Eight Favorite Plant-Based Diet Whole Foods for Any Recipe

Cardinale, Grace. “Going Plant-Based.” 2021. PNG File.

Cook and culture

Written by cookandculture | Edited by Carol Coutinho & Samantha Dang

April 20, 2021

As a life long foodie that has been plant-based for just about a year and a half now, I’ve gotten many comments regarding how people are scared to try out this diet. However, I would say that eating plant-based is not a diet, but a lifestyle choice. So, if you don’t already know, what does a plant-based diet mean?

Harvard Health opines that , “Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants”. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.” I believe that plant-based is a lifestyle choice because there is no set diet. Your day-to-day eating can look different from someone else on a plant-based diet depending on the extent to which you consume animal products. For example, I choose not to eat any animal products, but a friend of mine has meat every few days because that is what her body needs.

As I mentioned before, many people are scared to try out plant-based for a plethora of reasons. Let’s debunk those together.

Five Main Reasons Why “Plant-Based” Deters People

1. If I go plant-based I have to eat plain salad every meal

This is definitely the most common reason that people say they cannot go plant-based. “I have to eat just salads” or “there’s no variety while eating plant-based” is just crazy! Actually, when I switched to a plant-based lifestyle, I began trying new foods and trying different cuisines. I had never tried any Thai dishes before going plant-based, but now Thai curry is a staple in my house. Furthermore, I had never really tried foods such as tempeh, nutritional yeast (frankly, I had no clue what this was), and lentils.

2. If I go plant-based I can never have my favorite foods

Is your favorite food pizza or Mac and cheese and you are scared you will never again taste these foods? Think again! First off, plant-based is a lifestyle. If you see that piece of pizza and you want it, go for it! No one is judging. The most important thing is to listen to YOUR body. In addition, there are many plant-based recipes of your favorite foods, just with different ingredients! I still eat mac, pizza, chocolate, and ice cream- all with a plant-based twist.

3. If I go plant-based I won’t get enough protein

Another common misconception is that plant-based people don’t get enough protein. According to Forks over Knives, “For the general population, getting 10–15 percent of daily calories from protein is sufficient.” A study done by Forks over Knives discovered that, “On average, vegetarians and vegans get 70 percent more protein than they need every day (70-plus grams), while non-vegetarians get even more than that (almost 80 grams).” The main difference is where that protein is coming from. People eating plant-based derive protein from plants, whereas other people derive protein from animal sources.

4. If I go plant-based I will never be able to eat out again

Another common reason people stray from being plant-based, and another reason that you shouldn’t. You can still eat out  as plant-based, just in a different way. If your go to fast food was always a chicken place, try going to Chipotle. If you loved going out for a burger, find a place that has an Impossible, Beyond burger, or veggie burger on their menu. If you loved going on ice cream runs, find a store near you that has plant-based options- or get some from the store. My personal favorite is Halo Top.

5. If I go plant-based my groceries will be more expensive

Another myth I am debunking is that groceries will be more expensive eating mostly plant-based. A study conducted by the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition found that a meat based diet “cost an extra $14.36 per week.” The way to make plant-based groceries cheaper than meat based is to buy whole foods. If you purchase “fake” plant-based meats, cheese, ice creams, etc. frequently, these processed foods will add up in a hurry. The key is whole foods!

Eight Favorite Plant-Based Diet Whole Foods for Any Recipe

Whole foods are defined in the Oxford dictionary as a “food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.” Not only are whole foods the most nutritious for your body, but also they taste great. Here are the 8 best whole foods to incorporate into your diet!

  1: Sweet Potatoes

Starting the list off in number one are sweet potatoes. Surprisingly, I never liked sweet potatoes until I started making them in a savory way. I always had them with brown sugar (and sometimes marshmallows) growing up, and I thought I hated them because I didn’t like the way they were prepared. That being said, sweet potatoes can be prepared in SO many different ways, and can be incorporated in so many different recipes! I use sweet potatoes in everything from sweet potato and black bean enchiladas, to buddha bowls, to sweet potato casserole.

Recipes to try:

Halved orange sweet potatoes on a wooden table.

  2: Tofu

Many people are nervous about trying tofu for its weird texture, smell, and packaging when in its container. Once you get over this, you will be a tofu lover! Tofu comes in different firmness which is good for choosing how crispy you want something and it can vary depending on the recipe which level of firmness you opt for. Also, there is a variation of tofu called “silken” tofu which is extremely smooth and breakable, perfect for smoothies and baking. I used tofu in smoothies, stir frys, tacos, and by itself in veggie bows.

Recipes to die for:

Freshly cut tofu cubes on a wooden cutting board.

3: Lentils

Number three on this is lentils. Haven’t heard of lentils or tried them out for yourself? Lentils are an edible legume somewhat similar to rice and they can be used in a variety of recipes. From lentil soup, to plant-based sloppy joes, to lentil potato salad, there is no shortage of what you can do with lentils. Try out some of these mouthwatering recipes.


Recipes with Lentils:

A bowl of raw lentils on a wooden table.

    4: Quinoa

Number four on the list is a distant cousin of rice, quinoa! According to All recipes.com, “A cup of quinoa will also provide twice the protein and about 5 grams more fiber than the same amount of white rice.” Try inciportating quinoa into your meals if you are aiming for more protein. I use it for salads, Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes, and buddha bowls. Need some inspiration? Check out these recipes!

Quinoa based recipes:

A bowl of different type of quinoa.

    5: Chickpeas

Chickpeas, chickpeas, chickpeas. It’s hard to imagine the time before I ate chickpeas because I use them in so many different things now. I make buffalo chickpea wraps, Chickpea “chicken” salad, as well as blondies and cookie dough from chickpeas. My mom loves to top pizzas with chickpeas as well. The possibilities are endless for chickpeas.


Here’s some more ideas to get you started:

Raw chickpeas placed on a wooden table.

   6: Oatmeal

My favorite breakfast food and number six on the list, oatmeal. According to Healthline, oatmeal is “a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.” Boost your morning bowl of oatmeal by adding all the fix ins. Try chia seeds, hemp hearts, nut butters, fruits such as bananas and berries, and even pumpkin seeds on top of your oatmeal bowl. One of my personal favorites is oatmeal, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, and a banana, topped with coconut flakes. Delicious!

Use oatmeals in even more ways using these recipes:

A glass jar filled with raw oats.

   7: Nut Butter

Next up, the nut butters – peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower butter, walnut butter, so many to choose from! These guys can be used on top of fruit as a snack, on toast, in curry sauce, in baked goods, you name it. There is no shortage of things to make with nut butter. You can even eat nut butter by the spoonful if you choose. I may be guilty of doing this with peanut butter.

Further inspiration for nut butter based recipes:

Various nuts and nut butters on a wooden table.

    8: Avocados

Last, but not least, avocados. Avocados can bring a burst of flavor to so many different recipes. Toasts, salads, veggie bowls, tacos, burritos, veggies burgers- you name it. Extra avocado please! You can mash, cut, and even fry your avocados. You can use them to make sauces, dips, and spreads. You can eat them straight or seasoned. Avocados really are one of the most versatile foods.

Avocado based recipes to get you started:

Avocados on a dark green piece of cloth.

And there are my 8 favorite plant-based whole foods for any recipe. As you can see, many of these foods even go together! Sweet potatoes and avocado, oatmeal and nut butter, even chickpeas and nut butter depending on whether or not you are making a dessert. These 8 foods are almost ALWAYS in stock at my house because they are the bases for so many amazing recipes. Many of these foods you have probably eaten or tried before. Now, it’s all about making them the stars of the show instead of meat or dairy. Thinking you will have a hard time giving up meat? Check out this article for inspiration regarding going meat free.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, there are many common myths about going plant-based, such as limited protein, no fun foods, no favorite foods, and expenses. This lifestyle choice may just save you money, and get you trying a variety of healthy new foods and recipes! Head to your local grocery store and pick up one of these eight plant-based diet whole food staples, as well as plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to balance your diet. As you become more comfortable and familiar cooking plant-based, try giving some of your favorite foods a plant-based twist! Mac and cheese, pizza, lasagna, and all of your favorite comfort foods are still available to you- just different. Or, if you are really craving some real cheese or meat, go ahead and indulge. Always be sure to do what feels right for you and your body and health, regardless what anyone else is doing.


Have we inspired you to try out plant-based eating? Tag us on Instagram at @cookandculture and share with us what foods from this list you have tried out, as well as your favorite plant-based recipes. Get your friends and family on board and challenge them to a plant-based meal. Let’s eat better for ourselves and the planet this year.

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