Regardless of whether you’re determined to become vegan or would just like to eat less animal products, you’re probably asking yourself where to begin. There are people who change the way they eat overnight, but there aren’t many. Our eating habits are intertwined with our traditions, culture, childhood and social life. Changing them is never easy, which is why many people benefit from choosing a slower, more gradual approach to introducing plant-based meals. Nika Grizila reports.
The first thing you should do is educate yourself. As a vegan or even as someone who drastically reduces their consumption of animal products, you’ll need to supplement the vitamin B12. B12, which is made by bacteria, can be found in manure and unsanitised water. Many animal foods contain high amounts of vitamin B12 because the animals either accumulate it during their lives or are supplemented with it.
Another thing you’ll have to pay attention is eating a variety of plant foods and ensure that you are getting enough calories. Unprocessed plant foods are generally lower in calories than animal products. Don’t limit yourself to fruit and vegetables; instead, try to include different kinds of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and root vegetables.
Try plant-based versions of your favourite foods. Supermarkets are offering more and more vegan products, from vegan meats, cheeses and yoghurts to various kinds od desserts. Keep in mind that highly processed alternatives (such as cheese and ice cream) aren’t the healthiest and won’t make you feel your best in the long run. However, they are of great help when transitioning to a plant-based diet and make for a lovely occasional treat.
Eating more plant foods means simply switching the animal products that you would usually consume with vegan alternatives. Make tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs, eat your cereal and porridge with soy milk, have coffee with rice milk. Switch the chicken for tofu, top your pizza with vegan cheese, have pasta with vegan pesto and try making chickpea tuna. The good news is that all the vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, potatoes, nuts and seeds that you loved before are here to stay.
Give yourself some time to adjust. Try different brands of vegan yoghurts and milks, try preparing the infamous tofu in different ways. There are so many types of beans, grains and vegetables you probably haven’t tried before. Give them a go and let your taste buds adjust. Another thing that might need adjusting is your gut. Plant foods are rich in fibre, and if you’re not used to eating a lot of legumes and vegetables, you might experience some discomfort and bloating at first. Be kind to your digestive tract and gradually increase the amounts of raw vegetables and beans that you’re consuming.
A good approach to becoming more plant-based is aiming for one vegan meal per day or, for example, simply deciding that all your breakfasts will be vegan from now on. Eventually one meal per day can become two, then you can have a vegan day per week, then two, then three.
It’s important to not beat yourself up if you accidentally (or on purpose) eat animal products or fail at the number of vegan meals or days that you planned for yourself. Failure is normal and changing one’s diet is very challenging. Forgive yourself and try again at your next meal. If you don’t have the plan of becoming vegan, but just want to eat more plant based, you should still be proud of yourself for introducing vegan meals or vegan days to your diet. This too will have a positive impact on the planet, the the animals and your health.
You can help yourself stay motivated by following vegan bloggers, YouTubers and recipe developers. Not only will they give you recipe ideas, but they’ll also keep you interested. If you can, get involved with your local vegan community and try to make some vegan friends, even if it’s only online.
Keep reminding yourself of your why. Why are you interested in going vegan or eating more plant-based foods? Whether it’s for the animals, the environment or your health, you should never forget about the main reason. This is what will help you stick to your new principles. Keep reading about veganism, watch a new documentary and be a part of the online vegan community.