Skip to content

Tips for Transitioning to a Balanced Plant-Based Diet

Banner image of fruits and vegetables

Sophie Hung is a registered dietitian nutritionist who has been coaching clients for more than 12 years. She believes that food should both nourish our bodies and bring us joy. She was kind enough to share with us her journey toward a plant-based diet and a holistic lifestyle, as well as some tips and tricks for living well. 

This post is the second in a three-part series about living a plant-based lifestyle. If you've thought about transitioning to a plant-based diet, here are some tricks to help make your journey a healthy and successful one. 


Introductionwoman cooking

I studied for my Masters of Public Health Nutrition at Loma Linda University, which is a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) school. Most SDAs practice some sort of plant-based diet, such as lacto/ovo vegetarian, lacto/ovo/pesco vegetarian, or vegan. I shopped at their vegetarian market and ate at their vegetarian cafeteria for the 2 years that I went to school there. I learned a lot about different vegetarian ingredients and dishes; in Food Service Class, we even learned to prepare Vegetarian meals. For those of you who aren't immersed in a plant-forward environment, here are some tips on making the transition to a well-balanced plant-based diet. 


Steps to Success

Remember, a plant-based diet doesn't have to be all or nothing. Instead, focus on a cadence or combination that works for you. The goal is a plan that is both sustainable and healthy. Also, keep it positive.

Instead of thinking About what are you removing from your diet, think about what new foods you are introducing.

Take it Slow

To start, maybe try instituting a Meatless Monday. This can give you an opportunity to slowly introduce more plant-based foods into your diet.


Plan Your Meals

Take the time to plan your meals to ensure you're getting a good balance of nutrients. Include a combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and plant-based proteins. Consider using online resources or vegan cookbooks for recipe ideas and guidance.


Consult a Registered Dietitian

If you have specific dietary concerns or need personalized advice, it's advisable to consult a registered dietitian who specializes in Vegetarian/Vegan nutrition. They can help you create a personalized plan, and some might even have a cultural focus. I, for example, understand Asian and Latin food well, and I specialize in creating a customized, culturally sensitive program for my clients. 


plant based protein sources

Incorporate Plant Proteins

After learning the many benefits of a plant based diet, I decided to start incorporating a lot of plant-based protein, such as organic sprouted tofu, edamame, tempeh, beans, lentils, nuts & seeds, plant-based milk, and plant-based yogurt. However, I still enjoy some meat here and there. Therefore, I decided to follow a Flexitarian diet, which is mostly plant-based with limited or occasional inclusion of meat. I try to eat meat only once a week and red meat once a month. You can definitely decide what frequency works best for you.


Stay Hydrated

Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to support overall health and well-being. Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink some water. Staying hydrated helps curb cravings, improves alertness and helps digestion. Indications that you're not drinking enough water could include dry skin or eyes, headache or nausea, increased heart rate or feeling sluggish.  


Key Ingredients for a Healthy Plant-Based Diet

As you're considering taking the first step toward adopting a plant-based diet, make sure you're aware of the essential components that will make your journey both delicious and nutritionally complete. Understanding what makes up a well-balanced plant-based diet is crucial to ensure you're not only meeting your body's nutritional requirements but also enjoying a diverse and satisfying range of meals.

It is possible to eat a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet by consuming a variety of plant-based foods that provide all the necessary nutrients your body needs, but it takes a lot of mindfulness and planning. Here are some components of a balanced diet:


Fruits and Vegetables

Aim to consume a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables daily. These provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

fruit icon

Whole Grains

Incorporate whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread, and pasta into your meals. They provide fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals.



Include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes in your diet. They are excellent sources of protein, fiber, iron, and other essential nutrients.


Healthy Fats

Include foods rich in healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These provide essential fatty acids and help with nutrient absorption.


Plant-Based Proteins

Include a variety of plant-based protein sources like tofu, tempeh, seitan, edamame, and plant-based protein powders. These foods will help meet your protein requirements.



Incorporate plant-based sources of calcium like fortified plant milk (soy, pea, or oat), tofu, tempeh, leafy greens (kale, spinach), and sesame seeds. I don’t use as much almond milk since it is low in protein.


Iron-Rich Foods

Include iron-rich foods like legumes, dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, tofu, and quinoa. Enhance iron absorption by consuming vitamin C-rich foods (citrus fruits, bell peppers) along with iron-rich foods. 


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Include plant-based sources of omega-3s such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. Alternatively, consider an algae-based omega-3 supplement.


Vitamin B-12

Since vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal-based products, it is important for vegans to take a B12 supplement or consume foods fortified with B12 such as nutritional yeast, fortified cereal, spread, meat alternatives to meet their requirements. Make sure to read the labels to determine the amount of vitamin B12 provided per serving and to ensure that the form of vitamin B12 used (usually cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin) is easily absorbed by the body.



Going Forward

Once you've started the transition to a plant-based diet, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you stay healthy. 


Do Your Bloodwork Regularly

Check for Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, CBC (including hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum ferritin, and transferrin saturation), Lipid panel, and Omega 3.


Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to how your body responds to the changes in your diet. If you experience any adverse effects, consult a healthcare professional.



Remember that every individual is unique, so what works for one person might not work for another. Your transition to a plant-based diet should be tailored to your preferences, lifestyle, and health considerations. Patience and experimentation are important as you discover new foods and find what works best for you. Key is making sure you are getting appropriate amounts of nutrition. 



The information provided is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.