10 Tips to Help You Stick to a Plant-Based Diet, by a Nutritionist
As a health coach, I've talked to many people who excitedly make the switch to a plant-based or vegan diet, only to give up due to a lack of information and know-how. What if I told you that there are easy ways to stick with it, for the long haul?
Most people today are going vegan for either their health, the environment, or animal welfare, but regardless of your reasoning, there are several tips and tricks that will help you stay on track, by useful advice that I've given my clients over the years. This advice has been proven to ensure that their health stays intact while also supporting this lifestyle choice.
Tip 1. Get Your Digestion Under Control
Something that can happen when changing diets, especially if one hasn’t eaten enough fiber in their diet previously, is excess gas. This does go away on its own after a while, but one way to stop it from happening altogether is to eat probiotic-rich food like sauerkraut, kimchi, vegan kefir, vegan yogurt, tempeh, and miso with meals. These fermented foods will help keep good bacteria more abundant than the bad bacteria in your gut, which will help banish excess gas.
Tip 2. Ensure You’re Getting Necessary Vitamins
Something to keep in mind here, even though vegans often get an adequate number of vitamins and minerals from eating loads of fruit and vegetables, is that there are a few supplements that will increase your health in order to succeed in this diet. The most common recommendation for vegans and in standard American diet is to add B12 , D3 , Omega-3 DHA + EPA. Here are 7 supplements to consider when switching to a plant-based diet.
Tip 3. Eat in Balance at Meals
One of the most common themes I see when people are concerned about their digestion or energy levels is an overabundance of one type of food on their plates and not mixing in a variety of types of food. Mastering a good ratio of foods takes practice and becomes easier over time but eating with the "golden plate" method in mind can ensure you are giving your body what it needs: For lunch and dinner fill half of your plate with veggies or greens, a quarter with protein, and the last quarter with whole grains. It is that simple! You can then add healthy fats like avocado or nuts and seeds in 2 tbsp serving sizes.
Tip 4. Take Your Time While Eating
When food enters your mouth is when digestion actually begins. To increase the ease in digestion and make sure that all the plant food is getting broken down well, slow down and chew your food! A good tip for this is to place your fork down every time you take a new bite.
Tip 5. Ensure You're Getting Protein at Every Meal
This is a common mistake for many people who go vegan in the beginning: not getting enough protein. To make sure you are reaching the essential amount of amino acids, eating protein with every lunch and dinner will make things a bit easier. It is also important to eat a variety of protein throughout the week. For example, eating tofu, beans, and seeds will give you an extra boost to meet your recommended amount of protein. Here are the top sources of protein on a plant-based diet.
Tip 6. Always be Prepared When Dining Out with Friends and Family
Some of us prefer to be surprised when taken out to eat or for a romantic date, but when you know you’re not going to be eating at a vegan restaurant, check the menu in advance, to ensure you’ll have food to eat other than plain lettuce and French fries.
If the agreed-upon spot doesn't have enough vegan options, suggest a great restaurant from our onsite Happy Cow widget that will cater to everyone's preferences. If you do find yourself stuck at a spot that doesn't have anything on the menu for you besides a side salad, as the waiter if the chef can whip up an off-menu item free of meat or dairy.
Tip 7. Make Meat Substitutes a Special Treat
Meat substitutes like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers have sure made our lives much easier than before, with many fast-food joints offering grab-and-go options with their products. But, it is also important to remember that these should be treated as a special occasion food and not eaten in excess! They are still a heavier protein type so eating one a week will be much more manageable than every day. Choose more whole-food proteins like tofu, tempeh, beans, or lentils more often and you’ll be in great shape!
Tip 8. Don’t Forget to Check Food Labels
Check those labels! From my own experience, especially in the first few years of being vegan, there were a few times I accidentally bought bread that had milk and eggs in them. It is a mystery why so many products have milk and eggs added to them when they can easily be made without, but double-checking the ingredients will become easier with practice.
TIp 9. "Less Processed" Means More Healthy
Ensuring that the majority of your diet is based is made up of "whole foods" that you can buy in the produce aisle will help with digestion, keep weight off, and give your body more endurance. Instead of eating breakfast cereal with unsweetened soy milk, make homemade oatmeal with flax seeds, almond butter, and banana for a healthy, more complete meal option!
10. Keep in Mind Why You Started in the First Place
No matter what your reason for going vegan or plant-based, keeping your motivation for starting top of mind when things become challenging is important. I recommend that you write down how you felt before going vegan, compared to how you feel now as one effective way to keep your resolve. Even if your reason for going vegan was for your health, it feels amazing to not contribute to animal farming and know that your diet is friendlier to the environment.
As with anything new, it takes practice to get into the habit, and even courage to go against the grain. With these tips, you’ll be able to stay vegan for the long haul and not treat it as just another diet.