It’s been just over a year now since I decided to make the switch to a more plant-based diet. I sometimes get the typical questions that a lot of people get when they go plant-based. These questions include “Is it hard?”,“What about eating out?”,”What do you miss the most?”,”Doesn’t it cost more?” and “Aren’t you not supposed to eat gummy bears because they have gelatin?”.
These are all good questions and I figured that if I had received the same questions a few times, there might be some people who are interested in the answers.
First off, I would like to start with the standard disclaimer, I am not an expert. I am not an expert on the nutritional impacts of a plant-based diet and although I have done some significant research, I am not an expert on the environmental impact of meat and animal products. On the nutrition side, keep reading to see the steps that I have taken to ensure that I am staying healthy. On the environmental impact side, I’d like to steal a line from Wil Anderson and say, I truly hope I am wrong. I hope that I am completely wrong and eating meat has nowhere near the environmental impact that I think it does. I truly hope that climate change isn’t as dangerous as predicted. But just because I want the scientific community to be wrong, doesn’t mean they are. There is an overwhelming consensus that climate change is approaching some dangerous tipping points and so I listen and decide to take action. While the evidence of the impact of animal products may not be as universally accepted as climate change, I believe that the evidence is strong enough to take action.
With that said, here are my top 5 tips for eating a more plant-based diet:
This is the best tip I can give you because it is so simple, just try it. Have a vegan breakfast tomorrow. Normally have peanut butter on toast? Great! You’re one meal down already. Try having a vegan lunch or a vegan dinner and see how you feel at the end of the day. If you managed to go vegan or even just vegetarian for the whole day, put your details into the www.footprintcalculator.org as you normally would, take note of your original score and then go back and change your diet to what you ate just that day. Seeing the difference that you can have on your impact just by changing your diet might just be the motivation that you need to make the change more permanently.
If you decide overnight that you are going to go from eating meat and other animal products regularly to becoming a hardcore preachy vegan, you are much more likely to slip up and run into difficulty. My second tip for moving to a more plant-based diet is to be flexible and keep an eye on your arrogance. No one has all the answers and it isn’t up to you to or anyone else to shove their dietary preferences down the throats of others. Be flexible and decide what a more plant-based diet means for you. For me, it means never buying animal products and generally only eating eggs or dairy if they would otherwise go in the bin. I also try not to tell people about my dietary preferences and if they give me a coffee or a biscuit or something with egg or dairy in it, I will politely accept rather than refusing. This is my version of a plant-based diet but for you, it might be avoiding eggs and dairy entirely and just eating wild game meat occasionally and ensuring that you are eating as many parts of the animal that you can. Your diet is a personal choice. Don’t listen to anyone trying to tell you that you shouldn’t be eating honey or gummy bears or whatever. You are allowed to choose what a plant-based diet means for you.
GET A CHECKUP!
After about 6 months of being vegan, I booked an appointment with my GP and went in to get a check-up and some blood tests. I had been eating animal products for 19 years and I wasn’t sure how my body was going to respond. I talked with my GP about what I needed to look out for and what nutrients I needed to make sure I was still getting with a plant-based diet. I got my blood tests back and was glad to see that all my levels were still in a good place. This was a big part of reassuring myself that I could go plant-based permanently.
If you have a busy lifestyle (seems to be the trend these days) the best thing that you can do to help yourself in making the shift to a plant-based diet is to get into meal prepping on some level. It might just be planning out the components of what you’re going to eat. It might be spending half a Sunday cooking all your meals for the following week. Find out what works for you and get preppin’ because you can’t really get food that it is vegan, convenient, cheap, low on packaging and nutritious (a peanut butter roll will tackle the first three but you can’t live on them).
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP!
No one is perfect and if you’re hoping to make the switch to a more plant-based diet there will probably be times that you slip up or just can’t resist the temptation of a cheeseburger after a night out. You mustn’t make yourself feel guilty for the occasional slip-up. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and if the mistake was getting a cheeseburger then the lesson might be to make sure you just get large chips next time. Have fun with it and know that it gets much easier over time.