There is an incredible variety of foods you can eat on a plant-based diet. It would be virtually impossible to list everything, but we've tried! Check out this plant-based diet food list when you're feeling a little bored with your normal fare.
- What can I eat on a plant-based diet?
- Starchy Vegetables
- Legumes, Beans and Lentils
- Nuts, seeds and nut butters
- Plant-based milks
- Spices and Seasonings
- What foods are typically discouraged on a plant-based diet?
- But, do I really have to give up meat and cheese?
- Wait a minute. I can eat carbs?
- But, where will I get my protein?
- How do I get started on a plant-based diet?
- Take action
What can I eat on a plant-based diet?
The flours of any grains, including products made with flour like bread, pasta, tortillas, etc.
While whole grains are most healthy, you can also eat refined grains, depending on which plan you choose to follow.
Potatoes (all varieties, white potatoes, red potatoes, gold potatoes, etc. and sweet potatoes/yams), turnips, jicama, water chestnuts, cassava, plantains, corn, etc.
Legumes, Beans and Lentils
Beans, lentils and peas of any kind, such as black beans, pinto, kidney, soy beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cannellini white beans, navy beans, Great Northern white beans, red, black, green or brown lentils, black-eyed peas, green peas, split peas, dal/dahl, pigeon peas, fava beans.
Unrefined flours of beans, lentils or peas, as well. For example, chickpea flour, lentil pasta made from lentil flour, etc.
Soybean products like tofu, soy curls, tempeh, etc. Careful: Some ultra-refined and processed soy products like soy isolate are not good for you.
Any and all vegetables, such as onions, lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, zucchini, celery, carrot, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, olives, avocados, cucumber, ginger, garlic, green beans, edamame, jalapeño peppers, poblano peppers, serrano peppers, olives, etc.
Any and all fresh and dried fruits.
Apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, red currants, black currants, oranges, lemons, limes, grapes, dates, raisins, golden raisins, melons, mangos, pineapples, grapefruit, kiwifruit, etc.
Nuts, seeds and nut butters
All varieties, although they are recommended to be used sparingly, as they are very high in fat.
These may include peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, almond butter, cashews, cashew butter, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter (sunbutter), sesame seeds, tahini, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, pepitas, hemp seeds, etc.
Rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, hemp milk, oat milk, etc.
Coconut milk is also allowed, but very high in fat, especially canned full-fat coconut milk, so should be limited.
Spices and Seasonings
All sorts of fresh and dried herbs like basil, cilantro/coriander, parsley, tarragon, dill and mint.
Spices can boost flavor and turn an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one.
Spices and seasonings to consider: salt, black pepper, white pepper, Aleppo pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, ground coriander, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, red chili flakes, ground turmeric, ground cumin, chili powder, saffron, star anise, cloves, allspice, etc.
What foods are typically discouraged on a plant-based diet?
Remember: you choose what you eat. So, if you want to try to eat a plant-based diet some of the time or most of the time, that's perfectly fine. This section just gives you a very basic idea of what kind of food is not usually considered "plant-based".
A plant-based diet typically does not include animal products (meat, fish, seafood, poultry, dairy, cheese, butter, eggs) or processed, refined foods like any vegetable oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc.), junk food, artificial ingredients, etc.
For more information, read: "What is a plant-based diet and why you should give it a try"
But, do I really have to give up meat and cheese?
Okay, I'm giving you the run-down here of the basic "rules" of a plant-based way of eating.
Here's the beautiful thing: you get to decide what you eat.
Eating a 100% strict plant-based diet is absolutely do-able and you'll feel amazing.
But, if you're not ready for that, then slowly dip your toes in the water to see how delicious the food is and how easy it is to do.
The results you see will not be as dramatic if you don't go all the way, but if you're okay with that, cool! Everything comes at a trade-off.
Wait a minute. I can eat carbs?
YES! Starches and grains are not evil, pound-packing villains. It's all the fat (oil, butter, cheese, sour cream, etc.) that's packed on them that makes us gain weight.
Carbohydrates give you energy, fuel your body and are vital to human health.
If you have already watched the Forks over Knives documentary (or read any books or online material about plant-based eating), this will all look and sound very familiar.
If it doesn't and you would like more information about how it works, I encourage you to watch the Forks over Knives documentary, read The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall or check out Dr. McDougall's website, which is full of free information.
But, where will I get my protein?
Plants have protein. They have more than enough protein to build healthy, strong bodies. Some plant foods have more protein than others (beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds and nuts, tofu, etc.).
But, even green veggies like broccoli and spinach have protein. White potatoes have protein! In fact, if you ate nothing but potatoes, and you ate enough calories for your body, you would be getting enough protein to thrive. Crazy, right?
A typical American diet consists of much more protein than our bodies really need.
Rest assured: If you're eating a whole foods, plant based diet with a variety of foods and you're eating enough calories, you will naturally get enough protein for your body. You can certainly eat more of the plant based foods that are higher in protein, but there's no need to stress over it.
How do I get started on a plant-based diet?
If you're ready to start giving this a go, there's two ways to go about it.
- Dip your toes in the water: Gradually add in plant-based meals to what you eat.
- Jump in the deep end: Start fresh with all plant-based meals and see what happens.
We chose to jump in the deep end. We gave away or threw away all the food in our house that wasn't plant-based/vegan and started fresh.
This worked well for us, since we were both on board and our kids were very young. They ate what we cooked and that was that.
But, if you'd rather dip your toes in the water first, you can pull elements from this way of eating to modify some or most of your meals. Here's some easy ways to incorporate plant-based eating, if you're not ready to commit 100%:
- Reduce the amount of meat you have for each meal. Treat meat as a garnish or flavor enhancer, instead of the main course.
- Choose one day of the week to go "meatless". Then, increase the number of days you go meatless each week.
- Choose one meal each day to be plant-based, like lunch or dinner.
- Experiment with new plant-based recipes on the weekend and make it a fun adventure!
Neither way is right or wrong, though. It's up to you. And, I'm here to help!
Either way, you're going to need to start making some yummy plant-based food! So, you need to make sure you have some groceries.
Take stock of what you have
First, check what you have in the kitchen. Go through all those shelves in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Pull out the grains, beans, veggies and fruits you have.
If you don't have much to start cooking plant-based meals, then go shopping!
Plan some simple meals
Chances are you already have some plant-based meals you have eaten for years that are familiar, healthy (sometimes with just minor changes) and ready to go in your recipe arsenal.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Oatmeal, sweetened with fruit, a little bit of sugar or maple syrup
- Potential change needed: don't add any butter to it
- Beans and rice
- Potential change needed: don't flavor with meat. Add spices, onions, garlic and herbs like cilantro to flavor the beans.
- Spaghetti with tomato sauce
- Potential change needed: don't add meat to the sauce. Instead, sauté onion, garlic, basil, carrot and mushrooms before adding the tomato sauce. No olive needed. Toss pasta with your mushroom vegetable marinara for a delicious Italian dinner!
So, what family favorites do you have that are "almost-vegan"? With a few changes, they will turn into new even-healthier family favorites.
For more plant-based meal ideas and cooking tips, read this: Simple Plant-based Meal Ideas and Cooking Tips
Let's Go Shopping
Now that you have a few ideas for what you can make and what you already have at home, it's time to go shopping.
Make sure you get enough whole food, plant-based starches (like potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oats, whole grain cereal, etc.). Don't be shy! You're going to be eating a lot of them.
Then, grab the veggies you love to compliment your starches.
Add in a few fruits, a carton of plant-based milk and you're good to go!
It doesn't have to be fancy and it doesn't have to be expensive. Potatoes, carrots, rice, bananas - these are some of the cheapest groceries you can buy. And, they're filling and nutritious!
- Take stock of what you have: Go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and get rid of the food you no longer choose to eat. Give it away or throw it away, so you can start fresh. Or, just take stock so you know what you can start cooking all those delicious, filling plant-based meals from.
- Plan a few simple meals to make this week: Keep it simple!
- Go grocery shopping: Stock up on plant-based food you will eat for at least one week. Don't go crazy at the store. Buy what you know you will eat.
P.S. - We all need support when we make changes, so I created a judgment-free Facebook group, where you can ask questions, get recipes and more. If you haven't joined yet, check it out!