It’s National Vegetarian Week here in the U.K, which is yet another chance to celebrate plant based diets and the benefits they can bring to your health AND your planet!
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or are just interested in eating more plant based foods, I think it’s extremely important we unite and get behind initiatives like this! Together we can help raise awareness, build momentum and show the world just how easy, healthy and delicious a plant based diet can be.
I’ve written this short article especially for you guys that are curious about moving towards a plant based diet, but need some advice before getting started.
I’ve been there myself, so I know just how important it is to have the right advice to help make your plant based diet healthy, sustainable, and enjoyable! So if you’re ready to improve your health, to protect animal welfare and to help heal our planet, here are some top tips to help get you started on a plant based diet.
And to my fellow vegans and vegetarians, please share this article to help spread the word! Here are my top tips for getting started on a plant based diet.
Starting a plant based diet
Find your ‘Why’
There are thousands of reasons that people decide to switch to a more plant based diet. For some people it’s a health decision, others an ethical choice, or maybe even an environmental one. Whatever your reason, it is important to clearly establish your Why before you jump in!
Along your journey there will be doubters and cynics, and there will even be times when you question yourself. But when this happens, you can always come back to your Why and know in your heart that you made the right decision.
Over time, you’ll discover thousands more benefits you never expected when you went plant based! But it all starts with that one Why.
There are so many educational and informative blogs, social media platforms and YouTube channels out there that are packed with all the advice and inspiration you need to go plant based. Use them to your advantage!
Top tip: Pick just two or three people or channels to follow to avoid information overload. It’s easy to get confused jumping from one piece of advice to another, and you end up getting nowhere.
And don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or other people you know who have already made the switch! Ask questions and get inspired – you’re not doing this alone!
Take baby steps
In today’s ‘all or nothing’ culture, it’s easy to think that you’re failing if you don’t go 100% vegan right off the bat. This isn’t true!
Every plant based meal you eat is making a positive impact on your health and the environment. Slowly incorporating more plant based foods into your diet can help you to make the transition, and you can do it all at your own pace. You’ll learn more about the way foods make you feel, how to get creative with plant foods and discover some epic plant based recipes as you transition! And the more plant based foods you eat, the better you’ll feel, and the easier the rest of the process becomes.
You don’t have to do it all overnight! Take it at your own pace, make conscious choices one plate at a time, and things will become so much easier.
Make smart swaps
If you’re missing particular foods that you used to eat, make smart swaps to a plant based alternative! There are so many options available, there’s a swap for almost anything.
Dairy is traditionally one of the things that people find hard to give up, but in 2017 there really is no excuse to be consuming milk based products. Plant based milks are everywhere and can be used in exactly the same ways as animal milks. There are so many brands to choose from, but my personal favourites are Plenish and Rude Health as they don’t contain gums and thickeners that are found in a lot of high street brands. Dairy free yoghurt is also everywhere, and is often made from coconuts or even almonds!
If you’re craving something creamy or cheesey, cashew nuts are a lifesaver! Simply soak them overnight and blend them up with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper to make an incredible ‘cheese’ sauce. They can even be used to make raw cheesecakes!
As for eggs, these are easily substituted in baked recipes for flax seed, chia seed, or even mashed banana. Tofu scramble also makes a delicious breakfast, and you can even make ‘omelettes’ with chick peas!
Oh, and if you’ve never tried Booja Booja vegan ice cream, you can thank me later…Whatever you’re looking to replace in your diet, the chances are there’s an easy plant based swap just waiting to be discovered!
But take it easy on the ‘mock meats’
From my experience working with people transitioning to a plant based diet, too many ‘mock meats’ in the early stages can make things very difficult. Not only are most mock meats very unhealthy, but they also keep your tastebuds craving the meaty taste and texture that you have grown used to eating an omnivorous diet.
So instead of simply swapping your meat for a mock meat, try to create meals that aren’t based around animal products at all. Think big veggie curries, lentil dhals, big salads and beanburgers. Make plants the star of the show and you won’t need to think about meat replacements at all!
Mock meats can be used sparingly and as a treat if you really feel the need, but try to prioritise whole foods wherever possible for best results.
Get protein smart
Be warned – as soon as you go vegan or vegetarian, everyone becomes an expert in protein. So when they inevitably ask where you get yours, make sure you are locked and loaded ready to tell them about all the incredible sources of plant based protein that you consume every day!
Beans, lentils, chick peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even green vegetables are all great sources of plant based protein! As long as you are eating a varied and balanced diet, it’s very unlikely you will become deficient in protein. For more information about protein on a plant based diet, read this article 😊
Get creative, try new foods and don’t be scared to experiment! Variety is the spice of life and will help keep things interesting. So swap your peanuts and almonds for macadamias and pili nuts. Switch out your brown rice for quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth. Take a break from kale and try rainbow chard or collard greens. Embrace new ingredients, flavours, seasonings and cooking methods. Have fun with it! There are so many amazing foods to enjoy!
Batch cooking and planning ahead is so important on a plant based diet. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to make healthy choices even when things get really busy!
So whenever you’re cooking, make extra portions and store them in the fridge or freezer to enjoy later. Whip up a massive salad and serve it up for lunch throughout the week, or cook a big batch of chick pea burgers and freeze them in individual portions so they’re ready to defrost and enjoy whenever you want them. Stay prepared and think one step ahead – you’ll save time and money, and you’ll be healthier than ever!
Take a high quality multivitamin
It can take a little bit of time to learn the intricacies of a plant based diet, so in the early stages you might not be getting all the nutrients you need from food alone. This is why I recommend a daily scoop of THRIVE to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered and don’t run the risk of any nutrient deficiencies. It’s also packed with green superfoods, probiotics, and brain boosting herbs to make sure you’re on top form all day long!
Eat out for inspiration
These days, eating out as a vegan or vegetarian is no longer a challenge! There are now so many amazing plant based restaurants to choose from, so make time to pay them a visit to get inspired with new recipes and foods that you don’t get the chance to try at home.
Some of my favourite places for plant based meals in the UK are Redemption, Farmacy, Nama Foods, Ethos and Mildreds (all London based). I’ve also got to give a shout out to some of the best I’ve visited on my travels; Café Gratitude and Toca Organica (Los Angeles) and The Spicy Coconut, Shady Shack and Café Veda (Bali)!
Treat yo’ self!
Last but not least, don’t be scared to treat yourself! If any diet is going to be sustainable, it must first be enjoyable. So make room for the foods you love the most (read: peanut butter) and you’ll have much more fun on your plant based journey!
Got any other tips to add? Let me know in the comments section below so we can help even more people go plant based together!