Advice for Switching to a Plant-Based Diet

If you’re exploring the possibility of transitioning to an entirely plant-based diet, then you’ve probably already realized how much dedication and determination is necessary to stick to it. A plant-based diet may not be for everyone, but its focus on restoring your body’s health with the proper nutrients makes it worthwhile.

We recently chatted with a former St. Louis local who made the switch to a plant-based diet almost one year ago. Stefanie Clynes, known via her Instagram moniker PlantBasedStef, is a plant-based dieter extraordinaire and champion of all things fruits and veggies. She shares creative, original recipes with her followers and offers honest words of advice for anyone interested in a plant-based diet or lifestyle.

For Stefanie, making the switch to a plant-based diet came gradually and with support from her family and the plant-based communities she discovered on social media. We’re inspired by her journey to better her health!

Karuna: When did you switch to an entirely plant-based lifestyle? What was the adjustment like?  

Stefanie Clynes: I switched to a plant-based diet in January of this year (I’ve almost made it 1 year). It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution or something I had really planned to do; I just did a lot of research, watched A LOT of Netflix documentaries and paid attention to how what I was eating was affecting my body.

I grew up in a big family who loves their meats and their sweets…but I try to stay positive and not let it get to me. I know that what I’m doing is best for my body and I’m not trying to push it anyone (except tell them that they need to get more fruits and veggies, because they do).

Karuna: Why did you decide to adopt this particular diet?

SC: Even a few months before I went plant-based, I couldn’t have imagined myself doing it. I have always eaten more fruits and veggies than meat and never had a huge craving for cheese, but still didn’t see myself taking the plunge.

I also started keeping a food diary to keep track of how certain foods made me feel. I always recommend this to everyone because it is eye opening. Everyone’s body is different and reacts differently to various foods so it’s important to figure that out and adjust your diet accordingly. For me, I found that dairy and meat just don’t sit well with my body.

I was not only going vegan for my personal health, but to help the environment. Meat and dairy manufacturing have more negative effects on the environment than car and factory pollution – eye opening, once again. After a few weeks, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, yet gaining so much more. I was getting more creative with my meals and giving my body exactly what it needed, and craved!

Karuna: What are the benefits of this diet?

SC: Mostly it has a positive impact on my personal health (and my budget!). I feel so much better and more energized on a plant-based diet. My body is getting more nutrients than it ever has and I truly feel so good fueling my body with those nutrients.

I also love all the new fruits and vegetables I’ve been trying and creating fun and delicious recipes with, like “pulled pork” jackfruit tacos. I always get to start up a conversation with friends and family members and share delicious and healthy recipes. I personally don’t want to push this diet on everyone, some people need meat and that’s okay. BUT, most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and I would love to see more families adopt meatless meals. It is so good for you!

Karuna: What resources have helped you on your journey?

SC: I follow a lot of great food bloggers on Instagram and I love the resources from the folks at Forks over Knives. It amazing that you can make nearly every meal plant-based and they are still just as delicious as you remember them as an omnivore. I also love to follow Fully Raw Kristina. I purchased her book shortly after going plant-based and relate to her relationship with her family when she first went vegan. Her recipes are absolutely delicious and fully raw, which is great.

I’m also a part of a vegan support group on Facebook. Even though my decision to go plant-based is driven by my ethical beliefs, the support group shares a lot of great recipes and offers well, support.

Karuna: What advice would you give someone who is looking to make this life change/adjustment?

SC: Don’t try to be perfect. Sometimes I accidentally consume dairy in dishes but I don’t beat myself up over it. If you can try a plant-based lifestyle with a friend or a sponsor who has been vegan for awhile, it will make things a lot easier, especially support-wise.

Find some great plant-based bloggers and follow their feed for recipes and support. Once you get going and learn how to cook fruits and veggies in new and exciting ways, you’ll be ready to get creative with your own recipes.

Start an IG or FB page. You find so much support, creativity and encouragement in sharing your lifestyle with like-minded people.

Always bring snacks when you go out. For instance, this year has been jam packed with weddings for me and I always pack Lara bars so I have plenty to eat, just in case.

Don’t preach; lead by example. It’s easy to get caught up in the passion of eating plant-based, but don’t let yourself get upset at people’s comments. Be the positive example.

Karuna: What are other ways you practice mindfulness toward your health and well-being?

SC: This plant-based lifestyle has opened me up to viewing my total health in a whole new way and living a more holistic life. I’ve also been practicing more yoga this year. Because I’ve been focusing so much on my nutrition, I’m definitely looking at all of the many ways I can become healthier – mind, body and spirit. It’s been such a rewarding journey.