I’ve been following a plant-based, vegan lifestyle for 30 years. Over the past three decades, I’ve received my fair share of questions: “What is plant-based?” “Could it help me be healthier?” “How do I start and keep it going?”
Plant-based is a lifestyle that consists of eating food exclusively from plants. It focuses on minimally processed, healthy whole foods. Overlapping is veganism, which excludes animal products, byproducts or using things tested on animals for ethical reasons.
Starting a plant-based lifestyle has many benefits, including increased health and vitality, protecting the environment and creating a more compassionate world. Here are some tips I’ve found that helped me and many others sustain a plant-based lifestyle.
1. Determine your motivation
What’s motivating your transition to being plant-based? Initially, my reason was concern for animals. Since then, I’ve found all the health benefits as well.
When times get rough, what will keep you going? Is it healing from illness, cleaning up your diet, helping the environment, making positive changes for your family? Write it down, and stick it on your fridge. Do research to strengthen your goals. Find others that have similar values for support.
2. Observe your lifestyle
Someone who loves cooking and exploring new recipes will ultimately take a different path than the busy person who regularly grabs fast food. No starting point is wrong. You can map out where to go from there.
Whether you want to cook your own meals or start with prepackaged options, look for wholesome ingredients that are as close to their original forms as possible.
3. Figure out what you like
Fruits, vegetables, tubers, root veggies, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and healthy fats all make up a plant-based diet.
There are many ways to figure out what your go-to foods will be, but when you’re used to having meat and dairy make up most of the meal – it can leave you feeling like a fish out of water.
With plant-based alternatives for just about any dish, vegan cuisine is impressive in its diversity. Plant-based meat, dairy, egg and cheese replacements are popping up in markets and online. Search our blog for tons of vegan recipes to try your hand at making your own. Everything from breakfast dishes to desserts is just a tasty click away.
4. Make a plan
How do you want to begin? Whether you make changes gradually or cut out animal foods and excessive processed items all at once, having a plan helps. Start by cutting out the things you don’t regularly consume. Then make a list with two columns. On one side, put the foods you eat regularly. On the other, jot down plant-based replacements. Switch things out bit by bit, and keep learning as you go.
You don’t need to have everything figured out before you start, but the more info you have, the easier it will be when you have a craving. Make it fun by watching YouTube videos and perusing articles to gather food possibilities.
5. Stay curious and open
One thing that really helped me was keeping an open mind about food. Having a meat-centered diet before making the switch to a vegan one could have been challenging if I focused on all the things I couldn’t eat. Instead, I got curious and let myself enjoy the discovery of all the things I could eat. Play in the kitchen (and at restaurants)! There are so many ingredient combinations to enjoy.
Check out top-rated recipes as a starting point. This way, you benefit from others’ trial and error. Don’t be afraid to modify ingredients to create something entirely new to your liking.
Something to consider, taste buds change. The cells replace themselves every two weeks. So be open and retry some foods you previously vetoed from your past, such as Brussels sprouts or green beans.
Often, the chemicals and excessive sugars in processed foods mask the flavors of actual ingredients so that regular plant foods taste dull without them. Give your taste buds time to heal. Once you take a few weeks away from heavily processed food, retest what you like. You’ll be amazed at the vivaciousness of these real food flavors!
6. Eat the rainbow
Another way to succeed with your plant-based lifestyle is to eat foods of every color. Their vibrancy will make you feel more satisfied and satiated. Plus, you’ll get the most diverse nutritional complement needed for optimum wellness.
7. Be kind to yourself
Make changes as you’re able. Do them in a way that will allow them to stick. Let your journey be yours and conduct it in the way that feels right for you. Keep going. Listen to your body, and make it fun along the way.