Hello beautiful people,
I hope you are doing well!
It has marked over a year and a half since I decided to pursue plant-based eating, and I can firmly say it has been one of the best decisions of my life. Not a single time I have missed eating animals or regretted this choice.
Ever since I embarked in this journey, almost every day, through social media or in real life, I get tons of questions about how to successfully transition to plant-based eating. The truth is, if your current diet heavily relies on animal products, the transition to this lifestyle may seem impossible or even frustrating.
If implemented successfully, a whole plant-based diet moves away from super processed foods, and it is packed with nutrients that are naturally lower in calories and fats. I personally believe that changing your nutrition is one of the most powerful decisions you can make to improve your health, boost your energy and prevent several chronic diseases. Plant-based eating has allowed me to enjoy many different health benefits, which include reaching my healthy weight-loss goals and dropping 88 Ibs (40KG); reducing bloating and generally having more energy. If you would like to read more about these benefits, check out this article where I talk about it in more depth.
What is a plant-based diet?
As mentioned in my previous post, plant-based diets are similar to vegan diets, where no animal product is consumed at all. Plant-based eating involves consuming more plant-derived foods and cutting back on animal products, but in some cases not entirely.
My diet consists mostly of entire foods derived from plant sources such as vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts… with a few or no animal products at all. The only animal-derived products I consume occasionally are yogurt, eggs and a few products such as biscuits or chocolate that may contain milk. I consider my diet plant-based rather than vegetarian because I do not rely on meat replaces or “vegan processed food” such as alternative burgers or sausages. My diet heavily relies on whole-grains, pulses, legumes and other plant-derived options.
Disclaimer: Before I get started, I would kindly like to remind you that I am not a health expert or medical professional by any means. I am purely sharing my experience and what has worked for me. As with anything in life, what has worked for some may not work for others.
If you are interested in following a plant-based diet but are struggling to get started, keep on reading. Here are my 7 steps to successfully transition to this lifestyle:
1. Educate yourself
My first advice for anyone attempting to follow a plant-based diet includes doing as much research as possible. Do not just jump into it. Read books, watch videos, ask questions. Before committing to this decision, I spent months and months researching about it. I had already attempted this lifestyle in the past and I completely failed: I was not nourishing my body properly, I always felt tired, got sick very regularly and my overall food habits were very poor. A great way to do this research is by watching documentaries and reading nutritional books written by experts.
If you can, I highly suggest consulting a professional nutritionist, your GP or any other health & nutrition advisor to ensure this is an appropriate lifestyle for you.
2. Identify your “why”
Why do you want to follow a plant-based diet? Are you concerned about the cruelty behind the animal agriculture industry? Do you want to reduce your environmental impact? Health concerns? What reason speaks to you?
No matter what your reason is for pursuing this lifestyle, make sure you do plenty of research about it. Make sure that you are in love with this reason. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle is a big commitment. It will get tough at times and having a clear reason will help you stick to your goals. Approach this lifestyle with a positive mindset and enthusiasm.
Additionally, get ready for plenty of people trying to sabotage your diet. People will ask, they will question you. It is important that you feel 100% confident about this choice, and you that are ready to defend it, always from a place of love. Before I adopted this lifestyle, I never realized how controversial my own personal diet could be; there is always some sort of questioning that you need to be mentally prepared for.
3. Start small
Alright, so most people that decide to become vegan or even vegetarian from one day to another actually fail! My advice is simple: start small, one step at a time. The first thing I personally did was stop purchasing meals that contained meat every time I ate out. This will also allow you to try different flavours, plant-based dishes and taste the waters.
Starting small will also allow you to improve your plant-based cooking, education and taste buds. Focus on all the great things you will be able to eat, rather than the things you are going to eliminate from your diet.
4. Cut out one type of meat at a time
First, I decided to give up meat and chicken but continued to consume fish, eggs and dairy. This will allow your body to slowly and healthily get used to not consuming meat. Remember, even if you are following a plant-based diet for health reasons, you cannot expect your body to react in a positive way to such an extreme change in your lifestyle from one day to another!
This is actually the reason why I personally do not believe in those “20-day vegan diets” advertised all around social media. I strongly believe our bodies need time to process these new changes and successfully adjust.
I stayed at this stage for 2/3 months.
5. Introducing meat replacements & experimenting in the kitchen
From vegetarian “ham” slices to no-chicken nuggets, it is very easy nowadays to find meat replacements at your local supermarket. Thanks to the developments in technology, the texture and taste of these substitutes have become very realistic, which is very helpful if you are suddenly craving the texture and taste of meat. Please, do not rely on meat substitutes, I only recommend consuming them whilst you are experimenting with different plant-based protein sources.
At this stage, I completely gave up all types of meats and fish.
6. Give up meat replacements
I introduced meat replacements to my diet such as soya mince, as I experimented with pulses, legumes, tofu etc. Yes, these meat substitutes can be really tasty, but I do not recommend staying in this stage for too long. As much as these meat replacements are plant-based, they are still processed food, which is never the healthiest option.
I recommend keeping these replacements for special occasions, or if you are craving a particular dish such as a burger once in a while.
7. Reduce/Eliminate your consumption of dairy and eggs.
This is the current stage that I am on.
From the beginning I had already given up dairy milk; even before adopting this lifestyle. I was already consuming plant-derived milks because I have personally never enjoyed the taste of dairy milk.
My favourite dairy-free alternatives are:
-Coconut & hazelnut milk for smoothies & desserts
-Soya & oat milk for coffee, porridge and overall hot drinks.
I can promise you there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives nowadays in supermarkets when it comes to yogurt and cheese, in comparison to a few years ago.
Please, experiment in the kitchen! One of my favourite parts of having adopted a plant-based diet is how creative I have become in the kitchen. There are literally millions of YouTube videos and blog posts with so many tasty recipes that will definitely inspire you and encourage you to fall in love with this diet.
Until next time,