Beginner’s Guide to a Whole Food Plant Based Diet

Beginner's Guide to a whole food plant based diet

If you’re new to eating a whole food plant based diet, or if you’re just curious, you came to the right spot. It’s worth mentioning that neither whole food plant based eating, diet nor a vegan diet are “diets” in the sense of restricting calories. The term is used here as a description of how someone eats on a consistent basis.

What exactly is a whole food plant based diet?

First up, following a whole food plant based (WFPB for short) diet is different from eating vegan. While neither includes animal-based foods nor foods derived from animal-based ingredients, WFPB goes a step further and removes overly processed foods like oil, junk food, white flour, white sugar, vegan ice cream, vegan cookies from the mix. Why? Because overly processed foods are typically very high in calories but low in nutrition. Calorie density isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when paired with little or no nutritional value, it’s best to avoid those types of foods. Plus, high quantities of salt, fat, and sugar release super powerful chemicals in our brains that make us crave more and can turn down our body’s natural satiation signals, meaning it’s easy to eat way more of those foods more often than we intend.

What should you eat when following a WFPB diet?

When you eat a whole food plant based diet, you’ll find yourself enjoying:

  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans & legumes
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Herbs & spices
  • Minimally processed plant based ingredients like tofu, tempeh, unsweetened plant milk, and sprouted grain bread
whole food plant based diet food groups chart

Benefits of whole food plant based eating

Whether your motivation to eat more plants is to boost your immune system and your overall health, drop some pounds, get off your diabetes medication, help protect the environment, or animal welfare, it’s never too late to start, and there are no prerequisites. You simply start where you’re at and ease into it however you like.

Reverse diabetes

Lower your A1C and manage your blood glucose by harnessing the power of plants. A whole food plant based diet can help you find joy in eating again while reversing diabetes. We’ve seen it happen for countless members.  

Dr. Elina Tomski reverses pre-diabetes with a whole food plant based diet >

Improve mental health

Depression and anxiety are a daily reality for many, but plants can help support optimal brain chemistry. In some cases, we’ve seen people able to completely stop their anti-depressant medications under the guidance of medical professionals.  

Lisa avoided weight loss surgery and recovered from food addiction through whole food plant based eating

Weight loss

If you’re familiar with, and tired of, the restrict-binge-restrict-binge dieting cycle, but you’re carrying around some extra weight you’d like to lose, then we have good news. Eating whole food plant based naturally leads to weight loss and, the best part, it’s sustainable weight loss because this is a lifestyle change, not a temporary restrictive diet. You get to lose weight while eating delicious food. Enough said!  

Jeff Brewster loses 95 pounds and batch cooks our whole food plant based meal plans

Save money

Many believe that eating a plant based or vegan diet is expensive and inaccessible. We’re here to show you it’s cheaper than you may think! This 2022 study showed people who ate primarily plants saved up to 34% on food compared to those on a standard diet. In fact, one of our team members feeds her plant based family for less than $2 per person per meal.

Help our planet

Research shows that meat and dairy products are fueling the climate crisis, while plant based diets—focused on fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans—help protect the planet. What we eat matters, and the food choices that we make on a daily basis have a huge impact on our environment. Even small changes can eventually add up to big gains for our beautiful planet. 

Your plant fueled life, your way

Starting a whole food plant based journey looks different for everyone. You can begin by eating one WFPB meal a day, one WFPB meal a week, or you can just add more plants into your existing food routine. Alternatively, you can jump right in, switch to all plants, and never look back.

This is your process, and you have to do what works best for you.

We’ve seen people have success with both methods. There is no wrong or right way to do this; it just takes practice and patience as you get familiar with new ingredients, new textures, and new methods of cooking.

The Beginner's Guide to Eating More Plants by Plant Fueled Life

7 quick tips for starting a whole food plant based diet

Whether you want to go all in right away or slowly ease into this way of eating, here are some tips to help get you started.

1. Get used to the idea of spending time in your kitchen

You can’t order this kind of food from a restaurant or buy it pre-made at the grocery store. Eating this way requires you to get into your kitchen and cook. You don’t have to be a kitchen pro, but you must be willing to spend time preparing food.

As a society, we’ve gotten away from spending time in our kitchens because making our own food isn’t convenient. But eating out all the time and heating up frozen meals isn’t really working for us, either. If you have zero time to spend in your kitchen, it may be time to take a look at your schedule and reprioritize some things.

We accomplish what we make a priority.

Molly Patrick

If eating more plant based is a priority to you, then you won’t find time to cook. You will make time to cook. If it’s not a priority, then you won’t do it. Easy as that. Either way is fine. But know that in order to eat plant based, your kitchen must be used.

2. It might take time for the food to taste scrumptious to you

If you’re used to eating lots of processed foods and restaurant-prepared foods, it might take a little while before your palate adjusts and you really enjoy the taste of whole plant foods. This is because processed food and restaurant meals are loaded with salt, sugar, and fat, and anything that isn’t as stimulating as those may taste bland at first.

The more plant based food you eat, the better the food will taste, until one day (sooner than you think), you’ll be walking along, and BOOM! You get hit with a salad craving. It totally happens!

3. Get your kitchen ready 

You don’t need a ton of fancy kitchen gadgets, but there are a few things that are worth purchasing because you will use them often.

  • A decent blender – Molly, our co-founder, used a $20 blender from Target for years. A Vitamix is great if you have one, but a cheap blender will absolutely do the trick if you can’t afford a high-powered blender.
  • Sharp knives – sharp knives make a huge difference. A chef’s knife and a paring knife are all you need to get started.
  • Instant Pot – this will save you time in the kitchen. It’s definitely not a necessity, but we love popping ingredients in the Instant Pot, turning it on, and moving away to do something else.
  • Food processor – you won’t use this daily, but when you need it, you will really need it. A food processor is perfect for hummus, veggie burgers, walnut parm, and for chopping and dicing veggies.

4. Serve fruit and/or veggies on the side with whatever you’re eating

It doesn’t matter what you’re eating, just throw some fruit and/or veggies on the side to up the nutrient density of your meal. 

  • Having eggs and bacon for breakfast? Fine! But grab some apple slices, too. 
  • Avocado sandwich for lunch? Cool, add some celery sticks and red pepper slices to your plate.
  • Eating some brown rice and stir-fried veggies with tofu for dinner? Awesome! Add a few baby carrots and berries on the side, and call it a day.

Adding fruit and veggies on the side of your meals is a super-fast way to fuel up on nutrients and fiber. And when it comes to nutrients and fiber, more is definitely better.

5. Find good whole food plant based recipes

You won’t eat plant based if you don’t enjoy it, plain and simple. 

There are mouthgasmic whole food plant based recipes and there are whole food plant based recipes that taste exactly like cardboard. We can’t vouch for other recipes, but ours are consistently satisfying and delicious. There are hundreds of free plant based recipes on our blog. Or, check out Plant Fueled Life, our premium membership full of tasty meal plans and recipes you won’t find anywhere else. Creating tasty, healthy recipes is what we do best.

6. Stock your kitchen with staples

In order to put yummy plant based food in your mouth on a regular basis, you must have some staples in your fridge and pantry.

You will be using ingredients that you’ve maybe never even heard of before. Nutritional yeast, ume plum vinegar, tahini, and miso paste, to name a few. Here’s a list of kitchen staples that will create a solid base of ingredients for your kitchen. View the complete list of Speciality Ingredients here. Once you have these items, you’ll be able to whip together many whole food plant based recipes without an additional trip to the store. Once you have yummy food made, there won’t be any reason not to eat it. 

We recommend you always have a selection of these items ready to go in your fridge so you can whip together a ton of fast meals:

  • Hummus – sandwiches, quesadillas, on salads
  • Chickpea Mash – sandwiches, on salads
  • Sprouted tortillas – tacos, burritos, quesadillas
  • A yummy cheesy sauce, like our Plant Based Cheddar Sauce– put it on potatoes, pasta, and bowls
  • Cooked sweet potatoes or white potatoes – top with veggies and cheesy sauce
  • Salad dressing (Oil Free Island Vinaigrette is a member fave) – salads, spread on sandwiches
  • Washed and dried lettuce and leafy greens – you are way more likely to eat your greens when they are washed and ready to go
  • Sprouted bread – sweet or savory toast, sandwiches 
  • Baked Tofu – sandwiches, salads, bowls, or just to munch on alone
  • Nut or seed butter – add to celery or apple slices
  • Fruit – eat it plain or on the side with any meal 
  • Cooked rice or quinoa – bowls, sides
  • Canned beans – bowls, burritos, on salads
  • Walnut Parm – sprinkle on pasta, salads, and bowls
  • Toasted seeds – top salads or bowls 
  • Hippie Porridge – We love this cold with fruit, nuts, raisins, and soy milk
  • Sauerkraut – add to sandwiches and salads

7. Act on your cravings. Just eat whole food plant based versions of them.

The longer you eat this way, the less you will crave things like pizza, french fries, burgers, and cake. If you start craving junk food, whip together whole food plant based versions of those foods.

Craving pizza?
Make a pita pocket pizza with red sauce, cheesy sauce, Tofu Sausage, and veggies.

Craving burgers?
Make these bad boys.

Craving cake?
Nip that craving here!

Craving Mac and Cheese?
We got you!

Whatever you do, never eat a piece of lettuce when all you really want is a Reuben or make yourself eat an orange when all you really want is a candy bar. You will only be pissed off and disappointed. Make the healthiest version possible of whatever you’re craving, and allow your craving to be satisfied.

The Beginner's Guide to Eating More Plants by Plant Fueled Life

Ready to dive deeper into plant based living? Check out Plant Fueled Life.

Plant Based Meal Plans

Leave the planning to us. Hundreds of meal plans (AKA Wizard Plans) are created by our recipe developers to tantalize your taste buds and nourish your body. They come complete with a grocery list, batching instructions, and interactive tools to make time in your kitchen satisfying and enjoyable. 

Plant Based Recipe Vault

Thousands of the most delicious plant based recipes you won’t find anywhere else. Say goodbye to pesky ads, and Pinterest fails. Say hello to your kitchen BFF.

Magic Meal Planner

Make a custom meal plan – complete with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and extras – for the week and share it with other members. Add custom items to your list, switch view modes, and create magic for your mouth.

Coaching

Watch Coaching sessions with Molly, co-founder and certified life coach. She’ll help you bridge the gap between wanting to eat more plants and actually eating more plants. Replays are available on topics from managing cravings to goal cultivation.

Plant Fueled Life Feature List for a whole food plant based way of eating

Begin your plant fueled life today!

If you’ve tried eating a vegan diet in the past and it didn’t work for you, know that a whole food plant based diet is a very different experience. It is one of the best things you can do for your health and will impact how you feel daily. Wherever you’re at in your process, we’re cheering you on. Start a free trial now, and let’s do this!

Are you new to eating this way? What challenges have you had with making the switch? Talk to us in the comments below!

Xo 
Molly

This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been recently updated.

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Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.

10 Comments

  1. Denise Bolin-Clark on April 18, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Molly, what kind of insta pot for you have,? I’m looking to buy one in May w/birthday money. I won’t HV alot but I don’t want to skimp and regret it down the road. Thanks, Denise

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on April 18, 2020 at 9:28 am

      Hi Denise, I’m sure Molly will reply but in case it helps I have an Instant Pot IP-LUX60 6-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6.33-Quart. I bought it in 2013 for about $100 and it is still going strong. I can safely double most CFDG recipes (I am only cooking for two so I could probably have chosen a smaller cooker but this one gives flexibility to go larger if I have guests and I never feel like it is too big even for regular use), and I’ve not had to replace any parts. It’s a kitchen workhorse that was well worth the investment. ~Karen

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on April 21, 2020 at 10:17 am

      Hi Denise, Molly asked me to share these two blog posts on using the Instant Pot (and hers is in the video) with you, too!

      Part 1

      Part 2

      ~Karen

  2. Barbara Passman on April 19, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Check out Zavor, the company reborn our of Fagor, which made wonderful pressure cookers.
    The Zavor Lux won recognition from America’s test Kitchen an Consumers Guide
    Beautiful well made pot that holds to the stated temperature.
    And, from what the company wrote me some weeks ago, Zavor is working on an AirFry top for this pot.
    Otherwise do look at the Instant Pot Duo with Airfryer Lid

    I have both multi cookers (purchased the Instant pot accidentally but very much like the airfryer lid which works far better than than Mealthy air fryer lid meant to work on any 6 or 8 quart instant pot

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on April 21, 2020 at 7:53 am

      Hi Barbara – thanks for sharing! My first pressure cooker was a stove top Fagor and I didn’t realize they had a new product line. ~Karen

  3. Jill on May 16, 2020 at 11:52 am

    Girl, I love me some papaya! It’s one of the many reasons I enjoy visiting Mexico so much. You know, that and the free range iguanas. Sadly, if papaya aren’t picked ripe it’s not at all the same flavor explosion. Jealous!

  4. Jackie Metcalfe on December 28, 2021 at 3:00 am

    Hi Molly
    I wanted to comment on my challenges in getting started on WFPB eating. 1. Knowing how to start, how to get all the nutrients I need, having recipies. So I am so excited to find you. 2. Cost of buying ingredients. Fresh is so much more expensive than crappy processed. And recipies often have ingredients that I find hard to locate, are expensive, and I don’t know what to do with. So expense is the issue, perceived or real. 3. Making time to cook and be prepared for my meals. That is a mindset I’m responsible for changing.
    So looking forward to exploring your website, information, and recipes and ready to join your Facebook community too. I see you contribute to the Nourish magazine which is where I found you. And excited to start WFPB eating.
    Cheers
    Jackie Metcalfe

    • Team Dirty - Brittany on December 28, 2021 at 8:39 am

      Hello, Jackie, we are thrilled you have found us!

      Congrats on starting your WFPB journey. You can go as quickly or as slowly as you need to.

      1. Please use our free recipes.

      2. Yes, sometimes organic and fresh produce can be on the pricey side. However, we rely on a lot of bulk items like rice, grains, nuts, and beans which are cheap and help offset the cost of produce.

      3. Making time to cook is a challenge, but we make anything a priority when we truly care about it. Molly recently published this blog post which is a perfect place to get started. Three Super Simple steps to Start a Plant Based Diet.

      4. We look forward to seeing you in our private Facebook Group. You’ll find thousands of other beautiful souls just like you!

      Peace & plants,

      Brittany

  5. Leah on March 25, 2024 at 6:48 am

    Confused as to why there’s bacon and eggs mentioned on a plant based guide?
    Might have been a mistake but seems a bit odd lol..

    (Number 4 of the 7 tips “Having eggs and bacon for breakfast? Fine! But grab some apple slices, too.”)

    • Stephanie from Team Dirty on March 25, 2024 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Leah,

      Thanks for checking us out! We’re a Whole Food Plant Based company that embraces imperfection, and our mission is to help people eat more plants. For some folks, we understand this might not mean going completely plant based, or it might mean a long, slow transition to eating mostly or completely plant based. We like to meet people where they are, so that’s why the eggs and bacon are mentioned.

      <3
      Stephanie

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