Transitioning Toward A Vegan Diet
People always say that a vegan diet is boring, restrictive, too hard. I have to say, I believe that to be true of almost every other standard “diet”. Endless grams of lean, plain chicken, canned tuna, steaks… powdery and processed shakes and powders… plain yoghurts… boiled eggs…. avoiding beans and legumes… Fearing delicious, colourful fruits and starches… excluding/skimping on grains… smoothies and juices without fruit, if at all… vegetables as an afterthought… It sounds pretty dry and unexciting to me! Of course, there's the argument for moderation. Well, I don't really think that works so well in the majority of cases. Those people still demonise fruit/starch/grains/beans and then focus on eating these foods with moderation, rather than as it should be, moderation with meat/dairy/eggs.
We have become entirely disconnected from our food; what it is, where it comes from, what it does for us. The correlation between standard western diets and disease, and the way in which we have allowed mainstream media and food marketing to distort our beliefs, our instincts and our relationship with eating is uncanny. To me, it is simple: keep it recognisable, from the earth and colourful. Centre your diet around real, plant-foods, that are unquestionably good for us, meant for us and make us feel amazing. These are the foods that jazz up a meal and bring flavour and life to it.
Make plants the star of the show and feel the difference!
To do this, begin by making three lists under the headings: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Next, write down at least 10 options you enjoy having regularly for each of these meal times. Some, you might find are already vegan, some might need adjusting for example, if for breakfast you have scrambled eggs with veggies, avocado and toast, replace the eggs with 100g scrambled tofu or ½ cup beans and you have a new, plant-based breakfast. Alternatively, if a chicken caesar salad is on your lunch menu, swap it to caesar salad with ½ cup cannelloni beans and a cashew or avocado caesar-inspired sauce. Mince can be replaced by lentils, fish for tofu and dulse flakes, fetta for nuts/avocado in a salad, cheese for nut cheeses/nutritional yeast. Get creative! Once you have done this, you should have 30 meal ideas that are 100% vegan!
Now that you have your menu for the next two weeks, why not try adding these into your routine. You can choose to do this full-time, or simply for two meals a day, and keep one non-vegan meal in daily. Perhaps you prefer the idea of 5 days vegan, 2 days “off”. Whatever works for you, move toward this style of eating with all these delicious options you have just listed and watch your taste buds change, your energy lift, and your health thank you.
7 Key Factors to Consider when making this transition either 50%, 80% or 100%:
- Replace 100g of meat/fish/eggs/dairy with 100g of tofu/tempeh, ½ cup beans/lentils/chickpeas or 3-5 tbsp nutritional yeast for protein;
- Include ½ cup cooked unrefined, gluten-free grains in at least 1-2 meals daily for B vitamins;
- Incorporate sea vegetables in your diet for iodine. These include dulse flakes/leaves, nori sheets, wakame and kelp;
- Eat plenty of dark leafy greens (5-8 servings), fresh herbs, legumes and beans, whole-grains, raw nuts, seeds and nut butters and fruit to ensure you are consuming adequate iron, zinc and calcium from plant-sources;
- Consume 1-3 tbsp freshly ground flaxseeds or whole chia seeds daily for omega-3, and include a moderate portion of other healthy fats such as walnuts, tahini and avocado's into meals or snacks;
- Check for animal products in the ingredients section of food labels, milk/milk powder can often be found in things like crackers, chips and sauces;
- Aside from diet, if this plant-based lifestyle is something you are adhering to for a while, you will also want to supplement with vitamin B12, B12 stays in our and get regular blood tests to keep an eye on key nutrients like B12, zinc, iron, vitamin D, iodine and cholesterol. We should all be doing this, but particularly if adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Great vegan snacks to keep on hand: