By Erin Pellegrin RD, LDN

We are officially into week two of Plantuary! Maybe you’ve seen the videos introducing our January initiative or perhaps you learned a little more about what it means to be plant-based from our blog (maybe you did both!). Even if this whole Plantuary thing is news to you, let’s share a few easy ways you can get started.

But first…

Before we jump into the nitty gritty, let’s release ourselves of all those anxiety-provoking thoughts and questions that pop up in our minds when we think of making a food or health change. Things like…

Do I have to throw away everything in my fridge? 

You’re not taking away my morning coffee… 

I can’t afford to buy all new food and pay off my holiday bills! 

Does this mean I have to give up cheese?!

Let me reassure you – you do not have to throw out any food in your fridge or pantry (we are not about food waste)! You also don’t have to completely restock your kitchen, nor will I take away your cheese or coffee. 

Our approach to Plantuary is about adding in more plants, but NOT about throwing out, wasting food, or labeling things as bad. Let’s focus on taking a positive approach by starting with these three simple steps to a more plant-based diet:

Work on one thing at a time.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I truly believe in the power of one. If you’re not sure how to begin, think of one thing you want to work on to get yourself started. Focus on that goal every day until it feels more natural and routine. Timing is unique to everyone and could take anywhere from one week to one month. The point is, there is no right or wrong.

Once that first goal feels like a more natural habit, move on to your next goal. Step by step, you’ll be making positive, healthy upgrades. Examples include:

· Have one serving of fruit every day before 12 noon. 

· Include one spoonful of seeds in a meal or snack every day. 

· Try one new grain recipe each week (and maybe enjoy the leftovers on the other days). 

· Swap out a daily snack for salsa or hummus with your favorite veggie or cracker.

Truly, the options are endless, and it all depends on you and your goals. In the end, this will help you gently create new habits in a manner you can feel good about!

Fill your kitchen with plant foods.

You may be thinking, “I thought you just said I don’t have to buy $500 worth of new food?” And you’re exactly right – you absolutely do not! I’m talking about buying one or two new or different foods each time you hit the store. Items can include any fruit, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds. 

By the end of January, you’ll have accumulated a nice collection of new plant foods that are easily accessible to you. For example, this week, pick up rolled or steel cut oats so you can start to have them as a hearty, high fiber breakfast. Next week, pick up a jar of nut or seed butter (unless you’re allergic) to have as a snack with a piece of fruit or on a slice of whole grain bread. 

Remember, no one should feel like they must make sweeping changes to their food choices or their grocery list. Small steps will always lead to big outcomes!

Connect with like-minded people.

We all know the proven success behind having a workout buddy. Well, in terms of our food, connecting with others who have the same interests or goals is also a guaranteed way to not only stay on track, but to keep you moving forward! The key is finding others who are on the same or similar path and work together. Having a plant-based buddy or group can keep you motivated, provide you with ideas for new foods or recipes to try, and can allow you to share what’s working (and what isn’t) and come up with helpful ideas! 

If you’ve created your own first steps this Plantuary, please share them with us and our community. You could be the inspiration for others to take the leap and eat more plants in 2022!

Find recipes and more info on Plantuary at uniteforher.org/plantuary