A Handy Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

Man and woman in the produce section of the grocery store / Photo: LightField Studios/shutterstock.com

A Handy Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

Whether it’s deciding to go vegan to improve your health or choosing to eat plant-based foods to save the lives of animals, changing your diet and lifestyle is exciting! Here’s a useful guide to help make the transition smoother.

Why Eat Vegan?

  • Millions of people worldwide are choosing to go vegan for a multitude of reasons: to save animals, in solidarity with workers, to lessen their impact on the environment, or for their personal health.
  • A vegan or plant-based diet can have innumerable health benefits and is supported by organizations like the USDA and Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics. Vegans enjoy lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
  • Unfortunately, the distribution of government subsidies to agriculture has made accessing healthy, plant-based food difficult. Contrary to recommendations by the United States government to get a large amount of our daily servings from fruits and vegetables, about 39% of agricultural subsidies go towards corn and soybeans alone, most of which is then used for livestock feed or biofuel. Apples—one of the most subsidized fresh fruits and vegetables—receives only 0.2% of agricultural subsidies.  This has adverse effects on many low-income, communities of color who cannot afford healthy, whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. A study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans who consumed the most federally subsidized foods had a 37% greater chance of being obese, have abnormal cholesterol, and high levels of blood sugar.
Healthy foods

Photo: Natalia Lisovskaya/shutterstock.com

Ask the Doctor with Milton Mills, M.D.

Dr. Milton Mills

Milton Mills


Vegan diets

are fully endorsed by The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics for everyone from infants to pregnant persons & adult athletes.

Can I actually be healthy on a vegan diet?

  • The more plant-based foods you start adding to your diet the healthier you will become! By replacing animal foods with a varied diet of whole, plant-based foods people can reduce their risk of certain cancers and even reverse many medical conditions such as heart disease.

Should I take any vitamin supplements?

  • Plant-based foods can provide you with all of your essential nutrients with the exception of vitamin B12. Taking a B12 supplement of 1,000 micrograms twice a month is a great way to stay healthy.
  • The other supplement that we should all take is vitamin D. Although vitamin D levels can be met with adequate sun exposure it is likely that most of us will need to supplement this nutrient because we tend to spend a lot of time indoors.
  • Both of these vitamins can also be found in fortified plant foods such as certain brands of almond milk and soy milk!

Dr. Mills Recommends … 

  • Eating a whole, plant-based diet that includes a variety of foods that are naturally orange, yellow, green, red, and purple, because all of those colors signal potent and important nutrients that help improve our health. Think of how colorful your plate is. Could you be adding more veggies to your dinner?
  • Having a regular source of fresh fruit in your diet. Foods such as berries, apples, plums, oranges, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and peas are excellent for your health.
  • Eating a diet high in fiber. Fiber rich foods help protect us from disease, reduce chances of cancer, dementia, depression, and help ward off inflammation. High fiber foods include lentils, sweet potato, almonds, bananas, whole wheat pasta, and avocados, just to name a few.
  • Getting plenty of calcium, which is widely available in all sorts of plant foods! Make sure to eat plenty of calcium rich foods such as kale, collards, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and beans.
  • Eating delicious plant-based proteins! As long as you are eating a healthy, plant-based diet that gives you enough calories on a daily basis, you’re going to get more than enough protein. Protein rich plant-based foods are beans, nuts, oats, rice, peanuts, and more!

Replace This With This ...

  • Tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, almonds, peanuts Beyond Meat, Gardein chick’n strips, Chick’n nuggets, Tofurky deli slices, Gardein fishless filets

  • Follow Your Heart slices, Chao slices, Nutritional yeast

  • Tofutti, Kite Hill cream cheese

  • Kite Hill, Trader Joe’s, Silk, So Delicious

  • Ben and Jerry’s, Breyer’s, So Delicious, Coconut Bliss

  • Earth balance, Miyoko’s butter

  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2 tbsp hot water OR 2 tbsp. instant mashed potato mix OR 1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer + 2 tbsp water

  • 1 flax egg OR ¼ cup applesauce OR 1 mashed banana

Youth in a garden

Photo: Jen Harris/Front Page Photos. Courtesy of Edible Schoolyard, NYC, edibleschoolyard.org

A Celebration of Plant-Based Foods

The foods that we put in our bodies matter.

GlobalData reported that 70% of the world’s population is reducing or eliminating their consumption of meat.

  • Fruits and vegetables come in all shapes, colors, sizes, tastes, and textures and each can provide our bodies with different nutrients, antioxidants, and cancer-fighting properties.
  • Growing community gardens can help keep community members healthy, increase food security, and boost nearby property values. It’s empowering to nourish our bodies with living foods that we can grow in our homes or communities!

By choosing plant-based meals over ones with animal products…

  • You can help animals like Liberty and Indigo. This mother-daughter duo was rescued after Liberty gave birth at a slaughterhouse in Los Angeles, California. Joaquin Phoenix, alongside Farm Sanctuary’s President and Co-founder Gene Baur, picked up this little family and spared them the cruelties of slaughterhouses.
Joaquin Phoenix Rescues Mother Cow and Newborn Calf Day after Academy Awards Win

VIDEO 8:16

Joaquin Phoenix Rescues Mother Cow and Newborn Calf Day after Academy Awards Win

Download Audio


[MUSIC PLAYING] We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that's intended for a calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.

I don't need really any science to see with my own eyes and hear how an animal responds to pain, right? That's undeniable.

What if I tell you, here, an animal will perish in less than 60 seconds. It has to-- less than 60 seconds. That is the most humane, humane harvest process in the country.

You were the only one that you know of that has a process that you have. So that means a majority of them don't have that. And it's not only just the death-- the process leading up to that death.

Of raising it.

Raising it, the transportation, the separation from the family.

Yes, 100%.

Any time a calf is born on my property, I refuse to take the mother away from its baby because I won't do it.

Weren't those Holsteins that we saw in the other pen next to the mother?

Those were bought out of an auction, and they were healthy. And I'm glad you got to visualize it. And you're seeing that there were no downers, no three-leggers, no-- I don't believe in that. I will not use that protocol to buy them cheaper to profit monetarily. I don't need it. That's not my thing.

Because they no longer were being used as dairy.

Any animal that's here is being used for consumption.

Uh-huh. I see.

That's the slaughterhouse business. Those were used for milking. They did not produce enough milk anymore, for whatever reason.

So then they were here to be--









You have to understand my side how I understand your side.

I understand, but your language is powerful.

So harvested, please.

Murdered, OK.

All right.

You say tomato, I say tomato.

You want to go get her?


Let's go get her.


Mama and baby-- and the baby's a girl. I talked to the vet here. He said the baby is a girl. And I think that she was born probably about a week ago.

Oh my goodness.

And the slaughterhouse owner here, as we heard, does not kill mothers and babies.




That's part of our protocol here at Farm Sanctuary. We do a thing where first they come in. We make sure that they don't have anything contagious, and they go in with everybody else. Then they can run in the hills and do what cows like to do.

Oh, my love.

Right? Oh, isn't she beautiful?

Oh my goodness. My love. My love. My love.

There we go. All right.

And then if you're-- you good with that?

Can you get her under the stomach, or no?

I think that's OK.


Please understand how that animal's been raised up until now. And it's going to take a transformation at the sanctuary to accomplish what you want.


It's all good,man.


All right?

Thank you so much. I'm going to send you some photos of this cow and the calf as they go out to the fields, all right?

See you later.

All right.

All right.

Thank you.


VIDEO 8:16

Joaquin Phoenix Rescues Mother Cow and Newborn Calf Day after Academy Awards Win

  • Today, 99% of animals raised for food in the United States are raised on factory farms. These animals are confined to miserable conditions and are robbed of simple joys such as feeling the sun on their skin or the grass beneath their feet. Even animals raised on free-range, cage-free, or other similarly labeled facilities suffer–oftentimes these labels are incredibly misleading and are poorly regulated.
  • Luckily, plant-based alternatives are delicious and help curb the cruelties of the meat, dairy, and egg industry!
A woman going to pick up a vegan burger at a restaurant / Photo Credit: Joshua Resnick, Shutterstock

Photo: Joshua Resnick/shutterstock.com

Dining Out

  • Happy Cow finds veg-friendly restaurants near you! Check their website or download the app!
  • Use Yelp to find veg options by searching “vegan restaurants near me”.
  • Major chains like Chipotle, SUBWAY, Denny’s, White Castle, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, and many other restaurants have plant-based options!

Ordering Tips

  • Ask Your Server: “What do vegans usually order?” If there isn’t an option on the menu, most chefs are happy to accommodate.
  • Mix Up the Menu: No plant-based entree? No problem. Put some side dishes together for a satisfying meal!
Woman learning on her phone and from a book in the kitchen / Photo Credit: Motortion Films / Shutterstock

Photo: Motortion Films/shutterstock.com

Learn More

Movies on Netflix

  •  What the Health: “An intrepid filmmaker on a journey of discovery as he uncovers possibly the largest health secret of our time and the collusion between industry, government, pharmaceutical and health organizations keeping this information from us.”
  • Forks Over Knives: “Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.”
  • The Game Changers: “A UFC fighter’s world is turned upside down when he discovers an elite group of world-renowned athletes and scientists who prove that everything he had been taught about protein was a lie.”
  • Los Lecheros: “The fates of undocumented immigrant workers and Wisconsin’s $43 billion dairy industry are closely intertwined—and both are grappling with their options for survival as fears of ICE raids and deportations under the Trump administration grow.”

"By replacing animal foods with a varied diet of whole, plant-based foods people can reduce their risk of certain cancers and even reverse many medical conditions such as heart disease."

Milton Mills


Online Vegan Recipes

Header photo by LightField Studios/shutterstock.com

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