When starting a plant-based lifestyle, it’s important that you go at a pace that’s best for you. If the thought letting go of certain foods forever seems too overwhelming, give yourself a break and try to stick to the plant-based diet as much as possible. Simply adding more vegetables and fruits into your diet can be a great start and don’t forget you can transition slowly until you feel comfortable letting go of foods that are not plant based. Transitions take time, and there is no rush.
Here are some helpful ways to begin your transition into a plant-based diet.
This means that you add in as many plant-based foods as possible instead of focussing on what you should stop eating. Try to increase the amount of plant-based foods daily and soon you will notice how to recognize how your body feels and which plant based foods serve you well. This is a great way to transition and experiment with a new way of eating. Find out what you love and make it a staple in your diet!
One simple way to start would be to eliminate one animal product per week. Start with red meat the first week, then poultry, then fish, then eggs and so on. Feel free to eliminate two at a time, there is no rush and it is a journey for you and your body so go slow and stay in tune with how you feel on a daily basis.
A more ambitious option would be to start your plant based journey with a 21-day 100% vegan challenge. You could give yourself one week to collect vegan recipes and do the grocery shopping for vegan foods and substitutes and on the second week, you could start your 21-day 100% vegan challenge. This gives you the option to experience the benefits of cutting out all animal foods at once. Within those 21 days, you would learn a lot about your body and a new way of cooking, preparing food, and grocery shopping. Keep your meals simple but diverse and try not to fall into the trap of overcomplicating things. Many people jump right into the vegan world of fancy and rather expensive vegan foods like meat, milk and cheese alternatives. Keep it simple and you will be successful.
Focus on eating whole foods – plenty of vegetables, legumes, grains, starches, nuts, fruits, and seeds. Eating a good variety of plant-based foods is essential to give your body the full range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs daily.
You’re learning about new foods to add to your daily diet, and it’s important to keep it fun to stay motivated. Do you know how many different types of legumes or grains there are? How about the strange-looking fruit or vegetable at your grocery store? There’s a world of foods you probably don’t even know yet, and they are out there for you to discover. You could pick a different plant based food every week and look up its nutritional value, how to use it, and what delicious meals you could create with it.
When switching to a vegan diet, our bodies will react differently because we are all different. No need to panic, take notice, and embrace the changes in your body. It’s not uncommon for the body to go into detox mode during the first two weeks following a plant-based diet. The most common side effects of this detox are fluctuations in your energy levels and light headaches. All this will pass, and remember to drink LOTS of water to help your body flush out the toxins.
Often, plant foods tend to be lower in calories than animal foods, and they are also less satiating. Make sure you keep a few healthy snacks on hand. Fresh and dried fruits, as well as nuts or nut butter, are excellent choices and easy to take on the road. You could also prepare a few baked treats or homemade granola bars. It might take you a few weeks to get used to your new lifestyle, foods, meal sizes, and meal frequencies, but stick with it and you will soon be on your way.
When you first venture out on your plant based lifestyle, you’ll be reading food labels a lot because some ingredients may not be suitable for your diet. Look out for a little sticker reading “suitable for vegans,” as this will save you some time studying food labels. Animal products are used in more products than you might imagine. Watch out for non-vegan ingredients like lactose, gelatine, albumen (aka egg white), casein, whey powder, and many more. There are also apps like “Is it vegan?” that help you scan the food label and ingredient list to tell you then whether a product is vegan or not.
While you might think that you’ll never taste cheese again or that you won’t be able to bake your favorite desserts without using eggs or dairy, rest assured, there are excellent substitutes. You will simply replace necessary ingredients with vegan foods that replicate the flavors and textures you know and love.
Even vegans have their own cheese that tastes like cheese!
Add nutritional yeast to make your vegan food taste like cheese. Often, cheese is one of the foods people find hard to give up when going vegan. Nutritional yeast is your magic ingredient. You can use it to make vegan “cheese,” vegan sauces, vegan mac & cheese, and even vegan Parmesan. You’ll find it in most local health food stores or online.
You can replace eggs with flax eggs. This is absolutely essential when baking vegan muffins, cookies, or bread. Here’s a simple recipe on how to make a flax egg that’ll replace one chicken egg. In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let it thicken for 10 minutes. It will become a gelly-like mixture you can add to your dough when baking. Use KALA NAMAK SALT for adding egg flavor to your vegan dishes. To make vegan frittatas, omelets, eggless egg salads, or to add an egg-like flavor to your vegan dishes, use kala namak salt. It’s also known as Indian black salt, and it works like magic! Due to the sulfur compounds found in this salt, it has a distinct smell and taste of eggs. You can find this salt in most health food stores and
Plant milk is a great substitute for dairy milk and much healthier too. There is a wide variety of plant milk
ranging from almond milk, rice, soy, hempseed, oat milk, and more. You’ll find them at local stores and online. Make sure to opt for the unsweetened plant milk. Enjoy your plant-based milk on your cereal in the morning, and when cooking pancakes or muffins!
Replace dairy butter with coconut oil. Coconut oil has a similar texture as butter, so it’s perfect for baking pies and tarts. Coconut oil hardens when cold. Therefore, it’s best to add it at the same temperature as the butter.
Always opt for organic coconut oil.
Use frozen bananas to make ice cream. Peel a fresh banana, cut into slices and freeze for a few hours or overnight. When you want to make ice cream, add some almond milk or coconut milk to a blender, add the banana, and blend in a high-speed blender until creamy. Place in the freezer for a few minutes and enjoy it. You can even create something a bit more fancy by adding in other frozen fruits or nuts.
Use full-fat coconut milk instead of heavy dairy cream. Coconut milk is great for cooking, making creamy soups, or sauces. You can even bake with it. Leave your coconut milk can in the fridge overnight. The next morning take it out, open it, and you’ll see that a thick white cream has formed on the top. Scoop off the cream and use it in raw desserts, vegan ice creams, or make a whipped coconut cream for your cakes!
Use beans to replace meat when making burger patties. Beans are very filling and highly nutritious, and they make perfect burger patties! Choose your favorite beans, mix them with some shredded veggies, sauteed garlic, and onion, season with salt and pepper and blend in a food processor until creamy. Form a patty, and cook over high heat until golden!
Replace gelatin with agar-agar. To make desserts like puddings, jellies, panna cotta, jams, and even hard cheese, you can use agar-agar. It is made from seaweed and works as a thickener when dissolved in liquid. You can find it as a powder and as flakes. It has no flavor, no odor, no color, and it sets more firmly than gelatin. Therefore, recipes will be less jiggly and less creamy.
As you can see, there are not many sacrifices you’ll have to make when it comes to your favorite foods and transitioning into a plant-based lifestyle. With a little know-how, inspiration, and creativity, you can cook everything your heart desires while being following a vegan diet.