So, you’ve been considering transitioning to a plant-based diet? You’ve heard about all of the health benefits and how it’s better for the environment but just don’t know how or where to begin?
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Slowly begin to omit meat and seafood from your diet. This may seem challenging at first but if you take small steps, I swear you won’t feel a thing. Find an approach that works for you and your lifestyle. For example, you could start having ‘Meatless Mondays’ or go all out and eat meatless during the weekdays and only eat meat on the weekends. Another strategy you could try is only eating meat for one meal each day. What I’ve found to be extremely helpful is planning ahead and searching for fun recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and don’t forget some snacks too.
Now let’s begin to remove dairy and eggs. Start by removing all milk from your diet. This will allow you the opportunity to go out and explore all the wonderful plant-based alternatives that are now available. My personal favorites are almond milk and cashew milk. If you’re a kitchen ninja you could also try making your own dairy-free milk substitute. Homemade definitely tastes the best and is the best for you.
Next up is removing the cheese and all the condiments that contain dairy from your diet. I know this can seem like a big challenge to a lot of people, and I thought it would be for me too, but it wasn’t bad at all and to this day I don’t even crave cheese.
There is a vegan replacement for just about every cheese and dairy option out there. Give some of them a try and if you don’t find one to your liking, consider making your own. I know you never thought that you would be a vegan cheese-maker but it’s pretty easy to make and some yummy vegan nacho cheese is just about ten minutes away!
Depending on where you live, it may be challenging to find the ingredients you need to make vegan cheese or other plant-based recipes. If you can’t find what you are looking for, ask your local grocer. The more people that ask about vegan products, the more likely the grocer is to stock the products. You may also try shopping for these items online.
Now removing eggs from your diet may seem pretty easy but just be sure to start reading those labels because you will be surprised at what has eggs in it. Sometimes I read a label and see eggs in there and just have to ask myself, “But why??” After you start reading some of these food labels and realize what you’re eating, you may decide, nope, I do not want that in my body.
Set yourself up for success and get VEGUCATED. One thing that helps me with confidence and success in reaching a goal is education. There are so many books and documentaries about plant-based whole food diets out there and I urge you to take advantage of these great resources. Some of my favorite plant-pushers are Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Joel Kahn, Dr. Neal D. Barnard, Kris Carr, and Rich Roll. Hey, wait a minute, I’m a plant-pusher too so check me out!
I also recommend investing in some cookbooks, looking up recipes online and to start following a few plant-based blogs so you have an abundance of delicious recipes at your fingertips at all times.
You should also find some restaurants in your hometown that are plant-based and try them out. If you don’t have any, make a few phone calls to your favorite restaurants and see what plant-based options they have. You may be surprised at how many already have vegan menus or options. If you don’t ask, you will never find out! I also find that if you make the phone call and ask about plant-based options, many restaurants are happily willing to accommodate your diet.
Do a pantry and fridge investigation. Dig into that fridge and pantry and start reading the labels of the food that you already have. See what is plant-based and what’s not. You will be surprised at what is and what isn’t. I’m not going to lie, this will take some work and education but just think of what is on the other side—optimal health!
While cleaning out your pantry and fridge you may come to realize that some of your favorite foods aren’t plant-based. If this happens, start to search for healthy, unprocessed replacements. Slowly replace these products with your plant-based options. Sometimes this is easier to do over time because it can otherwise feel overwhelming and costly. Plan on doing one or two things every time you head to the grocery store.
Focus on eating real and whole food that fuels your body to perform like a Ferrari. What is real whole food you ask? It is anything that grows from the earth. It is food that doesn’t have an ingredient list or, if it does, you can easily buy the plant-based ingredients and make it yourself. Real whole food is food that is not processed or is minimally processed, foods that contain ingredients that you can pronounce and know what they are.
Join a CSA in your area and have organic produce delivered right to your home, office or local grocery store. Do a search for one in your area at LocalHarvest.org. These are awesome because not only are you eating food that is in season and not traveling far to get it, but you’re also supporting local organic farmers.
There is never an endpoint in being healthy.
It is a continuous lifestyle that you live and learn. It’s kind of like riding a bike. You have to continuously adjust to stay balanced. Throughout your journey of starting a plant-based diet, you will learn and adjust depending on how your body feels.
A healthy lifestyle is one of the most important self-care practices that you can add to your life. Give yourself the very best because that is what you deserve.
Tina Stinson is a Plant-Based Certified Holistic Health Coach. She focuses on helping professionals heal and fuel their bodies with plant-based whole food for optimal health.