I want to preface this post by saying that while this life change is a pretty big one, it doesn't have to be as hard or daunting as you may think. It won't take long for you to feel the positive effects and the difference it's making in your body and in your life and that alone will make it all worth it and make it all feel a little easier each day. I want us all to be on the same page when it comes to the fact that not everything you read about veganism is true. It's so easy to do this diet and lifestyle the wrong way. "Vegan" junk food is everywhere. Oreos are technically vegan! (No hate on Oreo, sometimes we all need one.) So imagine how easy it would be to be "vegan" but still eat tons of processed foods and end up feeling terrible all the time. Very easy! If you look at the diet and daily calorie intake of someone who claims to be vegan but feels terrible all the time and ends up going back to eating how they were before, you will find simply that they were not doing it right and probably were not getting enough calories. A lot of people when first trying this diet come into it with the same mindset they had before where the focus was always on low carb, low fat, low calorie, sugar-free, etc. but the truth is, if you want to eat plant-based and be HEALTHY on this diet you have to erase everything you believed to be true before when it comes to those health myths. When you are plant-based it's no longer about how little calories you can consume with each snack and meal, it's now about which whole plant-based foods can you eat throughout the day that will keep your energy up and your calorie intake high. Fruits and veggies have lower calorie count than most of the snacks those on an average diet are eating so it takes more of them to get a fulfilling amount of calories. This is where carbs come in because carbohydrate dense foods are also calorie dense foods. If you take anything away from this post, let it be that carbs are not bad! This topic can be frustrating because our view of carbs has become so skewed due to the poor diets we see all around us today. Carbs should make up around 65% of our diet. Fruits and veggies and some sprouted grains that plant-based eaters love are all very carb dense but they are complex carbs that are vital for our energy and the healthy function of our bodies. Empty carbs like those found in donuts, chips, processed breads, processed pastas, etc. are NOT good. But carbs found in sweet potato, broccoli, apples, and other fruits and veggies are all SO good for you. Long story short, forget what you know about carbs, calories, sugar, and fat because it's all about to change. Try to come into this lifestyle change, into this blog post, and into this new health journey with an open mind because you will truly learn SO much! I am still learning something new every day and I know that will never stop.
Ok so now that you're ready to embrace carbs and healthy fats, let's get into the tips and tricks that will help this be a change that you stick to and that changes your life forever! Who's excited?!
Tip #1. Stock your kitchen... & then stock it some more.
This is my first tip because the last thing you want is to have a bunch of stuff in your kitchen that you no longer feel comfortable eating. Having good food on hand is the most important part of starting this new lifestyle! I did so much research when we first went vegan and this was one of the number one pieces of advice being given in books and all over the internet. When you are plant-based, you will eat more veggies and fruits than before. It's inevitable and it's GOOD. I used to keep all of our fruit in the fridge but now I leave it laying out on our countertop (only what doesn't need to be refrigerated) because throughout my day I know that when I feel hungry or need a snack I can go grab some mandarins, a banana or two, a mango, a pear, some grapes, etc. When our fruit selection gets low, I try to restock right away because this is one of the easiest ways to make sure we are getting enough calories, and nutrients throughout our day when we're snacking. The same goes for veggies! I like to keep baby spinach on hand at all times for smoothies, A variety of leafy greens for salads and all kinds of veggies that make good dinner options like bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, onions, and potatoes just to name a few (because yes, homemade baked fries are vegan and healthy. ;).
Tip #2. Educate yourself!
I want this blog to definitely be a community where you can come and ask questions and get opinions! I also think though, that we value things more when we are the ones discovering them and reading them and seeing the numbers and evidence backing something up, first hand. If you haven't already, definitely go read this blog post on why we went vegan to start! But then dive in! Watch documentaries, read books. There is so much information at your fingertips and I encourage you to consume as much of it as possible!
Tip #3. Keep ingredients for plant-based comfort food on hand
We all have days where we want some comfort food whether that means a yummy potato soup, a big bowl of spaghetti, chocolate chip muffins, etc. I like to keep a bag of organic golden or sweet potatoes on hand every week because I know we will definitely eat them whether making a soup, baking fries, or roasting them for dinner or for on top of salads at lunchtime! I also keep ingredients for my favorite banana chocolate chip or blueberry muffins on hand for when I need a sweet treat! In a perfect world, I would be making muffins every week because they are packed full of healthy fats and make such great breakfasts and snacks! That recipe will be my next blog post!! I also like to keep a jar of organic marinara and either zucchini noodles or brown rice pasta on hand at all times for those nights when we aren't sure what we want for dinner and want to make something quick and easy. Another great option is freezing bananas at the beginning of each week for smoothies and for banana nice cream! Seriously so simple. Just blend up frozen bananas, ice, and any other ingredients you want such as peanut butter, cacao powder, strawberries, etc. So easy!
Tip #4. Stay hydrated and keep taking your multivitamins to start out.
Your body will be going through a lot of change when you go vegan. Whether you feel like you're detoxing or not, you will detox a bit. My best advice is to stay hydrated and find a good whole food vegan multivitamin to take while you're adjusting, trying new recipes, etc. You should never ever feel weak, tired or deprived on a vegan diet. This diet and lifestyle is the most life-giving and energizing one there is. It's what we were created to eat and how we were made to function and once your body catches on to these new foods and that you're done putting inflammatory meats and dairy into your system, it will thank you in so many ways. A couple weeks or so into going plant-based we noticed much better and deeper sleep, increased energy, weight regulation, lowered blood pressure, and clearer skin just to name a few! We felt lighter and we could tell inflammation in our bodies had decreased. All around we felt really really good. A whole foods vegan multivitamin is never a bad idea but after a while, it may no longer feel necessary as you begin to explore all of the nutrient-dense fruits and veggies that there are. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to consume fruits and veggies daily! When you start eating this way your taste buds will change and you'll start to function and be more in tune with what your body wants and needs.
Tip #5. Make double batches of everything - you'll eat it, I promise.
You will feel the need to cook A LOT more on this diet. It won't be as easy as running out for burgers and fries when you don't feel like making dinner (but avoiding the heart disease is definitely worth it. ;). I almost always try to cook for 4 (or sometimes 6, not gonna lie! Ha) instead of 2 so that we have leftovers from each meal that we can then eat for lunches or dinner some other day that week. Sometimes it's even super yummy to make a big salad and compile leftovers on top or alongside it! So many options.
Tip #6. Don't stop exercising
As with any diet, you will see increased energy, strength, and other benefits clearer if you keep up with regular exercise along with your new way of eating. I feel like my body responds to exercise so much better now that I don't have so much inflammation in my body. I love doing an even mixture of high intensity and toning workouts along with yoga on different days. I always feel best when I'm doing yoga and really taking the time to stretch at least twice a week between workouts.
Tip #7. Shop locally when you can.
We recently started going to the farmers market more often to do our produce shopping and we are always amazed at the money we save when we shop locally. I try to buy organic when I can and the beauty of buying local is that those farmers are almost always selling organic (or very close to organic) produce. I live in a small beach town on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and our farmers market is definitely still growing. If you live in a bigger city, your farmer's markets are bound to be full of incredible food and you should definitely go check them out if you haven't already. Plant-based grocery shopping doesn't have to be expensive! That is one misconception about going vegan that doesn't have to be true. You'll definitely need to purchase more produce than you were before but you won't be purchasing dairy or meat products which can be some of the most expensive on the grocery bill. My best advice would be to do your produce shopping locally to save money. Walmart actually has a pretty impressive organic section as well and it's much cheaper than most health food type of grocery stores.
Tip #8. Connect with like-minded people
This can be so hard. I get it. I only have a handful of vegan/vegetarian friends and 3 of them are my husband, mom, and sister. I've connected with a few vegans on Instagram that I can always turn to or read posts from their blogs if I'm needing a boost of encouragement or have any questions! People are so connected to food and you might get some flack for your decision simply because it isn't the norm. It's ok for people to be curious and ask questions but never let anyone make you feel bad for bettering yourself.. You can always reference back to this verse. "And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." Genesis 1:30. Also be sure to go follow these Instagram accounts for some encouragement and daily inspiration!
Remember that this is a huge change and give yourself grace daily! What you're doing is amazing and if you slip up just keep on going and keep moving forward. We live in an imperfect world and we cannot expect perfection out of ourselves so just remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace through this journey!
Thinking about the fact that some of you reading this are at the point where you want to take this step in your life and you stumbled upon this post, I have tears of joy in my eyes because I truly believe that what you're about to do will change your life forever. You will feel more health and abundance than you ever have and I believe you will feel more connected, grounded, and in love with your creator and the creation around you. Please please please let this be a place where you feel that you can be open and ask questions. I'm here to answer any of them and help in any way I can!
Thank you so much for reading!