Monday, December 29, 2014

Transitioning to a Plant-Based or Vegetarian Diet

  So you are interested in making some healthy lifestyle changes and trying out a new vegetarian or plant-based diet, huh? Just like with anything, getting started is the hardest part.  The good news is that there are many people who have been in your shoes, a little nervous to jump into this whole plant-based diet thing, who can help guide you as you begin your new journey.


And that's what I hope to do for you today.  When I became a vegetarian a year and a half ago, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and I made some unhealthy mistakes along the way as a result.  In an effort to help you avoid some of my mistakes, I have compiled a list of things that I think will help you be well prepared for the herbivore lifestyle.




Here are 5 Things You Should Do Before Tackling a Plant-Based Diet:


1) Ease into it.  Start by following your new plant-based diet a few days per week and maintain your usual eating habits for the remainder.  This will give you time to discover and learn a decent amount of vegetarian meal options before you go all-in, which will help you avoid eating the same two or three meals day-in and day-out. Try this for three or four weeks and once you feel like you have a well-rounded variety of menu options, then you can adopt a full-on plant based or vegetarian diet.


2) Mix it up.  As you begin to try out more recipes, this will become easier, but it's very important for those of us following plant-based diets to include a variety of foods into our daily menu.  People often think that vegetarians can't get all of the nutrients that their body needs from only plant-based foods, but that is a myth.  Everything you possibly need can be provided to you without animal products, but you need to be eating a well-balanced diet rich in plant-based, whole-foods in order to get all of these nutrients.  A diet consisting of romaine lettuce, corn, and potatoes is not going to cut it!


3) Buy something new every week at the grocery store.  If you're anything like me, you often get in the routine of making the same things for meals every week because they are easy to prepare and I often don't have the time to be exploring new recipes.  However,  by purchasing just one new food every week, you will introduce yourself to a whole new world of opportunities and deliciousness!  Believe it or not, before I became I vegetarian I had never tried eggplant, collard greens, kale, butternut squash, and the list goes on! Crazy to think of that now because those have become some of my new staple foods!


4) As I mentioned before, plant-based is different than vegetarian diets in that you eliminate all animal products (like a vegan) and you also cut out all processed foods.  To transition to a plant-strong diet, slowly eliminate your dairy intake over the course of that month transition period we talked about in step 1.  This will help you immensely with both cravings as well as learning alternatives for your typical dairy uses. A couple of my favorite alternatives are almond milk and nutritional yeast (used as a cheese substitute).  A good resource for more substitutions is www.godairyfree.org.  This website is not without many man-made, processed alternatives though, so be careful as you sift through for good advice.  For more information on a plant-based diet, I recommend the resources at www.forksoverknives.com.


5) Pick a planning day and do your meal prep!  Transitioning to anything new takes planning and hard work, and this isn't an exception.  Set yourself up for success and plan ahead.  I always use Sunday afternoons for my meal preparation.  Sit down over the weekend and make up your menu for the week ahead.  Make a list and head to the grocery store to stock up on everything that you need for the week.  Prepare everything such as salads, quinoa, rice, lentils, diced fruits and veggies, etc and store them properly in the fridge for quick and easy access.  Go through your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards and toss or donate everything that doesn't fit in the plant based or vegetarian eating plan.







And there you have it!  If I would have had those five tricks up my sleeve last year as I first embarked on my vegetarian journey, I would have been so much better prepared and would have had a much healthier beginning.  Here is the truth, though...you're going to make mistakes of your own and IT'S OKAY!  It's a process and you will learn as you go along.  If you find yourself eating cheese and realize that it's not vegetarian (What?! Cheese with actual meat products?! Yep...I've been there!) or you indulge in a processed treat while you're out with some friends (uh huh, that's been me many times!)...don't be hard on yourself!  You don't have to do this perfectly to reap great rewards from your new lifestyle.  So just roll with the punches, enjoy it, and be very proud of yourself for making this big step towards a healthier you!




xoxo,


Aleena

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