Tips for converting to a plant-based diet |

Doctor’s Tip: Tips for converting to a plant-based diet, part 1

The information in this column comes from my wife, Kathy, who is a retired nurse practitioner and an excellent cook. She developed a handout to give to people who want to make the transition to plant-based nutrition.

When people want to make this move, it’s important that they understand the health benefits. The following options for obtaining this information are available:

Attend the power point presentation about the science behind plant-based nutrition at 7 p.m. at the Third Street Center in Carbondale, the 1st Monday of every month.

Watch the Forks Over Knives documentary, available on Netflix.

Buy “How Not to Die,” by Michael Greger, M.D. Read any chapters in the first half of the book that might apply to you (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, cancer). Then read the whole second half, about what we should be eating every day and why.

Obtain the Plant-Based Nutrition Quick Start Guide from The Plantrician Project, (available in English and Spanish).


Remake your favorite dishes into plant-based ones.

Set a goal of collecting 30 recipes that you can use over and over on a rotational basis.

Keep a journal of successful meals and food ideas.

Avoid sugar (when reading food labels, 4 grams is a teaspoon). Avoid refined food (e.g. white flour, white rice, white pasta). Avoid added salt (sodium chloride)—1500 mg. a day is the maximum safe amount for adults. Instead use potassium chloride (e.g. No Salt-Salt in the salt section of the grocery store). For additional flavoring use herbs and spices. Avoid added oil including olive oil—replace with ground flaxseeds and/or unsweetened apple sauce.

To plan meals, start with a base of a grain, whole grain pasta, polenta, beans, lentils, gnocchi, mushrooms, tofu, spaghetti squash, or multigrain wraps.

Consider ethnic dishes—Mexican, Indian, Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern.

Spend an afternoon making veggie burgers, falafel, calzones, casseroles, soups, etc. to freeze.

A pressure cooker or the new “instant pot” are time-savers for cooking legumes, grains, and soups.


Toast grains in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes to bring out the flavor.

Replace oil in salad dressing with fruit juice, unsweetened applesauce, or apple cider reduction.

You don’t need oil to sauté— veggie broth, water, or left over white wine.

Consider stuffing peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, or tomatoes (Kathy’s favorite is poblano peppers).

Become familiar with nutritional yeast—it has a nutty flavor and is a staple in plant-based cooking.

Substitute mashed, cooked chickpeas in your favorite recipe for egg or tuna salad—use vegan mayo called Veganaise.

Baked sweet or purple potatoes are a nutritious, inexpensive, easy side dish.

Sauces: hot sauces, Veganaise, guacamole, nut-based sauces such as cashew, hummus without added oil, tapenade, salsa, teriyaki, peanut, curry, baba ghanoush, sweet and sour, soy sauce, pesto, aioli, and no-cheese-cheese sauce (in many vegan cookbooks).

Add unsalted nuts and/or seeds, dried or fresh fruit, leftover beans, or grains to your salads.

When making soup use veggie broth without added salt—toss in a cube of veggie bouillon and a thumb-sized piece of kombu (see section on stocking your pantry in next week’s column)..

Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Brussel’s sprouts, etc.) have a potent cancer-fighting micronutrient, the release of which requires an enzyme that is destroyed by cooking. So, eat some raw cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower or broccoli before eating cooked ones.

Another strategy is to chop up cruciferous veggies you’re planning on cooking, 45 minutes prior to cooking—this released the enzyme which can then do its job before cooking begins. Another strategy is to add horse radish, which is a cruciferous vegetable, to the cooked ones.

Dr. Feinsinger is retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician. He has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition, and is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and other medical issues. Call 970-379-5718, and for questions about his columns, email him at

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