I recently received an email from a fan asking me to do a post outlining some “simple” steps to take when starting to transition to a healthy plant-based diet. It got me thinking, and I realized this is definitely a good angle to discuss. All these posts on chia seeds, vegetable casseroles and tofu can be overwhelming if you have been eating a meat and potatoes diet all your life. It’s also important to note that it is fairly easy to go vegan and eat processed foods on a regular basis, faux meats, chips, white bread, etc. But these foods will not help your health and ultimately, they will make you sick. My number one rule with eating a plant-based diet is ensuring that you’re also eating a WHOLEFOODS diet as well.
Let’s go over a few of my most important tips on the transition process:
- Look online for tips and ideas. If you are reading this, you have already got this step down! There are thousands of free recipes online, so make google your best friend and start searching. The options are endless.
- Get rid of processed foods and animal products from your pantry and fridge. You don’t need them so don’t let them sit there and tempt you.
- Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Oreo’s are vegan, but they aren’t plant-based, they are “chemical” based.
- It doesn’t have to cost more. How much money do you spend on filet mignon? Or on cheese? I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the price of beans, but a can of organic beans costs under $3. I’m fairly positive you can’t buy enough steak to feed your families protein intake for dinner for under $3. (I may be wrong, I haven’t ever bought a steak in my life, but from my research it seems unlikely).
- Don’t think of “cutting out” foods, because then you’ll feel deprived. Plant-based foods are very easy and will fit right into your diet. You won’t be missing anything, even treats! Pure dark chocolate? Coconut milk ice cream? These are actually even more satisfying then a processed chocolate bar from the gas station.
- Try to avoid faux meats. It might seem easier at first, so if you need to at the beginning, feel free, but try not to make a habit out of it. Organic tofu or tempeh are real foods, with great nutritional density that you can marinate, BBQ, fry, etc.
- Where will I get my protein and vitamins? From real food of course! I eat more protein as a vegan then I ever did when I ate meat. Watch for another post in a day or two about vegan protein. Vitamins? The only one you will be missing will be B12. You can use a supplement from the health food store for that. Also, watch your iron levels and include plenty of plant-based iron foods in your diet (lentils, quinoa, tofu, pumpkin, squash, swiss chard, collard greens, and the list goes on).
- The bulk of your groceries should be produce. Most standard grocery stores have an organic section, so stick to that and produce.
- Be creative. The possibilities are endless. You can combine and flavour your foods with so much variety.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to start out very intense. You can start subbing all your favourite foods for healthier, plant based options quite easily.
Here is a little list of alternatives that will be easy to find for your favourite foods.
White Rice, Pasta or Noodles
Quinoa, Brown rice, Millet (these involve almost the same cooking process as your favourite white pasta or rice)
Steak, Chicken, Fish
Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, Beans (Marinate and season to your liking. Tofu especially will taste like whatever you spice it with or pair it with, so don’t be scared of this tasteless soft white block, make it your own and flavour it with some “chicken” spices!)
White or Brown Bread
Spelt, Amaranth, Kamut, Buckwheat. (Ancient grains are loaded with Vitamins and proteins. These are nutrient dense and packed with more Vitamin B, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, fibre and antioxidants then the chemical filled loaf of white or brown bread with little to no nutritional value)
Kraft Peanut Butter (or processed peanut butters)
Organic All-Natural Nut butters; pumpkin seed butter, almond butter, hemp seed butter. (Pumpkin seed butter has very high amounts of iron and protein)
Almond milk, Coconut milk, Hemp milk, Cashew milk, Flax milk, Rice Milk; the possibilities are endless for milk alternatives.
Daiya Cheese. This cheese is dairy, gluten AND soy free and it comes in a variety of flavours and forms. It’s melts as well as regular cheese and it’ll make you forget very quickly about the real thing!
Following a vegan diet and living a vegan lifestyle is so unfamiliar for too many individuals. This is partly why I wanted to create this blog, to bring awareness to the topic, share recipes and information and prove that it really is quite simple to do. Deciding to follow a vegan diet doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming, it’s all about going back to the basics. Eating real food, without chemicals or additives, the way it was meant to be eaten. We as individuals living in a developed country have the freedom to chose what we put into our bodies. We make that choice many times a day, every single day. Why not try to make the one that will bring your body to it’s fullest potential? Prevent sickness and disease, as well as preventing suffering to animals.
I’ve made a list of simple, basic, transitional foods to start adapting into your daily diet. Always remember to chose organic wholefoods as often as possible!
- Quinoa, Brown Rice, Millet, Couscous
- Kale, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Mushrooms, Tomatoes
- Almond milk, Coconut Milk, Rice Milk, Hemp Milk
- Bananas, Apples, Berries (Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries)
- Almonds, Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Pecans
- Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Hemp Seeds
- Lentils, Chickpeas, Kidney Beans
- Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan
FOOD IS FUEL AND FOOD IS ENERGY!
I understand that change is difficult, and we love to stick to what we know. We don’t want to go through extra trouble because we are lazy, and tired, or we had a long day at work, or our kids are picky eaters. But this is no way to live your life. You can make plant-based food exciting and tasty for your children, all it takes is a little bit of time, maybe 10 minutes longer then it would take to throw a frozen pepperoni pizza into the oven. A vegan diet might be new and unfamiliar, but you’ll be surprised how much food you can actually incorporate in your diet that you didn’t even know about! It’s a whole learning experience, and trust me, at the end of the day, your body will thank you for it.