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What It’s Really Like to Start A Plant Based Diet

Hi my name is Cristin and I love a fad diet. Excuse me. I believe the PC term is “lifestyle”. You know, a diet you repeat over & over for the rest of your life until you die, devoid of cheese & happiness. If you can think of a trendy diet, I’ve tried it. Yesterday marked an entire month of being plant based and also marked the first time that I didn’t totally go off the rails. In fact, I didn’t even cheat to celebrate! That has never, and I mean never, happened before. I’ve finished the Daniel fast and then pretty much ate everything in sight, made it through Whole 30 only to celebrate with a load of dairy and a side of constipation, and gave up Paleo because if I didn’t have a carb someone was getting run over with a car. Before I answer a few questions you all have about how to start a plant based diet, let’s tackle some disclaimers first. I am not a medical professional, dietician or anywhere even close. I am, however, a girl that loves food & simultaneously wants to be as healthy as possible while still living my life.

Plant based dinner recipe

My favorite plant-based dinner: Saute mushrooms (and onions if you want) until they are tender, add in broccoli or zucchini, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the broccoli and/or zucchini is tender. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the mixture & add in your favorite pasta (anything lentil, whole grain or veggie based will work). Top with cracked pepper & sea salt & enjoy. Zach adds the fake parmesan to his & you can also use a dry white wine when you’re cooking the mushrooms!

Why I Started a Plant Based Diet

Now, let’s begin with why I started a plant based diet. I know plant based is all the rage these days but I didn’t start this diet because of an article or podcast & I haven’t watched a single documentary. Last fall we booked a trip to Hawaii for this March. I remember thinking, “ok, I’m going to do something to feel good in Hawaii and not feel swollen”. I didn’t set out to lose a ton of pounds, I just want to put on a swimsuit and not feel like a marshmallow that has an extra 15 lbs of water weight. I follow Hushup & Hustle on Instagram and have always been interested in her 80/20 plant based lifestyle, and decided in October of last year that this would be one of my 2020 goals. Naturally I had to get through my birthday, Thanksgiving, Zach’s birthday, Christmas and eating my way through New Orleans at the National Championship first. So the day after the National Championship we had one last oyster & dairy-filled brunch and I set off on my plant based journey.

I have SO MANY details to share about being plant based! I feel like getting information on how to start, what to eat, what to cook, what to order and how to be plant based was next to impossible. I remember I just went to Trader Joes & walked around for almost two hours inspecting every single item to see if it was “Vegan”. Now is a good time to point out that being plant based is not the same as being vegan. Vegan’s don’t eat anything at all that stems from an animal. Eating plant based is essentially eating a diet that is primarily based in plants including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, and with few or no animal products. Some people do whole foods plant based where you eat food that is as close to its natural state as possible and others are pretty much vegans but might eat some dairy here and there. Zach and I intend to introduce lean proteins back into our diet but I knew that if I started out 80/20 then I would focus on the 20% a whole lot more than the 80% plant based. I wanted to be better about getting more fiber in my diet and eating more veggies, so we made a goal to go all-in for 8 weeks. We aren’t eating any meat or dairy, but we are using olive oil occasionally, something most whole food plant based people don’t do. My theory on that is if you are buying a high quality olive oil then that’s probably as natural as eating some cheese made from cashews or a hotdog from mystery veggies.

I want to share with you guys how I got started, what resources, blogs, and instagram accounts helped me, the easy plant based recipes I’ve made, the recipes I’ve found online that I liked and grocery lists for what plant based foods and products actually taste good. By the time I finish typing it out it would be the longest blog post ever so I’m going to make it into an e-book. Plus I think it would be pretty handy to have a pdf you could open on your phone with easy shopping lists & links to the best IG images, recipes, and blog articles from the experts out there.

If you want to sign up to purchase my “beginners guide to plant-based for people who like to eat & don’t love to cook, e-book” then enter your email here. I was hoping to launch by April 1st but quarantine really just took over. I am getting to it as soon as possible!

For now, I’m going to answer a few of the most popular questions I have received from my Instagram stories.

Plant Based Q&A

Have you lost weight? Yes! The last time I checked was several days ago and I was down 8 lbs. I haven’t changed anything else and still take the same vitamins, supplements and in fact, I’m working out even less. I would say I am averaging 3 workouts a week right now. Zach is down 15 or 16 lbs and is working out the same amount.

Was weight loss your goal? Yes & no. I still haven’t lost the “baby weight” and I do want to lean out, but honestly I just wanted to try it to see what the hype was about. I had heard about what it does for inflammation, your gut, hair, skin, etc etc and I wanted to see if it was true.

How do you feel? Skin, hair, mood, sleep, etc? In all honesty I feel awesome. I have more energy, I’m sleeping great, I feel my mind is sharper, and I don’t feel bloated or sluggish. I haven’t noticed much change in skin or hair but the biggest thing is that it feels AWESOME to just eat whenever I want and as much as I want.

Is Zach doing it? The girls? Zach is doing it! I basically begged him to because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it without us both doing it together. The girls absolutely ARE NOT doing it. They will eat the veggies with us but still crush all things chicken and cheese.

Favorite plant based recipes? Plant based cookbooks? Honestly, not many. A lot of vegan recipes are time consuming, mushy or weird. I’ve been doing smoothies, salads, a TON of quinoa/rice/bean/veggie bowls, soups, sweet potatoes and PASTAS. I think being southern helps me a ton with plant based because I haven’t met a lima bean or a pan of okra that I don’t instantly love. And it turns out vegan butter isn’t all that bad.

What snacks do you eat? My number one plant based snack is an apple and peanut butter & I also eat Blender Bombs as snacks! I partner with them so if you use CRISTIN10 you can save 10%!

Are you able to stay full without eating a lot of carbs? 100%. I think it’s due to all of the fiber I’m eating. I also think that helps a lot with the gut health. Zach has had chronic gut issues and pain and it is all but gone from eating plant based.

How much more expensive is it? For us it hasn’t been necessarily more expensive (other than what I’ve spent testing foods). Again, I’m not trying to eat weird vegan foods and fake cheeses. I make a ton of soups and we rarely go out to eat because it’s hard to order stuff. When you’re used to eating steaks and sushi and go to eating beans and quinoa and lettuce and frozen fruit, you actually might save money.

How many times have you eaten Chick-Fil-A? Nuggets? Once. Fries? Maybe like 3 times when my girls have had them. Diet sweet tea & lemonade? Too many too count.

How bad do you miss meat? Not terribly. If we go out to eat I’ll be bummed for a second but then when I leave dinner and don’t feel tired or bloated it’s totally worth it. I do miss sushi, salmon, soups with venison and chicken salad and will add those things back in when I get to the 80/20 stage.

How are you surviving without cheese? I don’t know! I LOVE, and I mean LOVE having summer sausage, cheese, pickles and spicy mustard as a snack. I think that being able to eat pasta and peanut butter has curbed the cheese craving. I honestly don’t miss it.

What is the worst part of starting a plant based diet? In the beginning you are SUPER bloated, so gassy and stink. (And now nobody is going to do it). To be honest, my sweat still smells rough if I don’t drink enough water or workout that day. Well, the real worst part is not eating fried chicken from Chick-fil-a but the pros outweigh the cons.

Have you tried meatless chicken / burgers? Yes. 99.9% of them are weird and disgusting. The Beyond Burger meat and the “Trader Joes Beefless Beef” are the only two I have liked. And I’ve only eaten them in soups and mixed in with seasoning.

Do you plan to stop? Nope! We plan to keep up the plant based diet for another month and then introduce lean protein in. Some people who do 80/20 think of it as 80% of the days vs 20% of the days but I will probably base it more by my weekly meals and eat plant based all the time except for the occasional meal that I love with high-quality meat.

I hope that helps answer some questions!! I’m working hard on this e-book for you guys & think it will be a helpful resource if you’re going in blind and want to be dedicated but not let it consume your life.

If you want to sign up to purchase the e-book you can enter your email here.

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  1. April says:

    Really think I’m going to try this! Thanks for all the great information!

  2. Lisa rObbins says:

    Thanks for sharing Cristin. Such a great review. I’ve been so curious about plant basad but didn’t know if I was brave enough! Hahaha! This definitely makes me want to give it a whirl. Can’t wait for the ebook!

  3. Ashley says:

    Thanks for the info! Over the past month I have been slowly transitioning my diet to 80% plant based and am very conscious about “eating too many carbs”. I’m finding that grilling up a corn tortilla is a great “crunch” for salads. I’m interested to learn about your favorite smoothie recipes for breakfast on the go. Can’t wait for your e-book. Thanks for sharing your journey- it is helping mine a ton!!

  4. Chloe says:

    You’ve officially made a dairy-loving meat eater, want to try a plant based diet🙈 If only my non-vegetable eating, meat-loving husband would join to keep me accountable😂

  5. Heather Smith says:

    Thanks for your review, I have been patiently awaiting its arrival! This definitely makes me feel like I could try it and should try it. I really wonder how this will affect my bloated feeling and look after having kids and not shaking that last little bit. I want to look the way my stomach looks when I first wake up, all the time! Lol thanks! Looking forward to ebook!

  6. Amy says:

    Thanks for the great info! I’m slowly eating more plant based over time and love it!

  7. Maria says:

    I’ve started my plant-based trial today! 21 days to start. You’ve definitely inspired me to give this a try. The bloating I have lived with is just too annoying at this point. I would love to feel better. Even with the salads and veggies I eat all the time, working out, all of it – none of it fully kicks the inflammation. Thanks for sharing all this info! Looking forward to the e-book.

  8. Leslie Gambrell says:

    Can you drink alcohol while doing plant based.

  9. Katrina says:

    ”I haven’t met a lima bean or a pan of okra that“ this is me! Great post.. make some want to eat more veggies!

  10. Megan says:

    Love this post and can’t wait for your ebook. I’ve been dairy free for a few years but would love to do the 80/20 as well as the plant based for a few weeks. Thanks for dedicating your body to this science…ha!

  11. annwrite460 says:

    This was such a great post!! You seem to like the same things I do — quality meats & cheese! I like the Beyond Burger, too and now want to try the Trader Joe’s. I also love the Sweet Earth burger in the Santa Fe flavor. Cook in skillet w/ tiny bit of avocado oil. Vegan dairy-free smoked provolone. Excited for the e-book!