5 Achievable Steps to Get You Started on a Plant-Based Diet
Your diet plays a huge role in the health and vitality of your skin. What you eat is important, and it can even be transformative if you suffer from certain skin conditions. An ever-growing number of people are moving over to plant-based diets, whether for skin health, general health, ethical or eco concerns or any other reasons.
However, migrating away from meat, dairy and processed products can be a daunting and challenging process. Fortunately, there are many more food options available than there used to be. In the last ten years or so, the popularity of plant-based eating has surged significantly. As a result, it has become much easier to find healthy, viable alternatives to animal-based products.
If you want to start following a plant-based diet these guidelines will help you transition and enjoy your journey.
As daunting as it is to completely change your eating habits, it’s also exciting. It’s common for new vegans to leap into the lifestyle with vigour and determination. However, it can be difficult to maintain that optimism once the novelty has worn off. It is therefore vital to start slowly and give your body a chance to adjust to your new regime.
There are a few different ways to slowly introduce plant-based eating into your life. Firstly, you can start by choosing one day per week to eat only plant-based meals. As willing as your mind may be, you can’t force your body to adapt to a completely new diet within a span of days. By starting with one vegan day per week, your new diet won’t come as a shock to the system. Once you’re comfortable with one day per week, you can gradually increase your number of plant-based eating days at your own pace.
Another way to acclimatise to a plant-based diet is to phase out animal products one by one. For example, you can start by exchanging cow’s milk for a vegan alternative like soy, oat, or nut milk. There are several different milk alternatives available, so be sure to try out each one until you find the one that works for you. Once you’re used to the milk alternative, you can try to phase out other animal products like cheese and meat.
Going off animal products cold turkey (no pun intended), while appealing, is generally unsuccessful. Just like those who want to quit smoking or drinking, you may wish to make a more gradual shift.
2. Educate Yourself
Another common problem for new vegans is figuring out how to get the micronutrients they usually get from animal products. Animal products are rich in essential nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and omega-3s. It is therefore important to ensure that your new diet doesn’t leave you with nutrient deficiencies.
Fortunately, there are plenty of plant-based foods that are rich in these essential nutrients. You just need to know where to get them.
One of the most common deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans suffer from is a lack of vitamin B12. To combat this, you can either take a B12 supplement or consume plant-based sources of B12. This vitamin is found in soy and fortified nutritional yeast. You may wish to get tested for B12 deficiency once you’re a week or two into your new diet, as it may lead to unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue.
It’s also difficult to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D on a plant-based diet, especially if you live in an area without plenty of sunshine. It’s good practice for vegans and vegetarians to spend 15-20 minutes per day in the sun to replenish their vitamin D levels. Always ensure that you’ve applied sunblock or some other form of UV protection before spending any length of time in direct sunlight. If you live in a colder climate, there are also vitamin D supplements available in tablet form.
As you may already know, fish and other seafood products are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for cognitive function. Fortunately, they’re found in abundance in plant-based products such as flax seeds, chia seeds, certain nuts, and soy. Taking a tablespoon of flax seed oil per day can greatly increase your omega-3 levels and help you avoid the sluggishness and mental fatigue that characterises omega-3 deficiency.
Iron and calcium are most easily accessible through meat, poultry, and milk. Deficiencies in these essential nutrients can lead to extreme fatigue, and in some cases, anaemia. It’s therefore vital to ensure that you’re getting plenty of leafy greens in your diet, as they are rich in both iron and calcium. Foods such as kale, bok choy, and broccoli are excellent substitutes.
Finally, you will want to fortify your zinc levels. Without enough zinc, your body’s innate ability to heal and recover from illnesses and injuries will be diminished. To get enough zinc in your diet, you can eat foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu.
3. Try New and Tasty Recipes
Another issue that may spike your wheel is finding plant-based dishes that leave you feeling satisfied. Many aspiring vegans and vegetarians are put off by a perceived lack of variety and substance in plant-based meals. However, vegan and vegetarian cooking has become something of an art form and there’s an abundance of restaurants that cater for plant-based patrons.
In addition to trying new restaurants, you may wish to spend some time experimenting with various plant-based recipes, buying some vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, and searching online for dishes that suit your taste. Eating is supposed to be a joyful activity, and if you aren’t enjoying the food you eat, it will be harder to maintain a plant-based diet.
Fortunately, there are several resources available for vegans and vegetarians to find delicious and satisfying recipes that suit their tastes. All you need is a good cookbook, the right ingredients, and the courage to try new things. With the right combinations of plant-based foods, herbs, and spices, your plant-based meals will soon be the envy of all your friends.
4. Speak To Vegan And Vegetarian Friends
If you have friends and family who have been vegan or vegetarian for a while, speak to them about their experiences. They will likely have great tips and tricks that will ease your transition into plant-based eating.
Invite them over for a dinner party and ask them to show you some of their favourite recipes, speak to them about supplements that help them stay healthy, and reach out to them when you’re craving animal products. Being able to rely on the support and experience of those who have made the transition will make your journey far easier.
5. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Any major change in life is a challenge. Almost nobody makes the transition to a plant-based diet without some bumps in the road. Don’t expect too much of yourself too quickly. You are human, and it may take some trial and error before you find a rhythm that works for you. Even the most devout vegans and vegetarians slip up occasionally. The important thing to remember is that one mistake doesn’t define your journey. If you give in to a craving one day, try not to judge yourself too harshly. Cutting out animal products requires a tremendous amount of dedication and willpower, so try to view slip-ups as stepping stones rather than failures.
Another good thing to remember is that some success is better than no success at all. If you stick to your plant-based diet all week and indulge in a steak or a burger on the weekend, it doesn’t diminish all the times you stuck to your commitment. Success in veganism and vegetarianism is not binary. Every meal is an opportunity to succeed.
If you feel like you might break and eat meat, take a moment to think clearly about your craving. Forcing yourself to resist until the moment you break will likely lead you to a drive-through window. If you’re going to eat meat, rather take the time to think about an option that will leave you feeling less guilty. For example, you can go to the supermarket and find a nice piece of fish or lean poultry that will satisfy your craving without straying too far from your health goals.
Finally, try to keep your reason for going plant-based firmly in your mind. Use it as your mantra during tough moments. People give up animal products for a myriad of reasons. There is no right or wrong reason, it’s all dependent on your personal outlook.
Having a strong personal sense of motivation for your change in diet will keep you grounded when you’re battling to quell the cravings.
Embark On A Supportive Journey
Remember that you are not alone in your journey, and don’t be afraid to reach out to caring friends and family for support.
If you’re really struggling to maintain your new diet, you may wish to speak to a nutritionist, dietician, or doctor for advice on how to make it easier. Food is our fuel, and it’s always important to make sure that you’re putting the right kind in your body. We are all different, and your nutritional needs might not be the same as everyone else’s.
Take it slow and steady, and you’ll be eating green in no time.
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