Disclaimer: I am not an expert on nutrition. I am not perfect. I am on a journey to live a healthier, wholesome and meaningful life. Oh, and I ramble.
This post was something I worked on a while ago to help verbalize what was helping me be successful with changing the way I eat and think about food- so to be honest this is a self-reflective kind of post for me to look back on.
Tip 1: It doesn’t happen overnight.
(At least it didn’t for me). Ever since I could remember, I have had digestive issues and eventually diagnosed with IBS. My gastroenterologist prescribed medications, recommended changing my diet and decreasing stressors. I continued with the pain, irregularities, indigestion and overall crappiness until I started to be more mindful of what I was putting in my body. I never was a big meat eater so that wasn’t too difficult for me, but a challenge nonetheless. Little by little, my husband and I started to eat less and less meat; to the point where we were down to just a turkey burger once weekly. Eventually we stopped buying meat altogether in August 2016. In the last couple months we have now cut out eggs, cow’s milk and honey. Cutting out dairy and eggs has been the most difficult part for me being a cheese-lover and baker. But there are great alternatives out there! (Phew.)
A gradual step-by-step change has worked for me so far because there hasn’t been a feeling of loss…sounds ridiculous, right? But it is true- most of us are addicted to foods. The same cravings we get for a brownie after a week-long “diet” is the same as someone craving a cig. But hey, if you have a stronger will-power than me, hell yeah go for it! Go cold turkey!
Tip 2: Think of what you can eat, not what you can’t.
The key to success is to avoid feeling deprived. I’ve had everyone ask me, “What are you even going to eat?” Well, the awesome part is that I can now list tons of foods and dishes that I never had before. Going “vegetarian” or “vegan” actually meant eating foods that gave me energy, plates that were full of color, flavor and inspiration. I did not just cut out chicken, beef, pork, milk, eggs and ice cream…I added vegetables, fruits, chickpeas, squashes, chili, pastas, grains, beans, soups and curries. In the last 6 months I have learned so much about flavors, fresh ingredients and cuisines I never thought I would cook in my own home- and here’s the kicker: I HATED vegetables before. Now I can’t get enough. Give your taste buds a chance to change!
Tip 3: Load up your pantry.
Stock up on essential ingredients like grains and spices. I have another post on stocking up a Vegan Pantry. Click here to check it out.
Tip 4: Plan out your meals.
I am a planning kind of girl. Everything that I need to do, have done, will eat and have eaten is documented in my planner. Staying organized and prepared when making a dietary change is important because, like for me, I ate a certain way for 26 years. Making changes can be very difficult; however, planning out the meals for the week keeps you on track.
Tip 5: Find your go-to recipes.
There are tons of great cookbooks and blogs out there to help anyone be successful with “the transition”. Finding 3-4 recipes for dinners is how I started cooking plant-based at home. So every week I have some variation of a pasta, sandwich (burgers too), soup, or bowl. The possibilities are endless! My favorite blog is Minimalist Baker.
Tip 6: Educate yourself.
The best tip I could give you is to research the vegan diet and all of the nutritional aspects. There are great books, YouTube videos and documentaries available on Netflix. I recommend Forks Over Knives, Food Choices and Cowspiracy. It’s important to not only research how to eat a balanced, wholesome diet but also educate yourself on the food industry.
What made this so easy for me is really accepting and being mindful of how meat and dairy gets to our grocery stores. The conditions that animals are put in- the inhumane process. We will not die from protein deficiency on a vegan diet- so why slaughter millions of animals daily? There are so many options- it’s easy to get caught up in this lifestyle- here I am at 26 just now making a change. It’s what we are taught in school to drink milk and eat meat. It makes our muscles and bones strong. When in reality it’s just a business. And it’s time for me to defend the defenseless.
Tip 7: No one is perfect.
Don’t expect perfection! I am just starting out on this journey and hey, I’m human. We make mistakes but every time I have chosen a plant over an animal, I feel great and I know I have made a difference.