How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (2023)

  • A plant-based diet means eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • You should minimize your intake of animal foods like meat, eggs, and dairy, but you don't need to exclude these foods entirely.
  • Research has found that a plant-based diet is very beneficial, as it can improve heart health, reduce your risk of cancer and diabetes, and even help the environment.
  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

Plant-based diets are becoming more popular as Americans seek to improve their health and eat more natural foods. In fact, a 2017 Nielsen survey found that 39% of Americans were actively trying to eat more plant-based foods.

If you're interested in trying out this healthy diet, here's a meal plan to get you started as well as more information on the benefits you can achieve from sticking to a plant-based diet.

What to eat on a plant-based diet

A plant-based diet encourages eating whole, plant-based foods, and minimizing animal products and processed foods. This differs from a vegan or vegetarian diet.

"A plant-based diet is defined by what it includes: a lot of plant foods," says Carole Bartolotto, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. "Vegan or vegetarian diets are defined by what they exclude."

For example, a vegan diet excludes all animal products and a vegetarian diet excludes animal meat. Plant-based diets don't include these restrictions, but they recommend you eat minimal amounts of them and eat foods mostly of plant-based origin instead.

Foods to eat often on a plant-based diet:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Nuts

Foods to eat in smaller portions, or less frequently:

  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Processed foods (this pertains to most healthy meal plans)

7-day plant-based diet meal plan

Here's what a full week of healthy eating on a plant-based diet could look like, according toBartolotto.

Day 1

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (1)

(Video) Whole-Food, Plant-Based Nutrition: A Beginner's Guide

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Breakfast: Plain oatmeal with walnuts and fruit with unsweetened almond milk

Lunch: Lentil tacos with a salad

Dinner: Italian-style zucchini and chickpea saute

Day 2

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (2)

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Breakfast: Quinoa with raisins and cinnamon and soy milk

Lunch: Stir-fry with veggies and tofu

Dinner: Vegetarian chili and spinach-orzo salad

Day 3

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (3)

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Breakfast: Tofu scramble with veggies

Lunch: Pasta with marinara sauce and a salad or vegetable

Dinner: Vegetarian pizza and tomato soup

(Video) A Plant-based Diet Changed My Life | Pat McAuley | TEDxBabsonCollege

Day 4

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (4)

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Breakfast: Pancakes or waffles with fruit puree

Lunch: Lentil soup and a side salad

Dinner: Grilled vegetable kabobs with grilled tofu, and a quinoa and spinach salad

Day 5

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (5)

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Breakfast: Handful of nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts) and fruit

Lunch: Grilled tofu with quinoa and a salad

Dinner: Black bean and sweet potato quesadilla

Day 6

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (6)

Arx0nt/Getty Images

Breakfast: Smoothie with banana, pea protein, soy milk, and cacao powder

Lunch: Tomato basil soup and greek salad with chickpeas and feta

(Video) INTERMITTENT FASTING | What I Eat In A Day! (Plant-Based Diet)

Dinner: Rice bowl with kidney beans, spinach, and mixed veggies

Day 7

How to jumpstart healthy eating with a 7-day plant-based diet meal plan, prepared by a registered dietitian (7)

nata_vkusidey/Getty Images

Breakfast: Overnight oats and fresh fruit

Lunch: Black bean burger and kale salad

Dinner: White bean chili and corn muffins

A note about animal foods

A plant-based diet can exclude all or most animal foods, but it can also mean eating proportionately more foods from plant sources. While this meal plan doesn't include animal foods, that doesn't mean you have to get rid of them entirely.

Should you want to include animal foods, consider using them as a complement to your meal rather than the centerpiece. A few meals over the course of the week that include a small amount of animal foods may be a good place to start.

For example, you can have scrambled eggs with a veggie hash and avocado once a week, or sprinkle some cheese on your black bean quesadilla.

Plant-based diet benefits

Following a plant-based diet can result in numerous benefits for your health and the environment. Here's how.

Improved heart health: A large 2019 study found that eating a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 16% and cardiovascular disease mortality by 31%. The characteristics of a plant-based diet — high intake of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, pulses, and whole grains with low intake of refined grains, added sugars, and animal foods — contribute to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease by helping to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

Reduced risk of cancer: Eating lots of plant-based foods has been linked to lower cancer rates. There are a number of potential explanations, including the phytochemicals that come from increased plant consumption and a higher fiber intake, which has specifically been tied to lower breast cancer and colorectal cancer risk.

(Video) Dr. Mark Hyman’s Guide to Plant-Based Eating | Food Diaries: Bite Size | Harper’s BAZAAR

Lower risk of diabetes: Plant-based diets are associated with a substantially lowered risk of type 2 diabetes. For example, a large 2016 study in PLOS Medicine found that following a plant-based diet was associated with about a 20% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Several mechanisms contribute to this: a healthful plant-based diet could help lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease chronic inflammation.

It's better for the environment: A plant-based diet offers environmental benefits due to its lower carbon footprint, Bartolotto says. If you would like to help fight climate change, eating more plant-based foods is imperative. About 25% to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come from our food systems, with livestock adding more than the entire transportation sector. Eating more plants and less meat — specifically beef and lamb — and consuming less dairy decreases this demand and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Are there any downsides to a plant-based diet?

"There is this perception that you can't get adequate protein from plant-based foods," Bartolotto says. "However, nothing could be further from the truth. Eating beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds each day will ensure you get enough protein and other nutrients."

In addition, tofu, lentils, and spinach are good sources of iron. Ensuring you get enough iron and protein on a plant-based diet is particularly important because, typically, most people get the majority of these nutrients from meat.

As Bartolotto explains, there really aren't a lot of downsides to eating a plant-based diet, as long as you eat a varied diet with a combination of beans, lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. This balance will ensure you get everything that you need nutritionally.

Another way to avoid potential health risks is to consider taking a B12 supplement if you're avoiding all animal products. You can also take a calcium supplement, as the amount of calcium in plant food varies, Bartolotto says.

Insider's takeaway

Overall, a plant-based diet is a healthy option due to its focus on whole, natural foods over processed foods. For those who may find it difficult to stick to, there are a couple of specific tips to help.

Find recipes you enjoy that are easy to make, or that you can make a pot of and eat several times during the week, Bartolotto says. You can also get a box of fresh veggies and fruits delivered to your home every week, so you don't have to keep going to the grocery store.

Related articles fromHealth Reference:

  • How to kickstart healthy eating with this 1-week Mediterranean diet meal plan recommended by a registered dietitian
  • An easy 7-day keto meal plan to boost your protein intake and cut carbs
  • How to balance your blood sugar levels by following this 7-day diabetic meal plan
  • What is the Paleo diet and whether it helps you lose weight
  • Does intermittent fasting work? Research doesn't have a definite answer for its long-term effects
Marissa Cruz Lemar
(Video) Plant-Based Eating: First 21 Days

Marissa Cruz Lemar is a freelance writer for Insider. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and Task & Purpose, among others. Follow Marissa on Twitter: @mcruzmissile.

FAQs

How do you transition to a plant-based diet for beginners? ›

Here are some tips to get you started:
  1. Start gradually. ...
  2. Stock up on healthy foods. ...
  3. Plan your daily meals in advance (Do meal prep 2 times per week) ...
  4. Replace animal ingredients with healthy plant-based food. ...
  5. Don't be afraid of volume when eating plant-based!
24 Jun 2021

How long does it take a plant-based diet to start working? ›

Anywhere from three to six weeks, Esselstyn explained. Often, when a patient diligently follows a plant-based diet and then stays on it for up to six weeks, Dr. Esselstyn told The Beet, they see a dramatic improvement in their circulation and their ED is reversed, even without the benefit of a pill.

How do you structure a plant-based diet? ›

Nonetheless, the basic principles of a whole-foods, plant-based diet are as follows: Emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods. Limits or avoids animal products. Focuses on plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, which should make up the majority of what you eat.

How do I eat a plant-based week? ›

A 7-Day Sample Menu for a Standard Plant-Based Diet
  1. Breakfast Tofu scramble.
  2. Lunch Cauliflower rice bowl with black beans, corn, avocado, and salsa.
  3. Dinner Veggie-topped pizza.
  4. Snack Zucchini chips.
  5. Breakfast Oatmeal-based breakfast muffins.
  6. Lunch Tomato basil soup with oyster crackers.
  7. Dinner Veggie stir-fry with tofu.

What can you eat on a plant-based diet for breakfast? ›

Amazing Plant-Based Breakfast Recipes to Start Your Day Off Right
  • Coconut Porridge Bowl. ...
  • Banana Cream Pie Chia Pudding. ...
  • Carrot Cake Overnight Oats. ...
  • Plant-Based Breakfast Skillet Recipe. ...
  • Mint Chocolate Green Smoothie. ...
  • Savory Vegan Breakfast Bowl. ...
  • Fruit-Filled Overnight Oats. ...
  • Vegan Coconut Rice Pudding.
21 Jan 2022

What beginners should know about plant-based eating? ›

Use healthier fats like olive oil, nuts, avocados, nut butters, olives, or even plant-based butter.
  • Use salad as a base. Start with greens like spinach or romaine lettuce. ...
  • Eat whole grains for breakfast. Start your day with quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat, or barley. ...
  • Eat fruit for dessert. ...
  • Plan it out.
30 Sept 2021

What happens to your body when you start a plant-based diet? ›

Plants are high in fiber.

Eating a plant-based diet improves the health of your gut so you are better able to absorb the nutrients from food that support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Fiber can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar and it's great for good bowel management.

What are the negatives of a plant-based diet? ›

Plant-based diets carry some risk of inadequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intake. But these risks are readily overcome by choosing the right vegetarian foods and, when necessary, supplements. For example, soy, quinoa, and nuts are good sources of protein, and tofu, lentils, and spinach are good sources of iron.

Can you eat eggs on a plant-based diet? ›

Eggs are a wonderful complement to a plant-based lifestyle as they can help you consume more vegetables. Plus, eggs can help you absorb more of the fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants found in plant foods such as vitamin E and carotenoids.

What is plant-based menu? ›

A plant-based diet consists of all minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices and excludes all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

Can you eat cheese on a plant-based diet? ›

Plant-based diets exclude all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, so they are both vegetarian and vegan.

Can you eat bread on a plant-based diet? ›

Many types of bread are naturally vegan. Still, some include non-vegan ingredients like eggs, milk, butter, or honey. Checking the ingredient list is the best way to ensure your bread is vegan. Alternatively, you can make your own by substituting non-vegan items for vegan ones.

What is the best plant-based meal plan? ›

1. Sakara. Sakara is a whole-food plant-based meal plan that dishes out meals that are full of healthy organic produce. Every colourful ready-to-eat meal has been designed by nutritionists, and everything is gluten-free, non-GMO and refined sugar free, in addition to being 100% plant-based.

Is peanut butter plant-based? ›

Long story short: yes, peanut butter is indeed vegan! Our favorite varieties are those made with just peanuts and a pinch of salt or sugar, but some store-bought brands are also made with plant-based oils and lots of added salt or sweeteners.

Can you eat fish on a plant-based diet? ›

What is a plant-based diet? These vegan-like diets eliminate all animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and honey.

What cereal can you eat on plant-based diet? ›

The 15 Best Vegan Cereals To Stock Your Pantry
  • Fiber One™ Breakfast Cereal, Original Bran. ...
  • Bob's Red Mill Resealable Old Country Style Muesli Cereal, Pack of 4. ...
  • purely elizabeth. ...
  • Three Wishes Grain-Free, Plant-Based Honey Cereal. ...
  • One Degree Cereal Ancient Maize Flakes. ...
  • Kashi GO, Breakfast Cereal, Peanut Butter Crunch.
26 Mar 2021

Can I have coffee on a plant-based diet? ›

All coffee is technically plant-based, or vegan—the beans are naturally growing plants and all you need is water. That said, plant-based (and plant-leaning!) coffee lovers who are used to taking their coffee with sweeteners and cream have more options than ever before.

How do I start a plant-based lifestyle? ›

8 ways to get started with a plant-based diet
  1. Eat lots of vegetables. ...
  2. Change the way you think about meat. ...
  3. Choose good fats. ...
  4. Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. ...
  5. Include whole grains for breakfast. ...
  6. Go for greens. ...
  7. Build a meal around a salad. ...
  8. Eat fruit for dessert.
26 Sept 2018

How do you plant plants in 5 easy steps? ›

How To Go Plant-based with 5 Easy Steps
  1. Start Slow with Simple Swaps. Starting a plant-based diet can feel overwhelming if you're new to plant-based eating. ...
  2. Pick One Meal A Day/Week to Go Vegan. ...
  3. Make Sure Your Meals Are Balanced! ...
  4. Focus On What You're Adding, Not Taking Away. ...
  5. You Don't Need To Be Perfect.
19 Jul 2022

How many calories should you eat on a plant-based diet? ›

The number of calories you eat per day will vary based on your age, your overall size and your nutrition goals. But to give a rough estimate, someone eating between 1,600 to 1,800 calories per day should consume around: 180- 290 grams of carbs. 60- 90 grams of fat.

How long does it take the gut to adjust to plant-based diet? ›

However, an overnight conversion from standard western omnivore to healthy high-fiber herbivore can result in a period of bloating and digestive discomfort as your microbiome and digestive processes adjust. Some people may need to take a step back and make the transition over a period of six weeks or so.

Why am I not losing weight on plant-based diet? ›

A whole food plant-based diet often leads to healthy weight loss, but if you're not seeing the scale move, these reasons could be why: You're still eating and cooking with oil. You need to eat more leafy greens (and fiber in general) You're going out to eat too much.

How much weight can you lose in a week on a plant-based diet? ›

It works. You can lose up to 2 to 3 pounds a week and keep it off it you stick to a whole food plant-based –or vegan– diet.

Why do vegans have a higher risk of stroke? ›

Of all the risk factors, hypertension is likely the most significant. In the INTERSTROKE study, the population-attributable risk of hypertension was 46% for all strokes (multiple studies have found that vegans and vegetarians have lower blood pressure than their meat-eating counterparts).

Is olive oil allowed on a plant-based diet? ›

Nowhere along the olive oil production process do we see any animal products used, nor any animals exploited. Whether you choose oil from black or green olives, or different varieties like Koroneiki, Arbequina, Arbosana, or Mission, you're safe to consume these plant-based, healthy vegan fats.

Can you gain weight on a plant-based diet? ›

But don't be fooled: Plant-based diets come with the same basic principle of any eating pattern. “If you're not burning off more calories than you're consuming, you'll gain weight,” says Kristin Gustashaw, an advanced clinical dietitian with Rush Medical Center in Chicago.

Is pasta OK on a plant-based diet? ›

Pasta dishes make an excellent option for those adhering to a plant-based diet for several reasons. To start, pasta is a natural plant-based food made simply from grain, and it is also and easy food to incorporate other plant-based foods into, like veggies and beans.

Is oatmeal considered plant-based? ›

Sure, oatmeal, on its own, is entirely vegan. However, sometimes other ingredients make it no longer vegan.

Can you eat oats on a plant-based diet? ›

And while it's not a complete protein—meaning it doesn't contain all nine of the essential amino acids—Shapiro still considers oatmeal a great plant-based protein source, especially for vegans and vegetarians.

What plant-based foods have the most protein? ›

The following healthful, plant-based foods have a high-protein content per serving:
  1. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Share on Pinterest Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and edamame are among the richest sources of protein in a vegan diet. ...
  2. Lentils. ...
  3. Chickpeas. ...
  4. Peanuts. ...
  5. Almonds. ...
  6. Spirulina. ...
  7. Quinoa. ...
  8. Mycoprotein.

Is quinoa a plant-based food? ›

All whole plant foods contain all 9 essential amino acids, some just have lower amounts than others. Still, quinoa, like tofu, has a large amount of all of the essential amino acids and 8 grams of protein per cup, making it a really great plant-based protein option.

Are Raisins considered plant-based? ›

Raisins are, in many ways, the ideal vegan snack. They are nutritious and free of animal products. However, like with other things, there is always the risk that animal products will be used. Glycerin, natural taste, and vitamins are examples of such ingredients.

What kind of bread can I eat on a plant-based diet? ›

Editor's Note: The most common vegan bread types are sourdough, Ezekiel bread, ciabatta, focaccia and baguettes.

Are french fries part of a plant-based diet? ›

Lifestyle & Food

For example, french fries, Oreos, potato chips, many fake meat products, and soda are “vegan,” but they are not considered to be “plant-based.” Why? Because they are refined food products and usually not healthy at all.

What milk on a plant-based diet? ›

Soy milk is a go-to choice for a good reason. Considered to be the original plant-based milk, it has eight grams of protein per serving and is usually fortified with vitamin D. Its nutritional content is the most comparable to cow's milk.

Are Cheerios part of a plant-based diet? ›

Well, the good news is, yes they are! With very limited ingredients (mainly whole grain oats and corn starch) original Cheerios are vegan and don't contain any animal byproducts.

How does a plant-based diet remove plaque from arteries? ›

Plant foods contain no cholesterol, whereas meat, eggs, and dairy products contain large amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats, which can cause arteries to become hard and clogged. Plus, the high fiber content of a vegetarian diet helps eliminate excess cholesterol from the digestive tract.

Why is honey not plant-based? ›

As a food produced by insects, honey is by definition not vegan. Bees gather nectar from flowers, partially digest it, and then regurgitate it once back in their hives. Worker bees then seal it into beeswax honeycomb, much of it for the purpose of storing food to enable the hive to survive through the winter.

Is oatmeal considered a plant-based food? ›

Yes! It doesn't matter which brand of oatmeal you buy, they're all vegan as long as they don't have any other ingredients that are not vegan.

Is oatmeal part of a vegan diet? ›

If you want a hot, simple, and filling vegan breakfast, oatmeal is a great choice. Steel cut oats take longer than rolled oats to cook, but many people consider the improved texture worth the added time. Kathy Hester has devoted an entire cookbook to vegan oatmeal recipes.

Does plant-based diet make you lose weight? ›

Plant-based diets can help you lose weight and keep it off because they are packed with fiber, which helps fill you up, without adding extra calories. Aim for 40 grams of fiber a day, which is easy to do when you move vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans to the center of your plate.

Are Rolled Oats plant-based? ›

Oats themselves are vegan, so it's all in the ingredients you use to make it. The main ingredient to worry about is the liquid used. Some say that you get a creamier result when you use water to make oatmeal.

Videos

1. The plant-based diet | Michael Greger, MD, | TEDxBismarck
(TEDx Talks)
2. How To Meal Prep 12 Easy Vegan Recipes In 90 Minutes For A Beginner
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3. January Jump Start: Healthy Vegan Meal Prep/Plan
(Heather Nicholds)
4. Registered Dietitian Shares Nutrition Advice
(Morris Hospital)
5. Plant Based Nutrition: Julieanna Hever at TEDxConejo 2012
(TEDx Talks)
6. How to Create a Healthy Plate
(My Doctor - Kaiser Permanente)
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