What Is a Plant-Based Diet (and how do I make the switch?)

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If you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d be an evangelist for a plant-based diet, I would have guffawed. Growing up, I was a meat, potatoes and junk food poster child.


But by the time I hit 30, I was overweight, had gone through a life-altering cancer scare, and was struggling daily with the pain and exhaustion of fibromyalgia.

Something had to change. So as a writer and reporter, I went to experts around the world to ask them what I should be eating and kept hearing the same refrain: Eat seasonal vegetables and whole grains cooked with healthy fats, with some well-sourced protein as the side.

Eat seasonal vegetables and whole grains cooked with healthy fats, with some well-sourced protein as the side

Not what I — someone who despised — vegetables wanted to hear. But I dug in, honing the cooking techniques and flavor building strategies you’ll find on NOURISH Evolution and in our online meal planning program, Cook the Seasons, to make plant-based meals that were so good I soon had no desire to return to my old ways.

The outcome was miraculous. I lost weight without trying. I had more energy and mental clarity than ever before. My pain all but went away. But best of all, I finally found joy in eating.

Now, when I sit down to a meal — a plate piled high with delicious veggies and whole grains with a slice of meat or seafood beside them — it nourishes not just my body, but my whole being.


When people hear “plant-based,” they often assume it means vegetarian. It certainly can — and does for many. But plant-based (sometimes called “plant-centered” or “plant-forward”) can also mean focusing meals around vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, with meat, fish or poultry playing a secondary role.

Traditional meal-planning starts with the protein as the star — a roast, say, or pork chops — with vegetables and grains as the supporting players. But turning that equation on its head with vegetables as the main attraction and protein as the side makes a big difference — check out the impact it has in “Why It Matters” below.

Here’s what a plant-based plate looks like on my table.


Approaching a plant-based diet as a shift — away from excess meat and processed food and towards vegetables, whole grains and whole foods — rather than a total lifestyle overhaul makes it feel a heck of a lot more doable … and it is.


You’re probably not trying to make a shift to a plant-based diet just because. And I would actually urge you, as you wade into these waters, to identify your “why” for wanting to make this shift.

Is it because you got some not-so-great news from the doc and are taking it as a wake-up call?

Is it because you want to get to and stay at a comfortable weight without constantly feeling like you’re on a diet?

Is it because you want to set a better example for your kids so they’ll grow up with a healthy relationship with healthy food?

Maybe it’s all of the above.

The great news is that there’s a large (and growing!) body of research that a diet based on a wide array of vegetables prepared with plant-based fats, such as olive oil, and served with whole grains, legumes ad wisely chosen protein does you a lot of good both in the short term and over the long haul.

How good? Studies consistently show that when eating a plant-based diet:

  • LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) quickly drops while HDL (the protective cholesterol) rises.
  • People lose weight — without really trying — and keep it off.
  • The risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia — known as the Big Four — decreases, in some cases quite dramatically.
  • Chronic pain is reduced due to less inflammation.
  • You live longer with a better quality of life. 


It’s one thing to know you want to make the shift to a plant-based diet. It’s another to know how to do it. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I came to grips with the fact that I needed to change the way I ate. Honestly, it felt like being condemned to a life of “should” rather than enjoyment.

But I’m happy to say — more than a dozen years on the other side — that it doesn’t have to be that way at all. Shifting from a “meat and potatoes and Doritos” diet to a plant-based lifestyle has had a positive ripple effect throughout my entire life … and it can for you too.

I thought back to what it felt like to be in your shoes — not knowing how to get from where I was to a plant-based plate that brought me pleasure — and captured what I wish someone had told me all those years ago.

Easy steps to take to not only get the ball rolling but to chalk up some early wins so you can see for yourself how doable and enjoyable a plant-based diet can be.