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This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Featured Author Jane Birch.

It’s December, a holy month, a month to celebrate our Savior’s birth. As we think of His coming to earth to be clothed with mortal flesh, we can remember the priceless gift we were given when we came into this world to receive our clothing of flesh. Our bodies are a priceless gift from our Savior. What we do with our bodies is a gift we give back to Him.

I know we are grateful for our bodies, but let’s face it—it is difficult to feed them well in a world full of chocolate-covered cinnamon bears! This is especially true when we are surrounded by heaps of homemade cookies, mouth-watering fudge, and other Christmas delights. No wonder health goals are so popular by the New Year!

Last week, in the article “Why Start Now?” I encouraged readers to start thinking about their health goals for the new year. The benefits of a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet certainly make it worth our while to take the plunge!

  • Prevention and reversal of disease
  • Healthy and permanent weight loss
  • Increased strength, energy, and vitality
  • A new level of enjoyment in delicious foods
  • Freedom from confusion about competing health claims
  • Joy in a life that honors the body, the earth, and the animals

If you want to give this a try, but you aren’t sure how, here are three possible approaches I will be discussing this month:

  1. Make a plan to “baby step” your way into a whole food, plant-based diet. (This is the approach I’ll be discussing in this article.)
  1. Go “cold turkey.” (I’ll discuss this next week!)
  1. Implement the “maximum weight loss” principles. If you are already eating a whole food, plant-based diet but you want to lose more weight, following the maximum weight loss principles is a surefire way to lose additional pounds—as long as the reduced weight is still healthy for your body. (I’ll discuss this later in the month.)

Baby Steps to WFPB

There are many ways to take baby steps into a whole food, plant-based diet. I’ll outline four of them below. I hope they will inspire you to set your own, specific goals for the new year.

1. Improve one food at a time

The most common way to transition to a whole food, plant-based diet is to focus on improving one food area at a time. This can be done either by directly reducing and/or eliminating unwholesome foods (like meat or processed foods) or by focusing on adding wholesome, healthy foods (like vegetables and whole grains), which will naturally begin to crowd out the unhealthy foods.

Below are just a few examples of the type of baby step changes you could adopt, each organized under the related Word of Wisdom principle. Using this strategy, you’d choose one or two areas to focus on before moving to a new goal.

Principle #1: All wholesome plants “in the season thereof” are ordained for our “constitution, nature, and use,” and should be used with “prudence and thanksgiving.” (D&C 89:10–11)

Could you add one or more servings/day of any of these wholesome plant foods? What about introducing your family to some new varieties?

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils)

Which unwholesome plant foods could you reduce or eliminate?

  • Sugar and other concentrated sweeteners
  • Soda pop or energy drinks
  • Other highly processed/refined foods, like fries, chips, and oils

Tips for switching from processed plant foods to wholesome plant foods:

Principle #2. Animal flesh is ordained for the use of humans (with thanksgiving!), but it should be eaten sparingly, and it is pleasing to the Lord if it is not used, except in times of need: “times of winter . . . cold, or famine” and “excess of hunger.” (D&C 89:12–13, 15)

How could you reduce or eliminate animal foods?

  • Processed meats are a good place to begin! These have been shown to cause cancer. They include hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat-based preparations and sauces.
  • If you have already eliminated processed meats, how about reducing or eliminating red meats (beef, pork) or poultry (chicken, turkey)?
  • Dairy and eggs both have a similar nutritional profile to the flesh of animals and therefore the same negative health consequences. WFPB experts notice the greatest health improvements in people who eliminate dairy, so that is also a great place to start.

Tips for reducing or eliminating animal foods:

Principle #3. “All grain is good” and is ordained to be the “staff of life.” (D&C 89:14, 16)

We live in a world that is afraid of grains, the very food the Lord ordained to be the staple of our diet! “All grain is good,” and there is a world of wonderful grains to explore. You can also work on switching from refined grains to whole grains. You don’t have to switch to 100% all at once. Baby steps are fine! You can start with 50/50 or even 25/75. Either way, aim to get the bulk of your calories from wholesome grains and other starch foods.

Which of these grains and other starch foods do you want to make the staple of your diet?

  • Whole grains: barley, brown rice, corn, millet, oats, rye, sorghum, spelt, teff, triticale, wheat, wild rice
  • Pseudo-grains (though they have a different botanical origin than true grains, they are similar in their nutritional profile and use): amaranth, buckwheat, chia, quinoa
  • Beans (which can be classified as a grain): black, cannellini, garbanzo, great northern, kidney, lima, mung, navy, pinto
  • Starchy vegetables (which play a similar nutritional role as grains): roots (potatoes, sweet potatoes, jicama, parsnips, rutabaga) and winter squashes (acorn, butternut, pumpkin)

Tips for switching to whole grains:

2. Convert one meal at a time

A different baby step method is to focus on converting one meal at a time. Most people find breakfast the easiest meal to begin with. Once you are 100% WFPB for breakfast every morning, add in lunch and snacks. Once you have lunch down, add in dinner!

Below are WFPB sites with a variety of breakfast ideas. Remember: you don’t need something new or fancy every morning. My breakfast is very simple. Every morning I enjoy a huge serving of steel cut oats, with non-dairy milk and lots of fruit. It is fantastic, and I never get tired of it!

For lunch and dinner ideas, see WFPB Recipes.

I highly recommend The Forks Over Knives Plan. This WFPB guide includes a great baby step program using this method. It includes lots of practical advice and recipes.

3. Add WFPB dishes

With this method, you start by finding some WFPB dishes you can enjoy. Include one or more of these dishes in your weekly meals, then steadily add on new ones over time. The more WFPB dishes you include, the fewer non-WFPB dishes you’ll need. Here is one possible progression path:

  1. Include one or more WFPB dishes along with the non-WFPB dishes you also have at the same meal.
  2. Make a few meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) entirely WFPB.
  3. Designate an entire day where you only eat WFPB meals.
  4. Make two or more days entirely WFPB each week.
  5. Do a full week of WFPB meals.
  6. Do an entire month of WFPB meals!

4. Ask the Lord “What Lack I Yet?”

I’ve saved the best baby step plan for last! Two months ago in General Conference, Elder Larry R. Lawrence gave a powerful talk entitled, “What Lack I Yet?” in which he encouraged us to seek the Lord’s help as we try to “be better and to climb higher.” Here is his counsel:

The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home. However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way.

How do we ask the Lord for directions? Elder Lawrence suggests we ask the “difficult questions,” and gave us three examples:

“What do I need to change?”
“How can I improve?”
“What weakness needs strengthening?”

Elder Lawrence even shared a few personal examples of answers that he has received from the Lord when he asked these questions. One of them was, “Take better care of your body by eating more fruits and vegetables.” What a perfect baby step answer!

Try the Word!

You don’t need to be 100% converted to the idea of a whole food, plant-based diet to try one of these baby step strategies in the new year. As long as you are willing to “try the word,” you can succeed. Once you experience the results of eating a healthier diet, the rewards can help you keep going.

As you set your goals for the new year, I encourage you to research the “fruits” of a healthy WFPB diet (see Success Stories). Learning about the marvelous power of eating nutritious foods and studying the promises in the Word of Wisdom can help you keep motivated and pressing forward.

There are marvelous treasures “hidden” in D&C 89. Wherever you are in your journey, take another step toward claiming them!

Getting Starting on a Word of Wisdom Diet

For more help embracing a healthy Word of Wisdom diet, see: “Getting Started on a Whole Food, Plant-based Word of Wisdom Diet.”

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”