Plant-based eating made easy with simple substitutions and practical tips for shopping, cooking, eating out, and traveling
A lot of people who watch The Game Changers feel compelled to overhaul their entire diet overnight. While some people are capable of doing this and sticking with it long term, many run into trouble once the initial enthusiasm wears off a bit and they realize that their refrigerators and cupboards are still full of their old standbys, they don’t know where to buy (or how to cook) the ‘new’ food, and their partners/friends/family/colleagues may not be very supportive of their ‘dramatic’ switch.
Our goal is to provide you with the resources and support you need to help you avoid these common experiences and make enjoyable, sustainable changes to your diet. While most people think eating better is simply a matter of willpower, the reality is that being prepared and supported is much more important. Before you get started, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the different sections of our site and to connect with our Facebook and social media pages.
Our approach to making dietary changes is not all-or-nothing, it's “all or something".
Everyone has their own goals and their own rate of change. Some people cut out animal products entirely, while others start by including more plant foods or making simple swaps, and take it from there. The bottom line is that every time you eat more plants you take a positive step towards improving your performance and health. Contrary to what most diet plans will tell you, every positive step counts.
Set one tangible goal at a time, and wait until that goal feels sustainable before moving on to the next one.
For some people, this could mean making one meal a day, like breakfast, plant-based. For others, this could mean dedicating one or two days per week to eating fully plant-based. In both cases, planning ahead is usually key.
Start by experimenting with plant-based foods that taste and look familiar, rather than jumping to unfamiliar ingredients and dishes.
If you like cereal for breakfast, switch to a plant-based milk. If you like chili for lunch, use your usual recipe but just stick with beans or swap in a ground beef substitute. If you like chocolate cake for dessert, use our simple Swaps and Substitutions guide to help you make a plant-based version that tastes the same. And of course also check out our Recipes section, which includes simple, delicious plant-based versions of common meals, snacks, etc.
Find easy plant-based substitutions for foods you already enjoy.
There are so many plant-based alternatives to dairy products that almost everyone can find a plant-based milk, cheese, or even ice cream they enjoy just as much. The same applies to meat-based products like burgers, which there are so many new varieties of that it’s hard to keep track. For athletes and others who regularly consume animal-based protein powders, the plant-based alternatives are also virtually endless. The key in all these cases is to experiment until you find the substitutions that best suits your taste, performance and/or health goals.
Identify the plant foods and plant-based meals you already love.
You might be surprised to discover just how many of the foods and dishes you already enjoy are plant-based, including stir fries, soups, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and grain-based breakfasts, not to mention the huge variety of naturally plant-based meals from international cuisines including Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African.
Surround yourself with plant-based foods, so that when your hunger/craving kicks in, you have lots of options.
In addition to having a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and spices on hand, also make sure you stock your fridge, freezer and cupboards with plant-based milks, burgers, burritos, pizza, nut butters, dark chocolate, and so on. The foods you get started on should taste good and fill you up, even if they aren’t perfectly healthy. It’s much more important to enjoy your new way of eating than drudge through bland meals and snacks that leave you unsatisfied.
Approach your new way of eating as opening up to a new world of foods, rather than closing one off.
Deprivation diets never last long, but eating patterns that taste good, feel good, and yield tangible results (improved energy, fitness, appearance, health, etc.) create a positive feedback loop that get stronger and stronger over time. You will likely also be surprised by just how varied plant-based eating actually can be, with literally thousands of new flavors, textures and combinations to try.
Don’t be hard on yourself for ‘slipping up’.
It can take weeks, months or even years for many people to dial in to a new way of eating, and judging yourself for ‘giving in’ to cravings or convenience is neither fair nor effective. A much better strategy is to focus on the positive steps you’ve made, how they made you feel, and build on them one step at a time.
Crowd out your shopping cart:
If you intentionally include more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds — as well as plant-based dairy, meat and egg alternatives — in your cart, you’ll find that over time you’ve naturally “crowded out” many animal foods.
Consider buying frozen produce.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a convenient and affordable alternative to fresh, and often contain more nutrients because the foods are picked and frozen when they are their ripest and most nutrient-dense. Frozen fruit like berries and exotic fruit mixes can be used in smoothies, in baking, in oatmeal or on top of pancakes, etc. Frozen vegetables like broccoli, beans and asparagus can be added to a wide variety of cooked dishes. Buying pre-cut fruits and vegetables will also save you time.
Buy from the bulk section to save money on staples.
Purchasing some items from the bulk section of a store can be a great way to save money, even if you’re only buying a small amount. Look for nuts and seeds, spices and herbs, flours, grains and healthy snacks. If you don’t have much variety in your area when it comes to these foods, take a look at online bulk stores.
Compare grocery stores.
Plant-based alternatives vary between stores both in variety and price point. If you happen to live in an area with more than one grocery store, it is definitely worth the time to check out the options in each one. There are also a number of online retailers that sell plant-based foods, which can be a convenient and cost effective option, particularly if you live in an area with limited in-store choices. Doing some research can help keep costs down and simplify your shopping experience.
If budget is a priority, whole foods are not only healthier, but also cheaper.
Most plant-based staples, like beans and whole grains, and many fruits and vegetables (like bananas, and potatoes) are very affordable and can serve as cost effective foundations for a wide variety of dishes including pastas, burritos, sandwiches, wraps, soups, chili, pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, and so on. You can find recipes and more ideas in our Recipes section.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
Thinking a day or even a week ahead, and planning out meals and snacks accordingly, can help you stick to your plan while saving you time, money and stress
Remember that you can still have all the meals you love.
Virtually every dish can be made plant-based, including most comfort classics. See our Recipes section for inspiration, but also feel free to experiment in the kitchen on your own.
Get adventurous in the kitchen.
There are so many new flavors, textures and colors to be discovered in plant-based cooking that even those who don’t typically enjoy cooking often find themselves becoming amateur chefs. All of the techniques used to cook animal products equally apply to plant-based cooking, including barbeque, charring, etc. Take a look at our Recipes section to get you started, but also look around online to find innovative ways to create tasty new plant-based dishes.
Don’t forget to season and garnish.
Make your plant-based meals just as flavorful as you would make your old favorites using seasonings, tastes and textures you’re already used to. Animal foods like meat and fish are often just a vehicle for flavor; the same spices and herbs and cooking methods can make plant-based eating just as flavorful.
Remember that you don’t have to make everything from scratch.
Although some people prefer to make all of their meals from the ground up, most people don’t have the time. The good news is that there are plenty of pre-made sauces and dressings that can allow you to be creative in the kitchen while still saving you time.
Sneak in extra fruits and vegetables by blending or pureeing them.
If you, your partner or your kids aren’t big fans of many/most fruits and vegetables, try pureeing them into soups or blending them into smoothies.
Explore Instagram, Pinterest and blogs for plant-based meal ideas and inspiration.
Plant-based eating has become so popular that there is something for everyone online, no matter what kind of food you love the most. Take some time to look around for the sites and pages that appeal to you. Of course our Recipes section is a good place to start.
Milk is perhaps the easiest animal food to substitute. If a recipe calls for dairy milk you can usually simply use the same measurement of plant-based milk. Almond, soy and coconut are the most commonly found plant milks, but there are now many more to choose from including rice, cashew, macadamia, oat, flax, pea and hemp (take a look in both the refrigerator section and cartoned milk section at the grocery store to see what’s available). Most plant-milks can also be used in hot drinks such as tea and coffee.
There are several options to replace eggs. Eggs in recipes can be replaced with mashed banana, unsweetened applesauce, silken tofu, chickpea flour (this works particularly well for omelettes and eggless scrambles), baking soda and vinegar and even canned pumpkin. Both flax and chia seeds can also be blended with water to create the consistency of raw egg white. There are also several brands of plant-based egg replacer (these can be found in the baking aisle of the grocery store or online). The key to successful egg replacing is to remember that different recipes often call for different egg substitutes. We therefore recommend finding a plant-based recipe to work from (which has already been tried and tested and will tell you which egg replacer to use) rather than “plantifying” a standard recipe for optimal results. If you want to replace eggs in their own right, try tofu scramble in place of scrambled eggs (you can check out our tofu scramble recipe here) or experiment with one of the new plant-based egg alternatives on the market (you can now find these at most good grocery stores, usually in the refrigerator/egg section). Some of these products can also be used in recipes (check the label to be sure).
Butter in recipes and for cooking can easily be replaced with plant-based butters, margarines, oils and sprays. Healthier alternatives include avocado or nut butters, depending on the recipe. Many of these options also taste great on toast, bagels, etc.
Cheese can be swapped for one of the many different types of plant-based cheeses, including cheddar, mozzarella, feta and brie, are available in many grocery stores, ranging from more refined to less. Several brands make excellent plant-based parmesan, but for a simple and cost effective option try substituting nutritional yeast, which has a distinctive cheese-like flavor that can also be used to add depth and flavor to pasta dishes.
Additionally, plant-based cheeses are simple to make at home from nuts or seeds. Almond cheese, for example, is a great substitute for ricotta, and cashew cheese can be used in place of brie. There are plenty of basic (and not so basic!) recipes freely available online.
As with milks and cheeses, there are a wide range of plant-based yogurts available in stores including almond, soy and coconut varieties. As always, choose the option that best suits your taste, performance, and health goals.
Sauces, dressings and condiments.
Many pre-made sauces, dressings and condiments are already plant-based, and there are also many affordable plant-based alternatives to traditionally animal-based ones available in grocery stores and online. In our Recipes section you will find recipes for several of our favorite home-made versions.
The range of meat substitutes, both store-bought and home-made, are nearly limitless. While plant-based meats can range from healthy to healthier, many recipes work well with whole foods like tofu, tempeh, lentils and beans. Additionally, since the vast majority of the population are not gluten-intolerant, seitan (a wheat protein product) is also a great option. For examples of how these options can be used, please head to our Recipes section.
While store-bought fish substitutes are fairly new to the market, there are many home-made recipes that imitate the taste and texture of various types of fish. Various types of seaweed, including nori, kombu, and wakame, can also be used to make dishes taste ‘fishy’.
Many athletes and other active people use protein powder to bolster their daily protein intake. Whey, egg, beef and other animal-based protein powders can be easily swapped for one of the many plant-based protein powders available in stores and online, including pea, soy, brown rice, hemp, and blended proteins.
If you can, try a plant-based restaurant.
Eating at a plant-based or mostly plant-based (i.e. vegan or vegetarian) restaurant is a simple way to make sure you have plenty of options to choose from on the menu, and can be a great way to explore new plant-based flavors and textures. As plant-based eating becomes more and more popular, the range of restaurants dedicated to entirely or predominantly plant-based foods is increasing. Keep an eye out in your local area or when traveling.
Look for plant-based choices at your favorite restaurants.
You might be surprised by how many restaurants and fast food chains now offer plant-based options, ranging from plant-based burgers and pizzas to burritos, tacos and bowls. And always feel free to ask your server what the most popular plant-based options as they will definitely have been asked that question before.
Remember that international cuisines often have lots of plant-based options,
including Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African.
Check the menu online before you go.
Planning ahead by checking the menu online and finding out what the options are makes ordering much easier when you get to the restaurant. When reading menus, look out for little symbols/codes (often the letter “v” or a leaf symbol) that indicate which meals are plant-based.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Because plant-based eating is becoming increasingly common, most restaurants will be more than happy to accommodate you if you request a plant-based meal, even if they don’t have one on the menu. Many chefs love the challenge and the meals they create on the fly sometimes even become new menu items.
If you’re going out with friends or family, suggest a restaurant that you know has options for you.
If you are able to influence the restaurant choice, do a little online research and find a restaurant that offers plant-based food. You might find that the rest of your group tries out the choices too.
If you’re visiting friends or family, offer to help out.
Not everyone will know how to make plant-based food, and some hosts will be too busy to make a separate meal, so if you’re visiting friends or family the best way to ensure that your tastes are catered for is to bring your own dish, or offer to help with the cooking. This can also be a great way to introduce others to plant-based eating. Professionally catered events such as parties and weddings will usually accommodate any special requests in advance, and many people now offer plant-based menu choices to everyone.
Plan ahead for the holidays.
Holidays can be intimidating for people who want to eat meat or animal-free. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of plant-based alternatives for all of your holiday favorites, including plant-based turkey and other meat options, as well as simple whole foods-based ways to replace meat and common holiday side dishes. If you’re spending the holidays with friends and family, offer to bring some plant-based dishes along to cater for yourself and anybody who wants to try them.
Plan ahead for the journey.
Although most gas stations, train stations and airports will sell some plant-based snacks, it’s usually a good idea to pack your own food as well.
If you are flying, check the meal options ahead of time.
Virtually every airline that offers meals has plant-based options. If you can’t see a way to make a meal selection via your airline’s online portal, contact the airline customer service line at least 48 hours before departure to find out more.
Consider bringing a few essentials with you in your luggage.
Many hotels offer plant-based meal options, but consider packing a few basics and taking them with you. You can also find a local grocery store and stock up on arrival. Many hotel rooms will have small fridges that can be stocked with keep-cool items. If you want to prepare your own meals altogether, book hotel rooms or Airbnbs with kitchens. It can also be helpful to travel with a few food containers so you can stock up or travel with leftovers if you find a great restaurant or market.
Find plant-based restaurants in advance.
A little planning goes a long way. As well as looking online for plant-based or plant-friendly restaurants and cafes in the area you are visiting, there are a number of apps that can help you find plant-based options nearby.
If you don’t speak the language, plan ahead.
If you’re travelling to a country where you don't speak the language, try using the Google translate feature on your phone or tablet to translate questions, statements and requests about your food preferences that you might need in local restaurants, such as “‘is there egg/milk/butter/meat in this?’ or “I don’t eat meat”, or “No cheese, please”. It is also useful to check the words for the foods you would prefer to avoid before you travel, such as “beef,” “eggs," “fish,” “gelatin” and “whey." The Vegan Passport app includes a multilingual plant-based phrasebook in 79 languages and images that can be used to help communicate.
If you’re stuck, choose basic foods.
Markets, grocery stores and restaurants in most places will usually offer fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes that can be made into simple meals or snacks until you can find exactly what you need.
Find some online inspiration.
Take a look online for plant-based travel blogs and Instagram accounts for tips, ideas and travel hacks.
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