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Christen Harper’s Tips and Tricks for Pursuing a Plant-Based Lifestyle at Home and Restaurants

Christen Harper.<p>Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images</p>
Christen Harper.

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

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One of the most daunting parts about embracing a plant-based diet is the fear that it simply won’t be achievable. Will you still be able to enjoy similar fare and the same restaurants if you cut down on your consumption of animal products? It can seem, at a glance, that with the change in your diet will come a radical change in the restaurants you frequent or the type of food you gravitate toward.

But, according to model Christen Harper, who has lived the lifestyle for over about a decade now, going plant-based—or even simply incorporating more greens into your diet—is not so difficult after all. She hasn’t had to cut out certain items, she’s simply found ways of modifying her favorite dishes. She hasn’t had to change up her restaurant rotation, either, as she’s discovered that most places accommodate her diet.

Like any diet, going plant-based requires a bit of a lifestyle shift. However, with the help of Harper’s tips, it’s not insurmountable and could be worthwhile.

Fare that is easily plant-based

Where cuisines are concerned, Harper doesn’t consider herself limited by her plant-based lifestyle. She can easily make or order Japanese, Italian and Mexican dishes. But, according to the 30-year-old, “those three are really easy to eat plant-based or plant-forward.” It might require a couple omissions or substitutions, but not ones that will make or break a meal. Plus, no matter the fare, many restaurants offer vegan or vegetarian dishes for those who might prefer it.

Even if they don’t, though, “many restaurants let you substitute” ingredients,” she explains. “You can get creative, even if you don't see something on the menu. Sometimes I put together a bunch of sides,” she says, which make for “a delicious meal.”

Harper loves Japanese dishes like ramen and sushi, which can contain fish, but more often than not can be made with tofu or other protein sources. Ultimately, the lifestyle is, in her mind, simply “a great way to force yourself to eat more vegetables,” which no one would argue is a bad thing.

How to approach the diet at home

The most important thing with any diet is ensuring that you are eating balanced meals. If you find yourself floundering in that regard, Harper urges everyone to remember that “it doesn’t have to be so rigid.”

Even if you begin by just “swap[ing] out one meal a day” one time per week, that’s better than nothing. “There are no rules, but I do think it’ll make you feel good if you even just do it for one day of the week,” she says. “It’s really easy when you have meat and carbs to rely on” to avoid vegetables. But “vegetables are so important and fiber is really important—upping that in any way is great.”

Though not difficult to achieve at restaurants, beginning at home is definitely the easiest way to adjust to a plant-based lifestyle. Harper loves to have carrots and hummus, mixed nutsand chips and guacamole on hand. In addition to plant-based or plant-forward meals, beginning to incorporate these plant-based snacks into your diet could be a good first step.

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