Whenever you start something new, there will be a transition period. Sometimes it will be a quick transition but other times it will take a little longer. My long term goal is to be completely meat free but it is taking a little longer than I thought it would. But it is getting easier to make the changes because it is easier and more sustainable for me to make small changes.
Whatever your journey looks like is ok – there are no rules except to keep making steps in the direction you want to go.
These are a few things that have helped me along my journey.
Veggies are the star of the show
For many of us we plan meals around the meat so when faced with a creating a plant based meal, it can feel like something is missing. The best way to get around this is to not look at vegetables as the sides but rather as the star of the show. There is so much you can do with cauliflower – cauliflower curry, roasted cauliflower (this is one of our absolute favourite things to make, my kids love it). Mushrooms are also great – you can do stuffed brown mushrooms or a mushroom risotto! There really is so much you can do when you pick a vegetable and put it front and center.
The variety of food is endless
The variety of foods you can chose from when you follow a plant-based diet are endless – make sure you include as much variety as you can. The saying “eat the rainbow” is so much easier when you aren’t eating meat. When you add brightly coloured foods to your diet like peppers, blueberries, carrots, beets, patty pans makes your meals so much more appealing. There is nothing more delicious than a plate full of chopped up red and yellow peppers, cucumber, olives, sprouts and carrots. Add some mixed nuts to the mix and you have a delicious, nutritious meal in minutes. The more varied your meals are the easier it is to make sure you are getting the right vitamins and nutrients.
Whole grains are better
While it is not essential for a vegan diet, ditch the refined grains like white pasta and white bread. Instead of these add brown rice, quinoa and oats to your diet – these are all pretty easy to add to meals. They will add fiber, iron and vitamin B to your diet, keeping you fuller for a little longer.
Try new plant based food
Up until this year I have been hesitant to try some of the more common plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh. I have focused on lentils, chickpeas and nuts instead but this year I have a few tofu and tempeh recipes planned. If you are open to trying to new things you will find that their are more protein plant-based options than their are meat options, allowing you to eat a varied diet.
Not all vegan food is healthier
Heavily processed food vegan foods are not always healthier. Baked goods like cookies, cakes and breads – even vegan ones, are not healthier. It is important to read the labels of processed food and limit the amount of sugar you consume – if you don’t, the results will be the same. If you are gluten-free, like I am, you will need to check vegan foods closely, many contain gluten.
Be aware of what nutrients and vitamins you need
Even if you are eating a very varied diet, you do still need to be aware of what vitamins you are getting in to make sure you are getting enough of things like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iron and vitamin B12. Vitamin D can be absorbed by spending time in the sun but you can also get it from almond milk and orange juice. Iron is important, especially for women, make sure you are getting enough iron rich vegetables (leafy greens are a great source of iron).
There is not right or wrong way to start your plant-based journey. Take it slow or make a quick switch – it really is up to you.