexible diet that continues to allow for animal products long term.

Above all, no matter what you choose, make sure your choice is a comfortable and sustainable approach for you.

Step 2: Learn the foods you can and can’t eat.

As mentioned in step one, eating a plant-based diet can look different for everyone. But there are three common approaches to consider, and each has a slightly different list of foods to avoid.

salad in a bowl with a glass of orange juice


This approach is the strictest of the three and requires eliminating all animal products from the diet. Some vegans also avoid honey, in addition to animal products like dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood.

On a vegan diet, you can eat:

  • Avocado
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains

On a vegan diet, you can’t eat:

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Gelatin
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
quinoa salad in a bowl with a glass of chia pudding on the side


Eating a vegetarian diet means eating mostly plants but allowing for some animal products such as eggs and dairy. A vegetarian eliminates meat, fish, poultry, and other animal by-products such as gelatin.

On a vegetarian diet, ou can eat:

  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains

On a vegetarian diet, you can’t eat:

  • Fish
  • Gelatin
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood


As the name implies, the flexitarian diet provides more flexibility in the diet. This approach allows for animal products when desired while also emphasizing plants as the focus of the diet.

On a flexitarian diet, you can eat:

  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Fruit
  • Gelatin
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains

You may find it easier to pick a plant-based diet definition and stick to it, or you may want to experiment with a few ways of plant-based eating to see which you enjoy the most.

Your transition to a plant-based diet is a personal one and should be both enjoyable and doable for the long-run. Try one, all three, or mix and match! Above all, the key is to find what’s best for you.

salad sitting at the dinner table eating salads

Step 3: Clean out your kitchen.

As obvious as it sounds, if you want to eat more plants then you must have plants available in your home. This likely means developing a plan to reduce the number of animal-based foods in your kitchen.

If you have lots of animal products in your fridge, freezer, or pantry, try finding recipes that incorporate those products but in smaller quantities to make plants the star of the plate.

If you’re planning to make the swap to plant-based eating by eliminating animal products cold turkey, then look into donating the foods you’ll no longer eat versus throwing them out.

Prepping your kitchen for the new diet you’ll soon follow gives you a clean slate for a successful diet change.

Step 4: Plan your meals.

Meal planning can help make weeknights easier and will guide your shopping list. As you learn your new way of eating, prioritize your weekly meal plan to ensure you always have something available to prepare.

Try this seven-day meal plan of simple, plant-based recipes:

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries and nuts
  • Lunch: Vegetarian Rice Bowl
  • Snack: Apple and peanut butter
  • Dinner: Sheet pan tofu with vegetables

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Egg Muffins
  • Lunch: Tofu and vegetable salad (Tip: Use leftovers from dinner the night before, and add your favorite greens.)
  • Snack: Hummus, pita chips, and sliced vegetables
  • Dinner: Veggie burger with roasted broccoli

Day 3

A close up of a no bake healthy energy bar

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Close up of fried rice in a skillet

Step 5: Go grocery shopping.

After you’ve created your meal plan, it’s time to go grocery shopping. But before you head to the store, be sure to check your pantry and fridge to see which ingredients you already have on hand. This is a helpful way to limit food waste and lower your grocery bill.

Plant-based foods are found throughout the grocery store, so no need to look in a specialty foods section or limit yourself to just the produce aisle.

The following foods are staples for a plant-based diet and can help you stock-up for your transition to eating plant-based:

  • Frozen or fresh fruits (any you enjoy!)
  • Frozen or fresh vegetables (any you enjoy!)
  • Whole grains (such as brown rice or farro)
  • Plant-based protein (like tempeh, tofu, beans, and peas)
  • Oils (like avocado oil or olive oil)
  • Plant-based milk (soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc.)
two woman eating plant based foods at a restaurant

Grocery list

If you plan to follow the seven-day meal plan above, here’s your grocery list to make that happen:

  • Almond butter
  • Almonds, dry roasted, unsalted
  • Almonds, raw
  • Apples
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Baby spinach
  • Banana
  • Basil, dried
  • Bell pepper, green
  • Bell pepper, red
  • Black olives
  • Black pepper
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice, sprouted
  • Butterhead lettuce
  • Cabbage, green
  • Cabbage, red
  • Canned chickpeas, no salt added
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Canned kidney beans, no salt added
  • Carrots
  • Cashews
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chia seeds
  • Chili powder
  • Cilantro, fresh
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut aminos
  • Cooking spray
  • Cottage cheese, low fat
  • Cucumber, seedless
  • Cumin, ground
  • Dark chocolate chips, mini
  • Edamame, shelled, frozen
  • Eggplant
  • Eggs
  • Feta cheese
  • Flatbread pizza crusts
  • Garlic
  • Ginger, fresh
  • Ginger, ground
  • Goat cheese, soft
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Grapes, seedless
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Greek yogurt, low fat
  • Hemp hearts, shelled
  • Hot sauce
  • Hummus
  • Jarred roasted red peppers
  • Kosher salt
  • Lasagna noodles, no boil
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Maple syrup
  • Milk, low fat
  • Mozzarella, part skim
  • Mustard, Dijon
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Oatmeal
  • Okra, cut, frozen
  • Olive oil, extra virgin
  • Olives, green
  • Olives, Kalamata
  • Onion, red
  • Onion, Vidalia
  • Onion, yellow
  • Oregano, dried
  • Paprika, smoked
  • Parmesan
  • Parsley, fresh
  • Peanut butter
  • Pesto
  • Pistachios
  • Pita chips
  • Prunes
  • Pumpkin seeds, dry roasted
  • Quinoa
  • Raspberries
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Romaine
  • Scallions
  • Sesame oil, extra virgin
  • Sesame seeds
  • Shallot
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Strawberries, frozen
  • Taco shells, hard
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu, extra firm
  • Tomato paste
  • Turmeric, ground
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Vanilla bean
  • Vanilla extract
  • Vegetable broth, low sodium
  • Veggie burgers
  • Vinegar, balsamic
  • Vinegar, red wine
  • White rice
  • Whole-grain cereal
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini

Grocery shopping on a plant-based diet might require some additional time at first, but once you become familiar with the variety of plant-based options, shopping will no longer be as time-consuming.

Step 6: Cook!

Cooking at home is an important part of any healthy diet, including a plant-based diet. For starters, try a time-saving, mini-meal prep to make cooking at home easier. To practice a mini-meal prep, simply focus on prepping throughout the week.

This means cooking a little extra every time you’re in the kitchen. For example, if the cutting board is out, chop a few extra fruits for the next meal. If the oven is on, roast the vegetables for tomorrow’s meal.

If you’re cooking grains, make an extra serving for use later in the week. Ultimately, these mini preps will add up to significant time savings throughout the week.

woman chopping a red cabbage with a knife on a marble counter

Making a plant-based diet transition will also require a change to ingredients used in cooking. You can easily incorporate more plant-based foods into your recipes with these plant-based swaps when cooking at home:

  • Use olive or avocado oil in place of butter.
  • Try mashed avocado or guacamole in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich or in a smashed chickpea salad.
  • Use plant-based milk instead of dairy milk in baking.
  • Blend meats with beans in stir-fry dishes, casseroles, and burgers or try a complete swap of beans in place of meat.
  • Consider a tofu scramble for breakfast instead of an egg scramble.
  • Try a flaxseed “egg” instead of regular eggs in baking.
  • Make vegetables the main dish. (Try this cauliflower steak or these stuffed peppers.)
two women eating plant based bowls together with chopsticks

Step 7: Avoid these pitfalls.

Transitioning to a plant-based diet doesn’t come without its risk for mistakes that can derail your progress.

Common pitfalls like prioritizing ultra-processed meat substitutes over minimally processed plant proteins or focusing too much on a single food group versus diversifying your diet can lead to a plant-based diet that doesn’t support your health goals.

A few basic principles can go a long way in keeping your plant-based diet nutritious and satisfying:

  • Prioritize minimally processed plant proteins. Most of the time, think tofu and edamame over plant-based chicken or beef substitutes.
  • Eat a variety of plant-based foods from all food groups. Diet diversity equals nutrient diversity.
  • Focus on high-quality plant proteins. Beans, peas, soy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds all provide quality plant-based protein.
  • Choose unsaturated fats most of the time. For example, choose olive or avocado oil over coconut oil most of the time.

Step 8: Get more inspiration.

When transitioning to a plant-based diet, don’t go at it alone! There are plenty of resources to help you transition to a plant-based diet.

And once you’ve made the transition, there are even more tips and tricks to help you ensure your diet is satisfying so that you can keep it up for the long run.

Check out a few of my favorite resources:

woman eating a piece of broccoli out of a grey bowl with a fork

The bottom line

While transitioning to a plant-based diet can feel overwhelming, it’s extremely doable with this eight-step plan. Follow my meal plan and use my grocery list—and let me know how it all goes for you!

Wondering how to transition to a plant-based diet? It’s easier than you’d think! Find helpful tips, grocery suggestions, and recipe ideas.
Plant-Based Eating |

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