Good, easy whole food plant-based recipes for beginners can be hard to find, and often difficult to make! I’m taking the guesswork out of meal planning and prepping by sharing my family’s favorite plant-based recipes.

large outdoor wooden table full of whole food plant-based recipes and several people sitting around it in evening light.

These are easy, simple recipes loaded with flavor and health benefits. They are perfect for the beginner cook, or beginner to the plant-based lifestyle. I’ve got soup recipes loaded with plant-based protein, main courses exploding with flavor and playing on some easy American favorites like tacos, pizza and more.

Prep easy whole-food plant-based side dishes that pair well with any meal, plant-based or not, as well as snacks that can be made once and enjoyed all week long! Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents
  1. Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes for Beginners
  2. Quick Main Dishes
  3. Easy Plant-Based Soups
  4. Savory Vegetable Side Dishes
  5. The Best Plant-Based Dessert Recipes
  6. Vegan Staples
  7. FAQs
  8. Are Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Recipes Worth the Hype?

Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes for Beginners

If you stumbled upon this post while looking to make some changes to your diet then you’ve come to the right place. My goal with Simple Green Smoothies is to help as many people as I can eat more plants every day. You don’t have to eat all the plants, just more!

A plant-based diet is all about fueling our bodies with foods that are naturally occurring and minimally processed. Many people believe that in order to eat a protein-dense meal you must include meat from animals. I’m here to tell you that’s not true! You can have a protein-powered, plant-forward meal without meat.

There are a wide variety of plant-based protein options and I’m not just talking about legumes! I can start my day with a banana smoothie, boasting 18 grams of protein. Then around mid-morning, I’ll grab some baked chickpeas with 13 grams of protein. For lunch, I’m going to enjoy some Thai lettuce wraps with 16 grams of protein, then finish off my day with red lentil soup coming in at 22 grams of protein per serving.

That means I’ve consumed 69 grams of protein, completely from plants! While protein needs vary from person to person, this is 16 grams more than I need in a day according to this article by Harvard.

Intrigued? Let’s start planning some meals for you!

Quick Main Dishes

My family likes hearty meals to fuel our very active lifestyles. Here are the recipes that frequent our table and we actually like to eat! They are full of flavor, color and a variety of vegetables yet do not compromise on taste.

A whole food plant-based diet (sometimes seen as WFPB diet) is all about variety; trying to eat as many colors each day as you can. So grab that purple cauliflower, white carrot, or tri-colored peppers to brighten up your next meal.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
5 from 2 votes
This vegetarian Shepherd's pie has all the flavor and comfort of traditional shepherd's pie yet without the meat. My version uses savory, filling lentils, mushrooms and a wide variety of vegetables and spices for the perfect cold weather meal.
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portobello mushroom burger on a white plate topped with arugula, sauce and tomatoes.
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
5 from 3 votes
These marinated portobello mushroom burgers are the perfect, hearty main dish for all your summer parties. They are surprisingly easy to make and delight both meat and plant eaters!
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Spicy Chickpea Tacos
5 from 4 votes
Slightly crisp roasted beans are a fantastic plant-based filling in these chickpea tacos. Load them up with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
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plant based pizza
Savory Plant-Based Pizza
5 from 6 votes
A simple quinoa batter makes for a crispy-edged, tender, gluten-free pizza crust that takes almost no effort to make. These toppings are some of my favorites—especially the pesto— but feel free to top with whatever your heart (or tummy) desires.
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tofu nuggets recipe
Crispy Tofu Nuggets
4.8 from 5 votes
These plant-based tofu nuggets are packed with protein and amazing crunch. The secret sauce is tearing pressed tofu to get craggily edges that help to make the crispiest nooks and crannies for your favorite dipping sauce to cling to. Try using your air fryer for an equally delicious nugget!
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Thai Lettuce Wraps
5 from 29 votes
When I became a vegetarian at 16 years old, one of the meals I missed the most was the chicken lettuce wraps from my fav Chinese restaurant. This thai lettuce wrap recipe is inspired by those, yet this dish adds a lot more nourishment and flavors to make me one happy vegetarian.
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Coconut Bacon BLT recipe
Coconut Bacon + Vegan BLT Recipe
5 from 7 votes
If you’re looking for something with a crunch + smoky flavor that is delicious AND plant based, then I’ve got a coconut bacon recipe for you. And it pairs perfectly with this BLT sandwich.
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jackfruit tacos
BBQ Jackfruit Tacos
5 from 19 votes
Pulled BBQ jackfruit is a meatless wonder to make all of your Taco Tuesday dreams come true. Jackfruit Tacos only take about a half hour to prepare – perfect for getting dinner on the table in a hurry. 
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vegetarian taco salad
Spiralized Vegan Taco Salad
4.8 from 9 votes
Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet. We’re always looking for ways to serve them in an exciting way and this vegan taco salad is perfection. Each healthy bite is full of mouthwatering flavor. It definitely hits the spot when you’re craving Mexican flavors.
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Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash
5 from 6 votes
I’m a huge fan of swapping traditional pasta for veggie noodles in this Mediterranean-inspired recipe. Spaghetti squash is very mild and has a great texture that can hold up to sauces and toppings like a champ. Enjoy it to the fullest wrapped in olive oil, artichoke hearts, olives and sun-dried tomatoes topped with crunchy walnuts and perfectly seasoned.
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Easy Plant-Based Soups

I’ve learned how easy soup can be. Most of mine start with sautéing garlic and onions, then adding in some homemade vegetable stock along with whatever else I want and simmering to perfection.

If I need my meal to-go then I choose a blended soup I can toss into a thermos. If I get to enjoy a meal with my family then I choose one like my Vegetarian Split Pea Soup which pairs fabulously with some crusty bread.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
4.8 from 51 votes
While this vegetarian split pea soup is delicious straight from the stovetop, it's even better as leftovers. Make a batch and freeze, or enjoy as a cozy family dinner.
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bowl of vegan potato soup topped with crunchy kale croutons.
Vegan Potato Soup
4.6 from 339 votes
You'll never guess there's no dairy in this amazingly comforting vegan potato soup. It's exactly what your next cool evening calls for and can be paired with a simple kale crouton recipe that takes the flavor to the next level.
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Thai Coconut Soup
4.5 from 452 votes
This Thai Coconut Soup is one my favorite soups of all time because it's a vegan version of Tom Kha Gai. Silky smooth, flavor packed and also can be made spicy, which is my favorite.
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Vegan Tomato Soup
4.6 from 670 votes
This tomato soup recipe is dairy-free yet super creamy. Perfect for those cool Autumn nights, and a great way to get in veggies! That's right, I loaded this soup up with a variety of veggies, yet it still tastes like my momma's tomato soup from my childhood.
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Red Lentil Soup
4.8 from 248 votes
Dive into a nourishing and fulfilling soup recipe loaded with vegetables, hearty lentils and natural spices. This red lentil soup is the perfect cool weather delight and can be made once and frozen to serve again and again this season.
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Carrot Ginger Soup
4.7 from 120 votes
This nourishing, simple carrot ginger soup is full of love for the tummy. The ginger and cumin bring warmth to the digestive system, while the garlic and onion gently assist liver detoxification. The carrots bring nutrient-dense deliciousness! Feel free to add extra broth or coconut milk to reach your desired consistency.
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roasted red pepper soup
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
4.9 from 9 votes
Plant-powered. Autumn Flavored. Try this amazing vegan roasted red pepper soup that's both comforting and tasty. Dairy-free yet super creamy using sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, onions, garlic and spices.
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1-Pot Vegetable Noodle Soup
4.4 from 167 votes
A soothing soup can help your body heal in a variety of ways. This vegetable noodle soup recipe is great to make the moment you feel under the weather, or make at the beginning of cold and flu season, then freeze to have on hand when you need it.
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Vegan Pumpkin Soup
5 from 12 votes
This vegan pumpkin soup is healthy, filling, comforting and warms you up when the weather is chilly. It uses pie pumpkins, onion, garlic and spices along with dairy-free coconut milk. Double the recipe to save some to enjoy all season long.
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Vegetable Barley Soup
4.7 from 6 votes
Mmmm…vegetable barley soup! You don't have to wait for the weather to turn cold to simmer up a pot of this tasty vegetarian classic. It's full of flavor, veggies, and love to fill your belly!
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Savory Vegetable Side Dishes

If you’re looking for whole food plant-based recipes for beginners then start with these veggie side dishes. They are all simple to make and easy to enjoy. Dress them up for a fancy occasion or enjoy them as-is for a weeknight meal.

Not ready to be completely dairy-free? No worries! You can easily cook many of these recipes in some grass-fed butter or top with cheese for a comforting finish.

Skillet Green Beans
5 from 6 votes
Whip up an elevated version of a classic side in no time with these beautifully blackened skillet green beans. They are topped with fresh sautéed garlic and capers to bring a salty, warm flavor to a vibrantly green vegetable. Easy to prepare and a joy to eat.
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Fresh Vegan Potato Salad
4.4 from 347 votes
Step aside traditional potato salad! A new version is in town and it's delightful. Try this vegan potato salad out on your next gathering and be ready to share the recipe!
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ceramic dish of roasted butternut squash topped with fresh herbs.
Roasted Butternut Squash
5 from 1 vote
Enjoy this gorgeously simple, side dish by cubing and roasting butternut squash in a few easy steps. You can use this recipe to enjoy softened or crispy squash, your choice! This is a great side dish for the cooler months and works well for the holidays, too.
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roasted cabbage wedges
Roasted Cabbage Wedges
5 from 5 votes
I grew up on roasted cabbage so it's a staple in my St. Patrick's Day celebrations with my family. Enjoy this simple yet comforting recipe and start a plant based tradition with your family, too!
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How to Make Edamame
5 from 3 votes
My family devours bowls of boiled edamame anytime we are at a restaurant or at home. It's super easy to make and oh-so-delicious to enjoy. This can be enjoyed all by itself as a filling snack or popped out of the pods as a protein-dense salad topping.
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healthy pasta salad
Healthy Pasta Salad
4.7 from 191 votes
Whether you're in need of an easy week of lunches or a delicious potluck recipe to share, this vegan pasta salad is for you!
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Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts
5 from 3 votes
Brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable of all time. It started as a kid when I would pretend they were Barbie doll sized cabbages and play with them. Over the years, I learned to love Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts paired with Maple Walnuts and caramelized to perfection. It's like eating candy! I serve them for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, and never have leftovers.
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Simple Vegan Coleslaw
4.7 from 7 votes
I’ve always been a coleslaw lover, but struggled these last few years as I’ve been moving away from mayonnaise and most processed foods. This vegan coleslaw has an amazing crunch and a sweet and creamy bite that tastes even better than traditional coleslaw to me, and it’s perfect for topping any taco.
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baked potato wedges
Baked Potato Wedges
5 from 5 votes
Whether you need a great side dish or a fun appetizer, these baked potato wedges are delightful. They come out perfectly crispy with just the right amount of seasoning.
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cold noodle salad
Vegetarian Noodle Salad
5 from 4 votes
This refreshing noodle salad is a great light lunch or yummy side for dinner. Take it to the beach and enjoy at sunset for the ultimate summer night.
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The Best Plant-Based Dessert Recipes

Now this is where this list gets fun. Desserts are meant to be enjoyed with abandon, easily indulged with friends or curled up with a good book.

I love a treat just as much as the next person, yet my stomach doesn’t love the bloat from dairy-based concoctions so I created my own whole food plant-based recipes out of my favorite desserts and now I can eat them freely.

If chocolate is your flavor of choice, then check out my post dedicated to chocolate desserts.

Simple Mango Sorbet
5 from 3 votes
Live it up this season with my Mango Sorbet recipe. It is dairy-free, frosty and vibrantly orange. Ready for dessert seekers young and old and easy to make!
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Platter of gluten free fudgy brownies
Fudgy Gluten-Free Brownies
5 from 6 votes
Thick, fudgy brownies that also happen to be vegan and gluten-free. (No one will be able to tell!) Loaded with delicious chocolate flavor and a great texture, this Fudgy Gluten-Free Brownie Recipe really hit the spot.
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vegan ice cream scooped into sugar cones.
Vegan Ice Cream Recipe
5 from 1 vote
Take summer by creamy storm with this decadent vegan ice cream recipe. I use just six ingredients to create a chilled dessert that scoops like the real thing. And because I love ice cream so much, I've also included two bonus recipes for the perfect toppings!
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Vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
4.8 from 5 votes
These are simply THE BEST vegan chocolate chip cookies around! We’ve given them another upgrade by adding in toasted coconut (you can buy it or make it) and toasted almonds for extra flavor and crunch. Use your favorite dark chocolate chips and bake up a batch or two. They make great gifts and store well in the freezer for when a craving hits. 
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Strawberry milkshake recipe that's simple
Strawberry Vegan Milkshake
4.9 from 16 votes
This simple strawberry vegan milkshake has passed the taste test with my kids and their friends—so trust me, it’s a winner! Plus you won’t suffer the bloating or breakouts that traditional strawberry milkshakes can cause thanks to me using coconut milk. Feel free to swap out the coconut milk for another nut milk you prefer, such as almond milk or cashew milk.
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peanut butter fudge topped with chocolate and crushed peanut butter cups.
Peanut Butter Fudge
5 from 5 votes
You'll definitely wanna include this vegan peanut butter fudge into your holiday menu this year. This decadent recipe is easy to make and provides a beautifully rich treat. Plus, it's only 4 ingredients!
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Blackberry Coconut Sorbet
4 from 6 votes
Looking for a refreshing, beautiful dessert? Look no further than this scrumptious blackberry Coconut Sorbet recipe. Fun to serve with coconut whipped cream and fresh berries.
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Rice Crispy Treat Recipe for Healthy Kids Snack
Healthy-ish Rice Krispie Treats
5 from 18 votes
This Rice Krispie Treats Recipe uses plant-based whole foods from brown rice to almond butter. Not only will you find more protein and fiber, but the flavor will blow you away. 
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Banana Nice Cream
5 from 6 votes
This vibrant banana nice cream recipe nourishes and satisfies. The gorgeous color comes from the superfood spirulina, which provides vital cell support. Perfect for breakfast or as a midday pick me up, banana nice cream is a delicious treat (while still getting in healthy nutrients).
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Chocolate Smoothie Bowl
4.9 from 13 votes
Cacao adds rich chocolate flavor as well as a big boost of iron and other vitamins and minerals coupled with healthy fats to this chocolate smoothie bowl.
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Vegan Staples

While you don’t have to eat vegan recipes to be completely plant-based, there are a lot of kitchen staples that are highly processed with or without dairy. I opt to make my own and like them even better than store-bought versions!

My coconut whipped cream works great on pumpkin pancakes or coconut sorbet. This vegan parmesan cheese tastes like real parmesan cheese and can be added to plant-based pizza, roasted spaghetti squash and many more dishes.

The cashew cream is probably my most used staple! I can add spices to make it sweet or savory, thin it out to a dressing or thicken it up for a dip. I never make vegan tacos without it.

dairy-free coconut whipped cream getting scooped over fresh strawberries in a clear glass.
Coconut Whipped Cream
5 from 2 votes
Finally, the dairy-free whipped topping we've all been waiting for! I use coconut whipped cream on all manner of breakfast foods, desserts and even as a fruit dip. It's fluffy, creamy and oh-so-delicious.
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Chipotle Ranch Dressing
5 from 1 vote
I love creating dips and dressings that are quick and can be used on a variety of dishes. This vegan chipotle ranch dressing is exactly that recipe! Originally created as the dipping sauce in my avocado fries, this condiment is fast becoming a staple in my fridge.
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vegan parmesan cheese in a white bowl with a spoon.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
5 from 5 votes
Your favorite cheese sprinkle without the dairy! This delicious mix works great on pizza, pasta, veggies and more. I seriously love it. Easy to whip up and store, vegan parmesan cheese will become your go-to meal topper in no time.
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cashew cream
Simple Cashew Cream
4.9 from 32 votes
Cashew cream is a deliciously creamy way to take your meals to a new level! This recipe highlights how easy it is to make cashew cream multiple ways. Each variation uses 1/2 cup cashews, but depending on your blender or food processor, it may be easier to make one large batch then flavor individually!
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pouring fresh, homemade almond milk into a glass with a green straw.
How to Make Almond Milk
5 from 7 votes
A simple recipe for clean, delicious homemade almond milk. 100% clean, pronounceable ingredients with no fillers or gums with this diy recipe that always tastes great.
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How to Make A Flax Egg
5 from 2 votes
Try a flax egg in your next recipe to replace traditional eggs and enjoy an easy vegan substitute. These 'eggs' are great swaps in recipes that use eggs as a binding agent.
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vegan basil pesto in a glass jar surrounded by basil and walnuts.
Vegan Basil Pesto
5 from 3 votes
This vegan basil pesto is simple to make and packed with plant-based ingredients. The garlic blends perfectly with the basil for an authentic Italian flavor.
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dairy free smoothies base
How to Make Oat Milk
4.9 from 8 votes
This versatile oat milk recipe can be used in cooking, baking or with chocolate chip cookies. Deliciously creamy and free of gums and fillers.
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How to make sun-dried tomato pesto
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
5 from 1 vote
Enjoy the best sun-dried tomato pesto recipe out there— I add it to pizza, salads, soups, toast and veggie bowls.
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tahini salad dressing
Citrus Tahini Dressing
5 from 2 votes
This simple dressing is bursting with bright citrus flavor paired with a nutty tahini cream. It is both oh so good and oh so good for you. Use it as a gorgeous charcuterie dipping sauce or salad dressing. I originally created it to top my Crunchy Chickpea Salad from my Autumn Cleanse.
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FAQs

What is an example of a whole food plant-based diet?

A WFPB diet is based on a variety of plants. Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, legumes and more. It’s not a vegan diet but focuses instead on minimally processed foods that are naturally derived. You can start your day with a green smoothie made with spinach, mango, pineapple, water and chia seeds. Then mid-morning, snack on some lemon chia pudding made with coconut milk, lemon juice and chia seeds. For lunch eat a quinoa bowl with edamame, kale, broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower and carrots topped with garlic cashew aioli. For dinner, whip up some chickpea tacos with fresh cilantro and avocado crema.

Can I eat rice on a whole food plant-based diet?

Rice is a great plant-based grain. Note that rice may be enriched using animal products, so look for the certified vegan symbol on the packaging if that is important to you. Variety is key, so if rice is the grain you often reach for, then challenge yourself to swap it out for other whole grains like quinoa to try something new.

Can you have eggs on a plant-based diet?

Eggs come from chickens, therefore they are not “plant-based.” If I am baking, I typically swap out regular eggs for flaxseed eggs in most baking recipes and opt for other proteins in savory recipes.

Are Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Recipes Worth the Hype?

While I’ve called myself a vegetarian for years, my diet consisted of bean burritos from Taco Bell and Lucky Charms. Sure, I wasn’t eating meat, but I was fueling my body with junk. And boy did I feel it! I slept a lot. I was always hungry. I craved candy.

Processed foods contain ingredients mostly found in industrial food manufacturing (aka, not nature). This includes hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, food dyes, flavoring and emulsifiers.

A diet of predominately processed food can lead to:

  • Heart disease: A leading cause of death worldwide. A result of continual eating of processed food according to a recent study by the British Medical Journal.
  • Unhealthy weight gain: The National Institute of Health conducted a study showing a correlation between a processed food diet and weight gain.
  • Increased risk of cancer: The correlation between cancer patients and increasingly processed food diets goes up 12% for every 10% of the diet that contains processed food. 
  • Malnutrition: Processing actually strips food of its nutritional value! This creates empty calorie consumption and minimal nutritional value, even if one feels ‘full.’
  • Addictive eating habits: Processed foods can actually make people addicted to food.

A diet consisting of minimally processed, whole foods can lead to:

  • Healthy weight loss and gut health: A whole food plant-based diet is high in fiber, which helps the body with excess weight and better digestion.
  • Lower risk of Type II Diabetes: Vegetarians are at an almost 50% decreased risk of diabetes over those on a non-vegetarian diet.
  • A lower risk of heart disease: A balanced whole food plant-based diet significantly lowers the risk for heart disease.
  • Lower risk of cancer: A study by the US National Library of Medicine showed a 43% reduced risk of cancer in those sticking to a vegetarian diet.

And you don’t have to figure this out on your own! I have a free seven-day plant-based meal plan that will make your weekly meal planning a breeze. If you’re ready to jump into the plant-based lifestyle full on, then try out my Rawk the Year Meal Planner to get weekly meal plans complete with a shopping list, recipes and calendar sent to your inbox every week.

Which one of these epic recipes will you try first? Drop a comment and let me know!

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Comments

  1. Great article! I’ve found that many people have trouble adapting to a plant based diet. This cookbook really helped me out. It’s full of delicious recipes that will satisfy your appetite even if you’re just starting to go vegan.

  2. 5 stars
    I made this for my husband and I this week. Truthfully we were both skeptical with the taco “meat”. But we both LOVED it. I did double the spices on the sweet potato (not the cayenne)and doubled the jalapeno and garlic in the pico de gallo. Overall this was a delightful dish. Bravo!

    1. That’s awesome, Michelle! It really is a delicious dish. 🙂

  3. I’m a bit confused on your serving info. Are the ingredients listed for 2 servings or 1? Thanks! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  4. Just pinned, although I’ve followed y’all since the beginning. Keep rawkin’!

    1. You could use coconut aminos instead of tamari. 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve been eating mostly plant-based since I did the 21-Day Cleanse with you last year. It has truly changed my life for the better! My favorite recipe from this article is definitely the Famous Loaded Sweet Potato— you’ll be amazing at home hearty eating vegetables can be. Thanks Jen and the rawkstar team for helping me and so many others eat more plants.

  6. 5 stars
    I pinned the post! Also, zoodles in a jar is a fav lunch of mine. SO easy and flavorful.

    1. It’s delicious! Try it and let us know what you think!