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Your Ultimate Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

Contrary to what many believe, a plant-based diet is not a vegan diet, where no animal products are allowed. A plant-based diet is more flexible, consisting mainly of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils, and legumes, but allowing for some animal products. The focus is on plants and high-nutrition, whole foods. Poultry, beef, pork, eggs, fish, and dairy are eaten in moderation as well as processed and refined foods. 

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

For Health

Numerous studies have documented the improved health benefits of eating more plant-based foods. Here are just a few of the benefits:

For the Planet

Eating plant-based uses less of the Earth’s limited resources. Currently, a third of the Earth’s land is dedicated to raising livestock, and a quarter of freshwater use globally is used for meat and dairy production. In fact, the average water use per calorie for beef production is twenty times larger than for grains and starchy vegetables. Eating the plants directly, instead of eating the animals that eat the plants, is a more efficient use of resources.

Reducing our dependence on livestock can help us conserve water and reduce the carbon footprint that feeding a growing population creates.

Regenerative and vertical farming methods can go even further to help the planet while growing plant-based foods. Regenerative agriculture puts carbon back into the soil. Learn more about our diet’s impact on the environment here:

Here is the impact of food production on the environment and water supply.

Gallons of water required to produce a pound of food in each category

“Climate change is the greatest crisis humankind has ever faced, and it is a crisis that will always be simultaneously addressed together and faced alone. We cannot keep the kinds of meals we have known and also keep the planet we have known. We must either let some eating habits go or let the planet go.” -Jonathan Safran Foer

Carbon Emissions of Common Proteins

Who should eat a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet filled with more grains, fruits, and vegetables, can benefit people at any age. A study found that eating plant-based in young adulthood can reduce the risk for cardiovascular conditions later in life.

What foods can you eat on a plant-based diet?

The bulk of your diet should come from colorful, healthy plant-based ingredients. Here are 10 plant-based food groups and examples from each.

Whole Grains

These offer the best source of dietary carbohydrates and are full of fiber, important vitamins like folate, niacin, and thiamine, as well as protein, antioxidants, and minerals.

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Bulgur
  • Amaranth
  • Oats
  • Barley


Colorful vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber while being low in calories and full of water. The more you can fit on your plate, the better!

  • Leafy greens: spinach, lettuces, kale, chard
  • Microgreens
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Mushrooms


These high-starch vegetables help you get your caloric needs as well as important vitamins. They provide the macronutrient, glucose.

  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Jicama


This sweet food group adds powerful antioxidants that boost your immune system.  

  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Citrus

Beans and Legumes

Legumes add fiber and protein, helping you feel fuller and satisfied longer.

  • Black Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Fava Beans

Plant-Based Oils and Fats

Oils rich in monounsaturated fats can add heart-healthy benefits to your diet when used in moderation.

  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Avocado Oil

Herbs and Spices

Adding a punch of nutritional power and flavor, try to add one or two at every meal

  • Fennel
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon

Fermented Foods

These are considered safe for most people and can provide natural probiotics, improving digestive health and immunity, as well as increasing availability of nutrients.  

  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Tempeh

Nuts and Seeds

In moderation, these nutrient-dense foods offer heart-healthy fats, protein, and vitamins that can be easily added to or sprinkled on meals.

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Peanuts
  • Brazil Nuts

Pre-Made Plant-Based Proteins

These plant-based substrates are based around all the above ingredients and are a helpful way to keep protein levels up, especially when you’re first beginning a plant-based diet. They also offer convenience and flexibility. For example, RainBao dumplings are a complete meal that can help you meet your nutrition requirements while eating a plant-based diet

  • Impossible Burger
  • Plant-Based Seafood
  • RainBao Plant-Based Dumplings
  • Plant-Based Chicken Patties

Is a Plant-Based Diet Complete?

When planned with nutrition in mind, a plant-based diet can offer all the protein of a traditional diet with added vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, and healthy fats. While plant-based protein sources aren’t usually as dense as animal protein, eating the right amounts as part of a balanced diet can help you reach your protein goals.

See how much protein you need per day with this calculator.

In general, multiply your weight by 0.36. A 175-pound person would need about 63 grams of protein per day.

Grams of protein per 100 Grams of Food in Each Category

Not all plant-based foods are created equal.

While some plant-based foods claim to be healthy, many are filled with hidden ingredients like preservatives, colors, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, soy, and GMOs. Look for clean-label ingredients in prepared plant-based meals.

What to avoid on a plant-based diet?

  • Most animal products – Choose pasture-raised when you can

  • Highly Processed Foods

  • GMOs

  • Refined sugars 

Tips for Getting Started with a Plant-Based Diet

  • It starts with mindset. This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.
  • Keep it simple- start small. Changing just one meal a day to plant-based can have a profound impact on your health and the environment.
  • Make it colorful! Try to fill two-thirds of your plate with veggies.
  • How you eat at home begins at the store. Just because it’s got vegetables in it, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Look at the ingredients. Does it have GMOs? Artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives?
  • Don’t try to prepare everything, that can be overwhelming. Grab some pre-made or convenience products to help you meet your goals.
  • Don’t go overboard! Don’t try to change your entire diet overnight. Start with small changes.
  • Plan your recipes, but be realistic. Allow yourself flexibility for when things get busy or you want to go out.
  • Try chopping ingredients on the weekend for easy prep during the busy work week.

What does a day of meals look like with a plant-based diet?

Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins and walnuts

Snack: Fresh fruit, popcorn

Lunch: Buddha bowl with quinoa, microgreens, plant-based protein, roasted vegetables, sliced veggies, seeds, herbs, and healthy oil dressing

Snack: Fresh fruit, nuts

Dinner: Plant-based dumplings, black rice, sauteed Shiitake mushrooms

Dessert: Plant-based chocolate raw bar

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