The term plant-based diet is another way of saying that you eat almost only plants with optionally some animal products. Veganism is the ultimate plant-based diet. But like mentioned before, for many people, that’s just one crazy step too far. And that’s just fine. Though we recently decided to go 99 percent plant-based (leaving room for an occasional cheat moment), I’m not here to tell you that everybody should go vegan to protect their health. Moreover, the choice is up to you and I can only share our experience and the results of many of my clients.
The only thing I want to stress is that animal products should not be on the menu every single meal or day. And if you are eating animal products opt for grass-fed, organic, or free range. Even though, these are more expensive, they will not harm your health when eaten in moderation. Also, stay away from deli meats or other processed products as they contain the most hormones, antibiotics, and other nasty chemicals.
Although we still eat animal products on very rare occasions, we are mainly plant-based munchers and it definitely improved our health. Eating more plants made me slimmer, healthier, stronger, and increased my energy levels dramatically. It also enabled my husband to come off his weekly, sick-making interferon injections for Multiple Sclerosis without any issues. He hasn’t had an MS flare-up for many years and is drug-free for 3 years now. Amazing isn’t it? And no doctor ever told us food could be a possible and effective treatment.
With more people becoming a 100% vegan or vegetarian I often get questions on how to make the change. Below you’ll find some tips and tricks that may help you out.
Why Changing To Plant-Based diet?
- Health: many people switch to eating more plants to lose weight, improve overall health, avoid premature aging, and reduce the risk of heart issues, cancer, or diabetes.
- Environment: eating less or stop eating animal products altogether is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. To give you an idea, animal agriculture produces 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s 5% more than all forms of transportation combined (13%).
- Animal-cruelty: maybe one of the biggest reasons why people are turning away from eating animals is to make peace of mind and help stop animal cruelty. So if you still eat meat just like me, opt for organic meat and fish and try to reduce your intake to 1-2 times a week.
10 Tips To Ease Your Way Into A Plant-Based Diet
Like mentioned before there is no need to become a 100% vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. We are flexitarians and eat meat 1-2 times a week to meet our B12 requirements. (Click here to learn more about B12 deficiencies)
1. Meatless Monday
Some people decide to jump right in and become a vegan or vegetarian from one day to another. But for many people, that’s just not feasible. So, if you want to start slowly, you can start by giving up meat for one day a week (Meatless Monday) or more. See what works for your family.
If all Americans would participate in this Meatless Monday, a whopping 1.4 billion animals would be spared, and our carbon footprint, water use, and fossil dependence would be reduced dramatically.
ALSO READ: The Top Plant Protein Sources
2. Vegan-Before-6pm Approach
Instead of going vegan or vegetarian for a few days a week, many people like to ease their way into a plant-based diet. And this is by eating a vegan diet before 6 pm and allow themselves to have animal products at dinner.
3. Experiment With Vegan Or Vegetarian Versions Of Your Favorite Meals
Try and replace the meat in your favorite dishes with a plant-based alternative. Moreover, try not to use fake meats as they are highly processed and full of unfermented soy products. Further, try Portobello mushrooms, chickpeas, lentils, barley, quinoa, etc. instead.
ALSO READ: Is Soy Bad For You Or Not?
Scroll down for tips and tricks to ease your way into a plant-based diet
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4. Do Your Research When Eating Out
With a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle becoming more popular the food and restaurant industry has jumped on this new way of eating. These days there is a wide variety of high-end plant-based restaurants, vegan hippie cafes, or whole food salad bars.
5. Be Creative
For most people the word boring comes to mind when thinking of fruits and vegetables, but the opposite is true. Moreover, there are so many things you can do with those flavorful veggies or fruits. So do your research, ask vegans or vegetarians for their favorite recipes and don’t be afraid to get creative in your kitchen.
A good rule to stay creative, try at least one new vegan or vegetarian product or recipe each week. And if you thought you should miss all the fun of desserts, think again. We are hooked on vegan-style desserts.
6. Watch Out For Nutrient Deficiencies
If you eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, you most likely won’t run into deficiencies. The only culprit is vitamin B12 as this is only found in animal products but the good news if you are going completely vegan, vitamin B12 supplements are the safest out there. If you are not a supplement fan just like me, 1-2 servings of organic meat or fish a week will meet your needs.
Most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies for people on a vegan diet are iron, calcium, vitamin D, and B12.
7. Avoid Refined Carbs
Many people who live on a plant-based diet are often tricked into eating more refined carbs like bagels, vegan junk food, pretzels, chips, etc. Don’t fall into the carb trap and make sure to have healthy and delicious snacks around.
8. Make Sure To Eat Enough
People who decide to live on a 100% plant-based diet will have to eat more to avoid binge eating. Fruits and veggies have fewer calorie per bite, so you will have to eat more. I made this mistake myself when I turned to a more plant-based diet. In fact, I had a smoothie for breakfast, soup or salad for lunch. And when I used to come home, I would be so hungry I binge on nuts or other stuff. So make sure to eat enough fruits and veggies during the day. You shouldn’t feel hungry. Best is to have 5-6 smaller meals instead of 3 main meals.
9. Switch To Non-Dairy Milk
That was a no-brainer for me. Coconut, almond, or hazelnut milk are so much tastier than cow’s milk so for my family, it was easy to eliminate cow’s milk. And on top of that, nut milk, especially almond milk, is very low in calories compared to cow’s milk, making it the best substitute for people who want to lose weight.
Click HERE to learn how to make your own nut milk at home. It is super easy; you’ll see.
10. Make Friends
These days it is so easy to connect with people around the world, so join vegan and vegetarian sites and groups, and learn and see how 100% vegans or vegetarians live. It’s fun, inspiring, helpful, and so cool to meet all those lovely people and learn from their mistakes and experiences.
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world”
Although some of us like to go cold turkey and become a vegan or vegetarian overnight. For many families, this approach simply doesn’t work long term. Make small changes to your diet and add more plant-based products to your lifestyle and work your way up.
See what works for you. I come from a family of meat-eaters, so when I started with the Meatless Mondays that was already a big step forward in creating better health, reduce animal cruelty and carbon footprint.
Gradually we changed more and more and were in perfect health and peace of mind with our 2 servings of organic meat or fish a week. recently, however, we decided we were ready to go 100 percent plant-based. But again that is up to you and what you feel comfortable with.
What about you? Do you eat a 100% plant-based diet or are you a flexitarian just like we were a few months ago? Please share your feedback or thoughts with us in the comment box below.
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Crazy cat lady, life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach.