Plant-based eating, which is all about eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts (and fewer animal products), has really taken off these past few years—and for good reason. Studies have shown that a predominantly plant-based lifestyle can improve your heart health, slow down cognitive decline, lower your risk for diabetes, and support optimal gut health. It’s even been touted as the best diet for the planet.
So, when I committed to going plant-based for one month, these benefits motivated me.
Why More Plants?
At my best, I’d always tried to eat a balanced Mediterranean diet filled with veggies and seafood. At my worst, though, I’d devour carbohydrates, dairy, and chocolate like it’s no one’s business.
Unfortunately, as of late, my worst was definitely becoming my ‘normal.’ Although I exercised regularly, my diet left me feeling sluggish. Intrigued by the plant-based hype, I decided to commit to the lifestyle for a month and see if I noticed any changes in my energy—and my gut health, which felt off.
Before hitting the supermarket and embarking on my plant-based journey, I took to Pinterest to see what plant-based recipes it had to offer. I found lots of recipes that featured avocados, bananas, or dates—three foods I can’t stand.
I couldn’t help but laugh, but I had a feeling the humor would soon turn into frustration.
Week One—Not Bad
To make the transition to plant-based eating easier, I decided to lower my intake of non-plant-based foods little by little, instead of going cold-turkey. My first week, I’d allow myself either a serving of eggs, cheese, or chocolate each day. (I didn’t mind parting with meat, but dairy was a different story.)
After some more perusing of Pinterest (and discovering recipes free from avocados, bananas, and dates), I wrote out a menu for the week, made a grocery list, and hit the grocery store. For breakfast, I’d stick to parfaits or keto pancakes; for lunch, simple salad combinations; and for dinner, a few random recipes, like this easy spicy vegetable soup.
When I laid eyes on my first plant-based-ish grocery bill, I was shocked. I thought trading meat for vegetables would ease the bill, but a few pantry staples like almond flour really jacked it up.
The next few days, I noticed I spent a lot longer preparing meals than usual. Typically, I’d pop a piece of protein and some vegetables in the oven and have dinner ready in 20 minutes. Now, I spent that much time just chopping vegetables!
Alas, it all proved worthwhile just a few days later, when I found myself unusually energetic and productive. For one, I felt lighter and more alert during my workouts. Even dreaded sprints felt easier. My mind also felt sharper throughout the workday, and my mid-day slump started to disappear. My newfound, plant-fueled energy allowed me to make up for any time I spent prepping meals—and then some.
Another quick and rewarding change took place in my stomach. I used to feel heavy and slightly uncomfortable after most meals, but, as I introduced more vegetables, that feeling started to dissipate.
Week one, success!
Though eating meat-free had been surprisingly easy, I knew I’d have to keep working on the dairy thing in the coming weeks.
My second week, I cut my ‘once a day’ rule down to ‘once every other day.’ Baby steps! I still enjoyed the occasional egg or cheese on toast, but the energy I felt from plant-based meals (like my new go-to breakfast, a berry quinoa breakfast parfait) kept me motivated and satisfied.
During week three, though, my social calendar jammed up—and things got tricky. My plans always seemed to involve meat-centric restaurants or drinks (which meant risk of late-night junk food).
It took some extra effort, but I managed to continue cutting down on the animal products in my diet, even when eating out. However, I did end up randomly scarfing down a hot dog one night. It’s all about balance, right…?
Keep The Benefits Coming
Even with my hot dog gaffe, by the end of week three, I felt better than I had in months.
My skin, which typically hosted at least two substantial chin zits on any given day, looked clearer. I broke out less—and the zits themselves were smaller.
My taste buds had also made a clear shift. Veggie dishes I would have previously thought bland tasted flavorful. The recipes I picked up along the way transformed into literal flavor bombs. (Seriously, I think I had an out-of-body experience the first time I tried this brown rice, black bean, and sweet potato bowl.)
Plus, my gut had finally found a rhythm: I felt light and at-ease after every fully plant-based meal. When I did eat dairy (only twice that third week), the slight discomfort nudged me back towards the plant life.
On a financial note, now that my pantry was stocked with pricier staples (hi, almond flour), my grocery costs dropped.
One Month, Done
By my fourth week, I was eating completely plant-based. (One exception: the delicious ice cream cone I enjoyed when out with friends). Though I hadn’t gone completely cold-turkey on animal products, I had radically changed my diet—without feeling like I was sacrificing anything.
In the end, I couldn’t believe how great I felt! I was not about to give up my clear skin, crazy energy, and bloat-free belly, so I committed to continue eating plant-based three days a week. Not going to lie, though, I was excited to eat cheese again.
I can’t wait to see what benefits living the half-plant-based life bring in the months (and years!) to come. And you’d better believe I’ll continue enjoying some of the plant-based recipes—from perfect keto vegan pancakes to spicy cauliflower power bowls—I discovered.