When I first started looking into switching to a plant based lifestyle, I must admit, I had a ton of mixed emotions just thinking about giving up meat, fish etc. Come on, I like hamburgers, steak, chicken and I knew it would be a challenge.
So, I originally tested out the idea about a year ago by just simply switching out all the animal based protein to plant based. It was like – hey this should be easy. Not so fast because my first attempt was a complete failure. I lasted about 2 weeks with some minor cheating. Part of the reason for not sticking with it, was because I didn’t have a plan in place. As well, mentally I never really committed to the goal either.
My second attempt was about 3 months ago and I had good success with it for about 5 – 6 weeks. I lost about 10 – 12 pounds really quick because I also cut down my overall sugar consumption by about 90%. My reason for success and I use that word because I did stick to a plant based diet more than 95% of the time. In part, because I made sure to have a variety of food prepared. If you want to shed some weight, this is a great option for people.
Then came Christmas! Damn, I couldn’t resist once again all those treats, snacks and the simple fact that I really do like the taste of turkey. Ah, once again, I hung me head low. Well, not really but it got me thinking about how I approached it and what I need to do to overcome this switch to have long term success.
Let’s start with a common myth that people have about switching over to a vegan or plant based diet. Many people think it’s not that healthy because they think you can’t consume enough protein. That’s completely wrong because when you sit down and really learn about all the various plant based foods that have protein in it, your eyes will be wide open. Have a leap of faith and trust me, you will have more than ample sources of protein.
On a side note, you will typically find vegans are usually leaner, lower cardiovascular risk etc. because they are not consuming unhealthy foods like fried foods, processed foods, white flour etc. Of course, keep in mind this is an average because there are lots of unhealthy vegans too.
Amazing Plant Food
Green veggies: Those include dark leafed plants like spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, collard greens, green beans, mustard greens and arugula are great examples. Eat as much as possible of these foods every day. Make sure you get several servings.
Notice the salad to the right. There is spinach, kale, snow peas, black olives, shredded carrots and a handful of walnuts. I used balsamic oil and vinegar dressing.
I typically consume at least 1 green smoothie per day. Mix in a handful of dark green plants like spinach, kale, arugula with your scoop of protein powder. Add in a tablespoon of hemp seeds too. Depending on the taste, I may even add ½ of an apple of banana to sweeten it up a bit.
Other veggies: Veggies that are yellow, red, and orange such as red bell peppers, carrots, squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin along with cauliflower, garlic, onions, and mushrooms are tasty and healthy. They are terrific to add into soups and stir-fries.
Plant proteins: Many people have this assumption that’s it’s difficult to consume adequate amounts of protein in their diet, but this is simply not true. Beans of all varieties (pinto, white, garbanzo, black, and kidney), lentils, seeds (chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp, and pumpkin seeds), and raw nuts like walnuts and almonds are all high in protein. I love them all!
Fruits are my absolute favorite because I have chosen to eliminate sweets from my diet. Pomegranates and berries are the king of this category. However, papayas, apples, grapes, pears, kiwi, bananas, mangoes, apricots, oranges, peaches, and so much more are all fantastic, too. Don’t shy away from fruits! They are sweet, but they are great for you. Again, moderation for consuming some of the sweater fruits because they do contain more sugar.
If you are eating bread, opt for flour-less sprouted grain breads. Other good options include steel-cut oats, brown rice, quinoa (a seed, not a grain), millet, and amaranth. If you have an allergy or intolerance to glucose, avoid it. However, most people can eat gluten without any problem.
Good fats. Not all fats are bad for you. Try and reduce your intake of trans fats and saturated fats and go for the good ones instead. If you do consume saturated fats, get them from fruits such as coconuts. My favorite fats include a variety of nuts, ground flax seed, avocados, olive and canola oil. You can also look at taking a daily vegan EPA-DHA supplement (similar to fish oil, but from algae instead) for extra health benefits. They are great for the brain, joints, and your heart.
I drink tons of water along with a couple glasses of tea. For those of you that like alcohol, a glass or two of wine is perfectly fine to consume.
Try adding spices such as cayenne, cinnamon, and turmeric to your dishes and they offer health benefits.
Just a note for vegans: If you’re planning on staying for an all plant based diet, you will need to supplement with vitamin B12. This can be from a vegan supplement. Vitamin D, calcium, and iron are also important in your diet.
Foods to Stay Away From on a Regular Basis
Although, I do eat a variety of foods, one thing I would recommend you do is to minimize the following foods. It’s fine to enjoy all of these foods on occasion, but unfortunately they are huge part of many people’s diet.
Trans fats of any kinds.
White flour, rice, and potatoes
If you choose a plant based lifestyle, minimize or eliminate your consumption of animal products including dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat
Chemicals and strange ingredients that are not actually food
High- fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and reduce your sugar intake in general
Tips on Ensuring Success
What if you’re a little nervous about giving them up? Start small. Try going for one week without just one of the foods mentioned above. By starting off small, it won’t be nearly as trying it cold turkey. If the first week isn’t that bad, go to two or three weeks, and then a month. After about a month, you will find that you don’t really even miss these foods. Then try another food.
You’ll be amazed and pleasantly surprised at how quickly your taste buds will adapt and start to enjoy the need food choices.
Going forward this year, I am planning on starting another round of a plant based diet. Based on my past failures and successes, the key is to have the right mindset, stay positive and make sure you have a meal plan ahead of time with the various foods in your home prior to starting.
For me, giving up sweats can be a challenge, but I can tell you that after a few days, you will feel better. I’m not advocating eliminating all sugar from your diet because that is actually impossible. Start with aiming to reduce your sugar consumption in half for the first week. By the second week, aim to reduce it say another 30% or so. For example, say you consume about 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. Try and reduce your intake by 50% overall.
Many people try and incorporate a cheat day. I personally have mixed feelings about that and it totally depends on your personality. If you are the type, where just 1 taste of something sweat like a piece of cake will set you off into a frenzy, then I would suggest you avoid all together.
Another way to ensure your success is stick to a set meal plan for the first 2 or 3 weeks. You can have variation built into it. However, if you have a certain meal you eat at breakfast time, then try and eat that Monday to Friday. Do the same thing for lunch and dinner. I normally like to have salads at lunch time, so I can incorporate a ton of variety if I get bored.
My overall goal this year is to eat 95% plant based diet and have some cheat days in because I know my own personality works better with this approach. Eventually, I might completely switch, however, for now this is a good approach. You have to decide what’s right for your situation.
Hopefully this article gets you thinking about some alternatives for your eating. This is just the tip of the iceberg of information that is found online. Just do a search for vegetarian recipes etc. and you will be amazed at the vast amounts of delicious recipes to choose from.