How to go plant-based
We are creatures of habit. Our busy lifestyles center around routines; we buy the same foods from the same grocery store, prepare the same meals every week and eat out at the same restaurants. This can make changing your eating habits difficult. The Vegan Society has some great information on how to go vegan. We have also created some suggestions to help you on your way.
Go at your own pace
The first step in changing your eating habits is to change the way you think about food, the kinds of foods you purchase, and types of meals you prepare. Some people prefer the “all or nothing” approach and convert overnight, while others slowly incorporate new recipes into their meal planning.
Try new foods.
Just because you are eating vegan, doesn’t mean you are eating healthy. Incorporating a variety of different kinds of fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes is vital to ensuring you are getting the essential nutrients your body needs. Use the PCRM Power Plate as a guide. At your next health check up, ask your doctor to have your nutrient levels checked. It is a simple blood test that will help you make sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Buy organic non-GMO foods.
Reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides and genetically-modified organisms by buying USDA certified organic produce and foods whenever possible. View the extra cost, if any, as insurance against future health issues. Visit your local farmers’ market and get to know the organic suppliers or those who may not yet be certified (a lengthy and costly process) but are not using pesticides.
Check out the Environmental Working Group’s pesticides in produce guide that shows the fruits and vegetables that have been tested to hold the most pesticide residue. It would be best to purchase organically grown options when possible.
Remember the 80/20 Rule.
One of the biggest problems with the Western American Diet is that our diet is very acidic. Starches, sugar, meat, dairy and processed foods are all very acidic and contribute to creating an environment in our bodies that supports disease. When people first begin to go vegan they tend to substitute meat and dairy with pastas, grains and sugar (all acidic). To maintain a healthy alkaline pH (6.5 – 7.25) we need to balance our food intake with 80% alkaline and only 20% acidic foods. Make sure your plate at each meal contains 80% alkaline plant foods.
Our Low Glycemic Alkaline Food List focuses on the most alkaline plant-based foods for the purpose of healing cancer. However, there are many more alkaline foods. The best rule of thumb is choosing natural foods low in sugar and carbohydrate to fill that 80%. The Alkaline Sisters’ website provides a chart that lists the pH of different foods.
Plan your meals ahead.
One of the biggest challenges when changing your eating habits is finding something to eat when you are most hungry. By planning your meals ahead you guarantee having something to eat available when needed, making you less likely to reach for “old habit” foods. As I create a menu of the meals for the week, I make my shopping list. This ensures that I will have on hand everything I need. It also takes the guess work out of “what’s for dinner”.
Take a Vitamin B12 supplement.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is vital for maintaining a healthy nervous system and supporting your body’s ability to create red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is actually not made by plants or animals, but is a bacteria most commonly found in bacteria-laden manure and unsanitized water. Although some plant foods do contain small amounts of B12 (particularly certain mushrooms and seaweeds), the most common way to consume B12 is through eating foods fortified with B12 or animal products because livestock is commonly supplemented with B12 in their feed.
It is important to note that Vitamin B12 deficiencies is not just a concern for vegan’s. Deficiencies are surprisingly common among plant and meat eaters alike because it’s not easily absorbed into your body and there are many factors that contribute to deficiencies (alcoholism, smoking, long term use of antacids, etc.). This makes it an important nutrient to supplement, no matter your food choices.
Dr. Gregor founder of Nutritionfacts.org recommends taking 2000 mcg a week or a daily does of 50 mcg in the form cyanocobalamin which is more easily absorbed. However, before adding any supplements to your diet, please consult your doctor.
Check out our resources.
Explore new restaurants.
More than ever, vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants are cropping up all over the world, especially in major metropolitan areas. Chefs are often very accommodating if asked to alter a menu item or prepare a vegan entree. When in a non-vegan restaurant, be sure to ask the waiter or waitress how soup is made (veg or chicken stock, for instance) or the ingredients in other dishes you may be considering. HappyCow is a great resource to help you find vegan restaurants in your area or while you are traveling.
Don’t give up.
It can take time to change old habits and develop a new repertoire of meals. Be patient with yourself and your family as you make the shift to healthier living.
Have fun and socialize!
Enjoy the process of discovering a new and healthy way to eat. Join vegan and plant-based meetup groups or supper clubs (or start your own) to share your journey with others. You’ll learn a lot and may make new friends with like-minded people.