1. You don’t have to make the switch overnight -transition slowly if needed
Start by increasing the plant-based foods you already eat or just add more veggies to your diet. Are you getting the recommended amounts of fruits & veggies per day? Don’t give up all of your favorite animal foods immediately. Make the easy changes first and when those no longer feel new, move onto the more difficult ones. Sustainable changes come when they are done over time in a comfortable pace. It can also feel overwhelming when making too many drastic changes all at once. Side effects may also occur such as extra gas, feeling tired, etc. Start by having 1 meatless meal per week or just make sure breakfast and lunch are plant-based then move on from there. Find other healthy protein sources to replace those animal products (see below for ideas). Eventually your body changes and you won’t miss meat!
2. Finding new protein sources to replace meat
Proteins are the building blocks that break down into amino acids promoting cell growth and repair. It’s recommended that adults get at least 0.8g of protein daily for every kg of body weight. The best protein sources include lentils, peas, legumes, quinoa, nuts, nut butter -such as peanut, almond, walnut, cashew (make sure the ingredients contain nuts only -no oils, sugar or salt), edamame, hemp seeds, organic tempeh or tofu, and other seeds (chia, sesame, poppy, sunflower). Replace meat with any of these options.
3. Don’t replace animal products with junk!
One common mistake people make is replacing animal protein sources with unhealthy options or refined carbs. Don’t trade in animal products, which contain protein, vitamins, and minerals, for processed foods that provide little nutritional value. The result can be hunger, weight gain, and irritability. Try to avoid the ‘unhealthy plant-based’ foods. French fries, potato chips, many sweets & candy, fried veggies, syrup, Oreos, apple pie, oriental flavored ramen noodles, and soda are a few examples of unhealthy plant-based items (see previous post). Also, watch out for ‘meat alternatives’ discussed below.
4. Take it easy on processed soy.
Unhealthy soy products such as vegan cheese, mayo, and many frozen soy-based meals aren’t a good alternative to animal protein in the long run. Overly processed, soy-based meat substitutes are often high in isolated soy proteins, sodium, preservatives, additives and other ingredients that aren’t healthy. Choose less processed soy products such as organic tofu, tempeh, & soy milk. “A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that women with breast cancer who regularly consumed soy products had a 32% lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and a 29% decreased risk of death, compared with women who consumed little or no soy. But it’s still controversial and because of concerns over the estrogenic nature of soy products, women with a history of breast cancer should discuss soy foods with their oncologists or doctors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
5. Getting enough nutrition
One study published in 2014 linked a vegetarian diet to increased risk of allergies, cancer, and mental health disorders as a result of lack of essential nutrients. However, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says: “a well-planned plant-based diet - high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains - can offer a wealth of health benefits”. It’s important that you understand how much your body needs in order to prevent any deficiencies or health concerns. You will learn more about this in my book "How to Become a Healthy Vegan"