How to Go Plant-Based in 6 Easy Steps for Your Happiness
The idea of cutting out meat and going plant-based can seem intimidating. After all, you can be interested in changing your diet and habits for your wellbeing and the greater good, but still wonder, how in the world will I actually follow through with this? - this breakaway from the norm or the diet I've always known and enjoyed?
With so many factors and obstacles in your way, it can be a challenge to stay focused on all the reasons you're considering this transition in the first place. You might notice several questions circling your mind, like how will I get enough protein? How will my body react? Will I gain weight? Will I lose weight? What happens if I fail?
These are all common and valid questions that can arise when switching to a plant-based diet. But let's not panic or get ahead of ourselves. It's already a huge leap that you showed up for yourself, your health, values, and happiness to learn more about transitioning to a plant-based diet!
And if reading this is all you accomplish in terms of your plant-based journey today, then that's okay. Because while this may be a new beginning for you, it's still a transition - and that's why we're going to break down your transition, telling you how to go plant-based in 6 easy steps.
What are the basics of a plant-based diet?
When someone says they are following a plant-based diet, this typically means that - you guessed it - the majority of what they are eating is derived from plants! This can include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, etc.
When you hear the term "plant-based," you may automatically think "vegan." But make sure you don't confuse plant-based with vegan. People following a plant-based diet often include eggs and dairy in their rotation of foods, while vegans do not.
Also, keep in mind that your diet is a 100% personal choice that you should make according to your dietary needs, preferences, goals, and values. While there are several definitions for different vegetarian or vegan diets that can serve as great guidelines, you don't have to fit yourself into a box. A plant-based diet doesn't mean that you can never eat meat or dairy again. A plant-based diet means a diet primarily built around foods from plant sources.
What are 5 plant-based foods?
Here are five common plant-based foods and examples of each:
- Legumes (black beans & red or green lentils)
- Soy products (tofu & tempeh)
- Nuts and Seeds (peanuts & almonds; chia seeds & hemp seeds)
- Grains (quinoa & rice)
- Vegetables (protein-rich veggies like broccoli, kale & mushrooms)
What is the easiest way to go vegan?
Despite what anyone else says, it is possible to transition without going cold turkey (meat pun not intended)!
There are no hard and fast rules with how you progress, but know that this transition can be gradual. A more gradual process will allow you to find out what works best for your body, while a fast transition can be emotionally and physically stressful.
A gradual or baby steps transition is a great option to consider for your health and happiness, as it will allow you to slowly incorporate more and more new foods, giving your body time and digestive system to adjust.
How to go plant-based in 6 easy steps
Let's break down the basics and make this transition practical and possible. Here's how to go plant-based in 6 easy steps, no matter where you are now or how quickly you choose to move forward.
- Understand your 'why's
This is important to help you stick with this change in your diet. Why do you want to go plant-based? Is it for the animals, for your health, or the environment?
Knowing your 'why' can keep you motivated even when things get hard. When your body aches because of the transition and all you crave is the greasy, salty food of your past, you'll remember your 'why's and push forward.
For many people, their 'why' becomes more apparent once they start researching the benefits of a plant-based diet.
- Make sure you are getting enough nutrients
It is possible to get all essential nutrients from a plant-based lifestyle, but you must make sure you are incorporating enough variety in your meals.
All in all, the number one thing you should do before embarking on a plant-based diet is to inform yourself as much as possible. Educate yourself on nutrients, which foods contain those nutrients, and how much of them you need to eat. It sounds overwhelming, but you're already probably doing this to some extent!
While a plant-based diet adds tremendous nutritional value to your health, you mostly want to make sure that you don't end up lacking in some areas.
For instance, a few common nutritional deficiencies of plant-based diets include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You're always going to read conflicting opinions about plant-based vs. animal diets. But there isn't much we don't know about the essential nutrients the human body needs, so don't overcomplicate it and stick to what feels right for your mind and body.
- Start with a process of elimination
Rather than overwhelming yourself by thinking you have to learn how to make BBQ out of jackfruit on day one, one less stressful way to transition is by eliminating animal-based foods from your diet.
There are some pretty obvious ones, such as meat and dairy products, but if you're going vegan, you might be surprised that little things like marshmallows or gum can also contain gelatin, a protein extracted from the skin, cartilage, and bones of animals!
- Switch the must-have foods and simple things first
It's important to remember that you don' have to go from 0 to 100% when it comes to a plant-based diet. That's often where people fall off the wagon. They try to change their lifestyle overnight and then give up when it proves too difficult.
Start by making small changes in your diet and gradually increasing the amount of plant-based foods you eat.
One simple place to start is with alternatives to your staples! For instance, if you plan to move away from dairy milk, start exploring options like cashew milk or oat milk to find your favorite!
Or, if you plan to cut out dairy but love cheese, start swapping out dairy cheese for vegan cheese. Making vegan cheese out of cashews is easy and fun!
If you are struggling without meat or still working to find vegetable-based alternatives you enjoy, try out meat alternatives such as soy-based chicken. Know that you cannot sustain yourself healthily from only these products, but they can nicely complement many grain or vegetable dishes.
Not only are more and more of these plant-based options available at restaurants, supermarkets, and certain food prep companies, but learning how to make new things - even if it's not all vegetables all the time - will continually inspire you!
- Adjust your mindset before your diet
Just because a certain diet limits certain foods doesn't mean the diet itself is limiting. When exploring new diets like a plant-based diet, it's easy to approach this change with a limited mindset. In reality, a plant-based diet can be exciting and expansive!
You now have so many new things to explore, so be grateful and recognize how cool it is that you're learning more things about nutrition, ingredients, recipes, and saving the environment than you've probably ever learned before.
One way to continue staying consistent with this mindset is to have fun and mix up your daily menu from time to time!
- Be prepared
This is the easiest step for some people, while others struggle with it because of their lifestyle and habits. But if you're already used to making a game plan for the grocery store each week or so, making a plant-based shopping list doesn't have to be any different!
Not only can a meal plan for each week help, but don't forget about keeping snacks on hand at all times! This way, if you get too hungry, you won't have to think or stress about where you can stop to eat, or worse, stop somewhere and end up eating a burger that you really didn't want to eat.
That said, you're only human. And as we said in the beginning, your dietary choices are completely up to you. You might have strong values regarding animals or the environment, but do you want to know the biggest thing that can get in the way of your plant-based diet goals? Beating yourself up over ever taking a step back and calling it a failure.
While it would be amazing to see you thrive in this transition and never look back, not everybody gets it the first time around, and that's okay! The most important thing about diet changes is that you stay true to your mind and body. Continue to tune in to what each needs for your health and happiness, and allow yourself to be steered in the best direction for you.