Top 10 Tips for Transitioning to a Healthy Vegan Lifestyle
We have been programmed since birth to believe that animal products are a necessary component of a healthy diet. The government guides us with a food pyramid that recommends meat, dairy, and eggs. We have been bombarded our whole lives with marketing claiming “milk does a body good”. We don’t we see the same type of ads urging us to eat broccoli and kale.
Finally, the facts about the harmful effects of animal products, and the benefits of a plant-based diet are starting to get attention. The first step to learning the truth is accepting the fact that what we thought we knew is not really true. We must open our minds in order to begin an on-going journey of discovery and begin the process of adopting a diet and lifestyle that will keep us healthy for a lifetime, protect animals from suffering, and save our environment.
To succeed at adopting a healthy plant-based diet, we must educate ourselves about the food we put in our bodies. We need to know where it came from, how it was produced, and the impact it has on our health, on animals, and on the environment. There is a vast world of research and information on what foods we need to eat, and in what amount and combination, to be the healthiest humans possible. It is vital we continuously learn about realities like GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), factory farming practices, and deforestation, in order to make educated decisions about what we put in our bodies.
Determine your overall goals, identify your specific motivations, and make the commitment to transition to a vegan diet in order to reach those goals. Time often has a way of allowing the intensity of our motivations to fade if we do not consistently find ways to keep them fresh in our minds and hearts.
Like a marriage, to keep you motivated and on track, it’s important to revisit the reasons you have made the commitment. If your goal is to eliminate the medication you take to control your blood pressure and the motivation is the cardiovascular benefits of a vegan diet, it may help to re-watch Forks Over Knives. If your goal is to support the end of factory farming and your motivation is the suffering of animals, it may help to look at pictured of abused farm animals. The point is, never lose sight of why you have made the commitment and what you want to achieve by fulfilling it.
Variety is key for a healthy, balanced vegan diet. Look at your dietary changes as an opportunity to expand your plate, not restrict it! When we eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods we are able to take in optimal amounts of all of the essential vitamins and minerals we need to be physically and mentally healthy and energized from the inside out!
Set yourself up for success with a solid plan of action for your transition. Everyone is unique in how they go about adopting a healthy vegan diet as a permanent lifestyle shift. Depending on where you are in the process, you may choose for example, to eliminate an animal product and add a super food to your diet each week until you have eliminated animal products all together. Or maybe you start with eating vegan 3 days per week for the first month, 4 for the second month, etc. until you are eating vegan 7 days per week forever!
Then there is the actual meal planning. Each week sit down and create your specific plan for the week so you don’t get into an “emergency situation” in which you are so hungry you can’t think straight and wind up veering from your plan as a result.
Being successful and satisfied on a vegan diet can be much easier if you have certain tools in the kitchen to help you out. I recommend starting with a Vitamix. The price tag may seem steep, but its quality and the use you will get out of it makes it well worth the investment. Blending shakes and making soups for example, are quick and easy ways to take in a ton of nutrients quickly and with ease. Adding a juicer and dehydrator to the mix makes it simple to create healthful drinks and nutrient-dense snacks and meals in your own home (no culinary skills required!)
Come up with a list of staple super foods and healthy snacks and keep your kitchen stocked. Shakes/smoothies are a great go-to, so keep ingredients on hand at all times: dairy-free milk, berries/fruit (frozen or fresh), dates, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax meal, alma powder, spinach, and kale all are great nutrient dense foods that can be thrown into a shake for a quick protein-rich meal. Fresh fruit, raw veggies and hummus, quinoa, raw nuts and seeds are also great staples to consider for healthy, quick, simple snacking!
It is crucial for all vegans to take a B-12 supplement. It is the one nutrient that a modern plant-based diet inherently lacks. B12 is formed from a bacteria found in soil. Interestingly, we used to get enough simply from getting that soil under our fingernails back when we grew our own gardens and the land wasn’t stripped of its nutrients. But now with the pressure washing and sanitizing process foods go through, we do not have easy access to B12 except through supplementation.
Create a support system for yourself. Connect with vegan-veterans in your community, in online forums and chat rooms, and through social media outlets. Find people and groups that provide you with helpful insight and camaraderie. Family, friends, and coworkers can play a significant role in either helping or hindering you on your journey. It is vital to have a heart to heart with them to explain your decision and ask for their support.
Get moving! Make exercise part of your daily routine. Find ways to stay active, strengthen your muscles, improve your cardiovascular health, and increase your flexibility daily. It is important to be well-rounded in your exercise choices… the more variety the better. Try out different types of classes like spinning, kickboxing, or dance, go for jogs, run stairs, lift weights… There is no reason you ever have to be bored! In combination with your healthy vegan diet, your exercise routine will keep you fit, energized, and loving what you see in the mirror!