28 Expert Tips to Help You Go Plant-Based and Be Your Healthiest in 2021
You've resolved to eat a healthy plant-based diet in 2021. That's a great decision for your health and wellbeing. Eating a plant-based diet will make it even easier to lose weight and feel great. If you have joined the Beet's 28 Day Plant-Based Plan, great! Otherwise, sign up now! To help you stay on track and reach your goals, we've gathered the best tips from experts, doctors, nutritionists, and wellness studies, to make it easy to stick with the plant-based plan.
Try these 28 simple strategies to eat healthier, feel better, and achieve your healthy eating goals! Add just one a day and in no time you'll be forging healthy, long-lasting habits.
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Here are 28 expert tips to successfully go plant-based in 2021!
1. Not ready to go plant-based all at once? Set a new goal every day and stick with it.
If the idea of going fully plant-based all at once is too ambitious, start by doing something simple like committing to one vegan meal per day or cooking up a batch of vegan snacks like roast chickpeas to eat through the week, suggests Shena Jaramillo MS, RD. Whether you start by practicing Meatless Mondays or making a plant-based smoothie each morning, adding in one simple, attainable, healthy goal per day is a way to start, and as you add more every day your diet will evolve.
For more on ways to start on your plant-based diet, click here.
2. Make sleep a priority to improve your mood, mental sharpness, and well-being.
Sleep is the unsung hero of your diet, according to Nicole Osinga RD, the co-creator of The VegStart Diet for The Beet. When you sleep your body releases leptin which signals that you're fed, full and satisfied. Lack of sleep drives up ghrelin, the hormone that tells your brain "feed me." When you stay up late, your body is sleep-deprived and ghrelin spikes, while leptin levels dip, so you feel hungrier the next day. Move your bedtime to before midnight, even if it means waking up earlier for a few days as you reset your clock. Enjoy a pre-sleep routine like a warm bath or reading to help you unwind. For more on how to get a better night's sleep, see the best 5 nutrients to help you sleep better tonight.
For more tips to live a healthy long life, click here
3. Start the day with hot water and lemon to boost digestion, weight loss and immunity.
Drinking hot water with lemon in the morning is a popular health ritual among celebrities and models alike, and there is mounting evidence that it is beneficial for digestive health and immunity, and even helps spark weight loss. New research shows that this habit can help flush out the digestive system, jumpstart metabolism, and give your body a dose of immunity-boosting vitamin C first thing in the morning. You can get 1/3 of your vitamin C for the day!
For more on hot water and lemon, click here.
4. Fiber is beneficial to digestive health, helps you feel full, and turns on your body's natural ability to lose weight. Eat more than 35 grams of fiber a day for best results.
Many people only think about fiber for digestive health, but it does so much more. Fiber helps you feel full, banish bloat, and turn on your body's natural ability to lose weight. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that is found in plants.
Whereas most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber passes through the body largely undigested. As it does, it takes with it bile acids and other byproducts, which helps to decrease your cholesterol levels and helps you lose weight. Fiber takes a while to digest, which helps you feel full longer and regulates hunger.
For more on fiber, click here.
5. Daily vigorous exercise, like High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best way to burn fat and make your heart stronger.
All exercise is worth doing, but to improve your heart, burn the most calories and force your body to dip into fat stores for energy, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the way to go. To get fitter fast, you have to do something to make your heart work hard, and studies show that HIIT does that most effectively.
For a simple HIIT workout, on a spin bike or running (on a treadmill or outside) try sprinting for 10 to 20 seconds, and then walk for 1 to 2 minutes, to let your heartbeat recover. Then repeat this sprinting/rest interval 20 times.
For a great HIIT workout work, click here.
6. Eat only until you're 80 percent full, and you'll never overeat or feel stuffed, according to this heart doctor.
The Japanese have a saying: Eat up to 80 percent full, according to Dr. Satjit Bhusri, Founder of Upper East Side Cardiology in NYC. If you eat to 80 percent of your total fullness and then stop you will never overeat, he adds. Keeping your calories and weight under control is heart-healthy. Try this whenever you are in a situation where you know you are likely to overeat, such as a birthday or other occasion. Always stop before you feel full.
For more ways to stay heart-healthy, click here.
7. Fill at least half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables to keep your blood sugar stable. (That's how you get your body to burn fat and not store extra calories.)
To help keep your blood sugar steady, fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and avoid insulin spikes that can lead to weight gain. Fill up at least half of your plate with greens or other vegetables, and then add only a few thumbnails of healthy fats, eating 20 to 40 grams of high-quality protein and one serving of complex or starch carbohydrates, according to Brigid Titgemeier, a Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian. The more fiber-filled foods you add to your plate, the more steadily your body will process the carbs you eat, avoiding insulin spikes that tell the body to store the extra energy as fat. So load up on those vegetables!
For more on keeping blood sugar balanced, click here.
8. Cut out all processed foods like chips, cookies, sodas–everything we think of like junk food. The chemicals and sugar in packaged foods caused inflammation.
The number one food that causes inflammation is processed foods. Sorry chip lovers, but a new study finds that your body's insulin response is triggered by inflammation. So when you eat junk food, inflammation, and insulin both spike, and that causes your body to store fat. This process is triggered by various types of chemicals and foreign molecules called "disruptors" that enter the body and cause your cells to react. These chemicals exist in most processed foods.
For more on processed foods, click here.
9. Intermittent fasting helps you lose weight fast, and can help your body fight off infections, viruses, and more. Plus it's an age-old natural weight loss strategy.
As a weight-loss strategy, intermittent fasting works by lowering your insulin levels and forces your body to burn fat as fuel. But IF is not only the fastest way to lose weight, burn fat, and lose weight, according to Dr. Jason Fung, co-author of Life in the Fasting Lane, but also an effective way to help your body fight off infections.
"Fasting is part of a natural reaction to viral infections that is likely beneficial." Not eating allows your body to focus on the cellular cleanup work called autophagy, where your immune cells identify and sweep out any broken, dead, or unrecognized cells, and creates antibodies to neutralize virus cells that it identifies as foreign.
For more on Intermittent Fasting, click here.
10. Try adaptogens, which are all-natural stress relievers derived from plants, to boost immunity, sleep, focus, and more.
Adaptogens have been used in Chinese medicine for over 10,000 years, since they are known to help the body normalize and balance the body’s functions, particularly in the face of stress. From immune function to sleep, to weight loss and more, adaptogens have the ability to help the body to maintain optimal homeostasis. Adaptogens work at the cellular level to improve the function and vitality of every cell in the body, thereby increasing the health of the entire organism.
For more on adaptogens, click here.
11. If you want to lose weight or boost your immunity, add ginger to hot water for a powerful health elixir. Ginger has many health benefits and helps digestive health.
There are so many reasons to bring ginger into your daily diet, ranging from quelling an upset stomach to helping fight off infections, chronic disease, and even snuff out sneaky cancer cells growing somewhere in your body. The strong, bitter taste (from the active compound gingerol) is an all-in-one natural remedy that is easy to buy, and may just have super-powers against every type of infection according to studies. Scientists have written extensively on the miracle root's properties, used as a "nutraceutical" or food as medicine, for centuries.
For more on ginger, click here.
12. Limit inflammatory foods and eat plant-based foods like berries, peppers, mushrooms, and green tea to fight inflammation.
You may not realize that certain foods are causing inflammation in your body and this can wreak havoc on your long-term health. Dairy, red meat, and especially processed meat like bacon, have all been linked to higher levels of inflammation and higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (as well as some cancers).
Avoid inflammatory foods and make sure to eat foods that fight inflammation such as legumes, green vegetables, and whole foods that are rich in nutrients. Studies have shown that a whole-food plant-based diet is healthiest to lower inflammation and reduce your lifetime risk of heart disease, and all major lifestyle ailments. The key to lowering inflammation is to eat high-fiber foods and keep your gut microbiome healthy.
For the best foods to lower inflammation, click here.
13. You ate sugar and now are experiencing a crash? Make your next meal high-fiber and protein-rich.
If you’re crashing after treating yourself to a sugary treat, make your next snack or meal is high in fiber, whole foods, and protein-rich. Keep a container of almond butter handy and spread it on an apple slice for a healthy high-fiber, protein-packed snack. No amount of sugar can bolster your energy like protein and fiber can. So avoid simple carbs and choose foods you could grow or pick from a tree!
For more healthy snacks, click here.
14. Avoid vegetable oils in your diet. Try using low-sodium vegetable broth instead.
If you're looking for optimal health, it may be time to lower your consumption of olive oil. Because vegetable oils come from plants, it’s logical to assume they’re healthy. Not true. “Oil is the most refined, calorie-dense food in the grocery store,” says Cyrus Khambatta, Ph.D. and co-founder of Mastering Diabetes.
For cooking, saute vegetables dry (put the onions in first so they naturally sweat their juices) or use low sodium vegetable broth (or water) instead of oil. For salad dressings blend seeds or nuts to make a creamy dressing. In other sauces, use a base of flavored vinegar or juice. For baking, use applesauce, mashed bananas, or ground flax seeds as oil substitutes.
For more on oils, click here.
15. Get creative replicating your favorite non-vegan meals. Pizza? Tacos? Yes!
To make your diet overhaul to a plant-based approach more fun, turn dinner into a cooking challenge by researching and executing a beloved meal vegan. Try updating one of your favorite meals by changing out key ingredients, like meatless tacos instead of beef, or make your favorite omelet using JUST Egg. Some of our favorite vegan spins on a non-veg fare? Vegan French Toast, Harvest Kale Caesar Salad, and Vegan Mac and Cheese.
For more getting back on track, click here.
16. Challenge yourself to try new foods daily when you first start eating plant-based.
Whether it's jackfruit in your BBQ burger recipe, or delicious oat-milk ice cream, or pili nut snacks (not necessarily together), turning your vegan journey into a fun opportunity to try new foods will keep things interesting. Some you might not like, but you’ll be surprised at what a world of foods opens up to you when you go plant-based. Another cool side effect of this quest: As you cook with new foods like tempeh and tofu your cooking skills will get a serious boost.
For more on starting a plant-based diet, click here.
17. Eating an avocado a day promotes weight loss, fat burning, and helps you feel full.
The next time you contemplate paying extra for guac, think about the positive effects avocado has on your body, instead of the negative effect on your wallet. You could even consider avocado as nature's keto starter since studies show it helps your body burn fat for fuel.
Studies have shown that avocados may help you lose weight by keeping you fuller longer, but the weight loss benefit goes well beyond satiety, according to the research. Eat some avocado at breakfast or lunchtime, since it will prevent you from feeling hungry for six hours afterward, according to a nutritionist who has researched the benefits of this unique fruit (yes, avocados are in fact fruit, so go win a bet with that tidbit).
For more on the health benefits of avocados, click here.
18. Keep a salad bar in your fridge. Use Sunday afternoon to get set up for a week of healthy plant-based eating. This sets you up for success when you're time-pressed.
Set yourself up for success. Instead of waiting until you are starving to start to think about dinner, plan something plant-based that's delicious and healthy and full of fresh vegetables and whole grains. The best way to do this is to plan out the week ahead and then prepare: Chop the vegetables and keep them ready in the fridge, the way a restaurant has a sous chef prep for the main chef, who then can whip up the menu items quickly, suggests Suzannah Gerber, author of Plant-Based Gourmet.
For more tips on healthy eating, click here.
19. If you're trying to cut back on sugar, curb your intake in the morning and have fruit instead.
Start the day with whole foods–even if it's a piece of fruit, like an apple, or a pear. You will benefit from the naturally occurring sugar in the fruit without experiencing a blood sugar spike, because of the fiber, which will keep your blood sugar steady (a pear has 6 grams!). The point is to avoid these sugar spikes caused by added sugar in cereal or bread because they send you on a sugar roller coaster, and for every spike, you experience a dip. That dip is when you feel low energy and reach for more sugar in what becomes an unhealthy cycle. Instead, curb your sugar intake from the start and eat more fruit, vegetables, and plant-based protein, and avoid added sugar—even from hidden sources —and when you do that you will crave it less.
For more on how to cut back on sugar click here.
20. Know your goals and each small goal will lead you to the ultimate greater success.
Goals can change from hour to hour, but if you try to think of the larger definition of success you may be overwhelmed. Instead of thinking that success is defined by weight loss, which may be overwhelming try to make the healthiest choice you can in the moment. If you aim for reaching small attainable goals and achieve them, that will lead you to your larger idea of success, says chef Suzannah Gerber, author of Plant-Based Gourmet. "When I think of a healthy diet vs. an optimal diet, a healthy diet is better for you and allows you to aim for a certain set of goals. An optimal diet may be too hard to attain, and you may feel you are not able to enjoy life. Make your goals attainable, to reach your success."
For more on attainable goals, click here.
21. Hydration is key. Drink half your weight in fluid ounces of water every day. No, wine doesn't count.
The new goal for optimal hydration: Try to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces That means if you weigh 135 pounds you need to drink 67 or 70 ounces of water a day. So knock back 7 glasses of ten ounces each. It seems so obvious, but few people are properly hydrated and often you may mistake hunger with thirst. If you're not a fan of water, put a lemon in your water bottle for flavor and alkalizing properties suggests fitness trainer Todd Durkin, who helps his 40K followers stay healthy and fit during these uncertain times.
For more great tips from fitness expert Todd Durkin, click here.
22. Shed fat faster: Eat the "anti-diabetes diet" to keep blood sugar low and turn up your engine by working out.
The "anti-diabetes diet" is getting a lot of attention because even for people without diabetes, it's the best way to eat. In the US, 34 million people have diabetes and another 88 million have pre-diabetes and may not know it, since there are few obvious symptoms. To stay healthy, slim down, and shed unwanted pounds the best strategy is to work out daily and eat a diet high in fiber, full of plant-based foods that have the lowest glycemic index. This is also known as the anti-diabetes diet.
For more on foods to lower blood sugar, click here.
23. Avoid drinking diet sodas, especially those that contain aspartame.
Scary truth: The artificial sweetener aspartame found in most diet soft drinks is terrible for you. In your body aspartame is broken down and converted into formaldehyde, which the American Cancer Society states "has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory test animals." Not only that, but drinking these sweeteners is known to drive up your craving for sweets, and may confuse your brain into believing that sugar has been eaten, which not only drives up craving for sweets but prompts an insulin response, so the next calories you eat may get stored as fat. Swap out diet sodas for another bubbly beverage: Kombucha is a naturally fermented tea loaded with gut-friendly bacteria.
For more about the benefits and history of kombucha, click here.
24. Eat protein at every meal, even snacks
Protein is known for its role in regulating hunger and controlling appetite. Research suggests that eating protein may tell the gastrointestinal tract that it should release appetite-regulating hormones. This is especially true at breakfast and snack time, which are generally full of carb-heavy foods, like cereal, toast, chips, or crackers. Eat protein at every opportunity by adding soy foods, beans, and lentils, nuts, and seeds, says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. At breakfast, add oat milk and chia seeds to your cereal or make roasted chickpeas or mixed nuts as a snack.
For more ways to lose weight on a plant-based diet, click here.
25. When you're craving something sweet, drink a smoothie in the middle of the day.
Got a sweet craving? Two-ingredient frozen treats are enough to seriously hit the spot around 3 pm. This will keep you from seeking the chocolate hidden at the back of the snack cabinet. Simply blend 1½ cups frozen berries and ½ can of coconut cream with ice in a blender and serve half now and half tomorrow. Top each smoothie with a sprinkle of flaxseed or hemp hearts or chia seeds for added fiber and protein.
For more on tips eating more fruit and veggies, click here.
26. Keep alcohol in check to lose weight and boost immunity.
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol has no health benefits, according to a study published in The Lancet. While red wine has heart health benefits, the effects on cancer risk and mortality from accidents far outweigh those benefits, the study found. Brooke Goldner, M.D., plant-based autoimmune disease specialist, with a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University adds: “Alcohol is inflammatory and suppresses immunity."
While you need to weigh the decision to drink carefully, a few alcoholic beverages a week won’t hurt – but the calories are metabolized the same way simple carbs are, so if weight loss is the goal, skip it. Instead, try practicing a Dry January, both for detoxing and optimal health.
For more on boosting immunity and losing weight, click here.
27. Get up and walk for 11 minutes or more to undo the damage from sitting too long.
According to a new study, it only takes 11 minutes of walking to undo the effects of sitting for long stints The 11-minute mark is a much shorter amount of activity than previously required to be healthy. A 2016 study led us to believe that we had to crush that Bootcamp for workout hard or an hour a day to get the benefits of activity. A simple walk in the park is enough to help you live a long healthy life. Of course, to get stronger, a longer or harder session works, but if the goal is longevity, just walk!
For more about the perks of walking for 11 minutes a day here.
28. Don't be too hard on yourself. Use progress tracking as a tool to see how far you've come.
A study at Oxford University found that feelings of shame around not meeting particular targets were linked to giving up. "Feelings of shame were linked with the abandonment of efforts," the authors wrote. Use your own progress log (or weighing yourself) as a way of tracking positive actions, not another way to get down on yourself. Your fitness tracking is meant to be evidence of your efforts, even if your expectations are high.
Watch the progress you're making and tell yourself you are inching toward your goal. The upshot: Viewing self-monitoring as a tool to help maintain your healthy eating and steady weight loss is more effective than using it to re-criminate when you slip up.
Be optimistic and tell yourself: I am going to succeed because I am committed to my healthy body goals. My efforts are working!
For more on holding yourself accountable, click here.