If you’re ready to dive into the new world of a plant-based diet. Here are some tips to make that experience less overwhelming and hopefully avoid common pitfalls.
- Menu planning (saves money and time)
- Shopping list (don’t wonder around the store aimlessly, especially when you’re hungry)
- Clean out your pantry, fridge and freezer of your animal bits and parts
- Staples: brown rice, coconut milk, frozen vegetables, onions, garlic, spices (have these on hand at all times)
- Snacks (make your own trail mix, pre-cut veggies, Cuties, quality crackers and dip)
- Vault of “junk food”. Break only in the case of emergency
- Learn how to read food labels. What are the other words for “dairy” (whey, milk powder, etc.). BTW, should you really be eating foods that come with a label anyway?
- Shop the perimeter of the store as much as possible (that’s where the fresh food is)
What to Expect in the First Two Weeks
- First two weeks are the hardest
- Icky tummy and gross poops
- Skin breakouts
- Feeling tired
- Feeling limited (see Plan Ahead)
- People to ask you stupid questions (what do you eat?)
- Cravings for dairy (lactose is crack)
- Creating a routine will help keep you on track
Week One Steps
- Replace red meat and pork with organic chicken/turkey and properly caught fish (check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide)
- Replace coffee creamer with soy or coconut milk alternatives
- Replace cow butter with Earth Balance (it’s way better than other margarines)
- Replace mayo with Just Mayo or Veganaise
- Good time to start having a shake for breakfast (I prefer Arbonne shake supplies)
- Add in a quality probiotic every day. This will help your transition imensely. I’m partial to the Arbonne product Digestion Plus. This one actually survives your stomach and makes its way to your digestive track where the magic happens.
- Pack your snacks
- Brown bag your lunch (if you have a lunch date, check out the vegetarian options at your dining establishment or ask them to hold the meat on one of their salad offerings if you’re somewhere distressing)
Week Two Steps
- Replace animal cheese with Chao (for sandos)
- Replace deli meats with Tofurky or Field Roast brand
- Replace white pasta and bread with whole grain or gluten-free options (this isn’t a plant-based thing, just what’s better for your gut)
- Try out convenience foods (Earth Balance/Daiya mac and cheese)
- Replace pasta with spaghetti squash (link to spaghetti squash puttanesca)
- Increase green leafy matter with dinner
- Get creative with lunch (replace sandwiches with salads, soups & dinner leftovers. If you need variety from day to day, it’s super important to meal plan so you don’t have to rely on dinner leftovers for lunch.)
- Try out the vegetarian and vegan restaurants on your area. Think you don’t have any in your town? Think again! My friends went vegan while living in North Dakota y’all. You’d be surprised at how vegan-friendly Denny’s can be.
- Phase out cheese and meat altogether. Vegan powers baby!
- Kosher symbols are easy reference for dairy ingredients. Anything with a “circle U”: is A-OK. If there is a little “D” next to it, stay away, there’s dairy in that product.
- Keep “cheater foods” on hand for the first couple weeks. This way you get a treat without blowing your progress/commitment. Did you know you can eat raw vegan cookie dough without the risk of salmonilla? No eggs yo!
- Drink lots of water
- Meal plan!!
- NOTE ON CAFFEINE: I’m on team No Caffeine. I think this does wonders to boost natural energy and aide in your body’s repair. If you’re on team Caffeine, I urge you to at least cut down to one cup a day (not a Super Gulp size cup) and taper down from there.
For Those Who Would Like to Dabble
- Replace cow milk with cashew, soy, almond or coconut milk
- Replace coffee creamer (even non-dairy creamer) with a soy or coconut milk alternative
- Have meat in one meal a day, as opposed to three or more if you snack on meat and cheese products too. Over time you’ll be able to whittle that down to having meat 1-3 times per week.
- Honor Meatless Monday, all day, every week
- Try out new vegan desserts (ice cream, cookies, donuts, etc.). Explore all the tasty stuff you will still have access to.
- If you keep eggs in your diet, get them from a local vendor who has truly happy chickens chilling in their backyard. Or better yet, get your own happy chickens!
Skeptical of the Physical/Health Benefits You’ll Get?
- Keep a poop journal, seriously. The week before you make a change like cutting down or out dairy, write down how often you poop, what the consistency is and if it floats or not. Keep up the journal for 30 days of your new eating habits and see what happens.
- Keep a sleep journal. Are you a restless sleeper? Do you snore? Is it hard to wake up every morning? Keep track of how those things change over time.
- Do your feet and farts really stink? That’s a really fun one to track. Remember though that the first two weeks into a big dietary change (i.e. making a total change across the board, not just one item here or there) are the grossest for your body. It’s when you’re getting rid of all the crapola you’ve been storing for years. Gross.
- Weigh yourself the morning you start your new habits and once a week (in the morning, or at a consistent time) thereafter for 30 days. Keep the variables reasonable. If you’re also starting some crazy new fitness regime, that’ll affect things too.
- Measure your waistline. Dairy is an inflammatory food that creates a lot of bloat. Measure your waistline the morning you start your new habits and once a week (in the morning, or at a consistent time) thereafter for 30 days.
- Keep a skin journal. Do you get constant breakouts? Is your skin dull, overly oily, generally not as great looking as it could be despite all the skincare products you use? Bringing whole grains (i.e. brown rice, quinoa, etc.) really boost skin, nail and hair health.
- Do you usually hit an energy wall in the late afternoons? Check in with yourself in weeks three and four to see if you still have that.
- Notice compliments you get from friends and co-workers. That was an awesome bonus for me.
I’m convinced people generally are walking around feeling mediocre, thinking that’s what feeling good is. You truly don’t know how good you could be feeling until you make a significant shift in your diet for at least 30 days.
This is lifestyle stuff baby. Diets are for suckers.