Have you ever tried to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet and failed? Do you find plant-based food a bland, boring, and too light to fill you up? You’re not alone.
Over the past 10 years, plant-based eating has come to the forefront of mainstream food culture. As more people reject meat and dairy, it seems like vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based eating are on the rise, but they can be buzzwords thrown around without much explanation.
What’s the Difference?
Veganism refers to a lifestyle that involves abstaining from any and all meat and animal products. Vegetarianism is the sister lifestyle where practitioners choose to get a majority of their food from fruits, grains, and vegetables while still also consuming dairy and animal products such as milk, cheese, and eggs.
Plant-based eating is a bit more intentional: those who live this way choose to eat a majority unprocessed, whole fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Plant-based eating goes beyond veganism and vegetarianism: more people are choosing ‘flexitarian‘ lifestyles where the emphasis is on plant-based foods with little dairy and meat consumption. This trend is revolutionizing the way this country chooses to eat and live.
According to the Daily Meal, millenials eat more plants than those in the generations before them. In 2016, there was a 257% increase in the number of vegan food and beverage products introduced to the market.
I have been living a plant based lifestyle for over a decade and in that time, I have had numerous people ask me how I maintain this way of eating without being tempted by meat or dairy, getting bored, or being hungry all the time. It has become my personal mission to spread the knowledge I learn about plant-based eating with others.
While I do understand that going completely cold turkey (no pun intended) is extremely difficult, I do believe that there are small steps one can take to make the switch a bit easier on you.
Here are the 5 tips that I believe have helped me make it easier to incorporate more plant-based foods into my daily life.
Make One Change at a Time
One main problem I hear from those first trying out plant-based eating is that it’s too hard giving up everything they love at once.
With the pressure to commit to a completely new diet hanging over their heads, most throw in the towel and return to their old habits after a few weeks.
For me, it’s completely understandable: Could you, would you just drop everything you’ve known to embrace a new lifestyle even if it’s deemed “better for you?” It’s a tough choice to make, but most would say no.
It’s much easier for us to make small, incremental changes to our lives and actually stick to them than trying to do a total overhaul.
Things may be different than what you’re used to, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what suits your palate.
Get Creative with Spices
Most people don’t realize that the flavors we enjoy in most food (meat and dairy in particular) mainly come from the seasonings we use. This, combined with other factors such as fat, texture, and social conditioning lead us to believe meat is more delicious than plants.
Tell me this, have you ever had an unseasoned piece of chicken? Pretty disgusting.
Plants, much like meat, poultry, and fish can handle seasonings, marinades, sauces, and glazes. In fact, they love them! Any way you season your ‘normal’ food can be applied to create richly flavored plant-based meals.
Snack Well, Snack Often
As hard as it is to believe, you actually need to eat MORE on a plant-based diet. Plants are less calorie-dense than meat, dairy, or animal products, meaning you have to eat a lot to feel full.
In my opinion, this is a huge plus: I love eating small meals and snacks throughout the day rather than trying to consume 3 large meals a day. My favorite snacking options are:
- fresh fruits
These can all help you easily hit all the daily nutrients you need.
Consider the Benefits
There are so many benefits to transitioning to a plant-based diet such as a reduced carbon footprint, improved cardiovascular health, and overall life longevity.
In my opinion, the environmental impact of plant based eating is the biggest draw to the lifestyle. The world’s ‘traditional’ food supply of meat, dairy, eggs, and animal products account for ¼ of all man-made emissions.
While certain factors such as the exact way food is packaged and or the type of transportation used to distribute it can drastically affect, let’s say one cup of coffee’s environmental impact over another, the world’s scientists have come to a consensus: the most drastic way to reduce your carbon footprint is to go vegan.
According to a February 2011 study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, the pros of eating more beans over meat are numerous. For example, soybeans are a great natural source of L-arginine which helps to make artery walls more flexible; this helps reduce the risk of blood clot blockages.
Vitamin E is also also added to most commercial soy milk and that helps prevent and stop the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries. In contrast, animal products, particularly red meat have been shown to both harden the heart valves and increase plaque build up in the artery walls.
Additionally, beans along with other plant based dried goods like grains and pastas, are lower in cost (per pound) than the average carton of eggs, steak, or gallon of milk.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
On average, the up and coming generations are generally more health-minded and more aware of the environmental impact of our actions. We are responsible for the recent boom in the health and wellness markets as more people seek to live and eat more consciously.
Without even committing to a full vegan lifestyle, just eating more plant-based foods means you are working to make this world a more pleasant place to live.
Remember: this is a lifestyle, there are no right or wrong ways to do it. Do a little research and find the unique ways you are comfortable implementing these practices in your life.
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