Nobody said that this would be easy, but more and more of the world’s population are turning to a plant-based way of life. In fact, it is believed that 20 percent changed to vegetarian or vegan diets in January 2021, in spite of the limitations on fresh food experienced in Europe during Covid. It is anticipated that when statistics are produced, the percentage will be higher for 2022. Changing your diet is always difficult, but there are some useful tips and strategies to follow if you want to stick with it.
Why change to a plant-based diet?
There are multiple reasons for changing, both for nutritional or health benefits, or for ethics and keeping our planet a safe place to be.
Health and nutritional reasons are:
- Cutting down on animal protein, which causes excess microbes in our gut and a change in the microflora in the intestines.
- It can prevent or reverse certain lifestyle illnesses such as Diabetes Type 2. It also lessens the risk of strokes, heart attacks etc. and lowers blood pressure.
- It creates a healthier Omega fats ratio – too much meat puts this ratio out of whack.
- It’s a natural detox process – cleanses the liver and creates a much healthier you.
- Another bonus – you will lose weight if that’s what you want to do, but in a healthier way than any fad diet bandied around these days.
There are of course drawbacks, and you may need some natural supplementation for nutrients that may be missing from you diet.
Ethical reasons are profound. Vegetarianism and veganism will save water, believe it or not – it takes far more water to raise livestock that to grow plant life. Deforestation is drastically reduced as it takes an incredible amount of acreage to produce very little meat – 18 times more vegetables can be grown than meat produced. Our carbon footprint can be cut by 50%!
Tips to make your diet changes more seamless
There must be a certain amount of discipline in the process, but just think about all the good things you can eat and what good you are doing yourself and the rest of the world. It does spur you on. Get imaginative and creative, challenge yourself to make new dishes you haven’t tried before. Speak to friends and family about their recipes or ideas or invest in a good vegetarian/vegan cookbook that’s not too difficult to recreate.
Other great ideas are:
- Check out registered organisations such as the Vegetarian or Vegan Society websites. They are full of useful information that is correct and up to date.
- Gradually cut down on your meat intake, or if you are strong enough, cook everything you have left and donate it to someone who needs it, so you can start from scratch – it’s a brave thing to do, but some people feel that it helps them greatly not to have meat or fish they like hanging around. In other words, take temptation out of harm’s way! In essence, don’t go the whole hog straight away, build up gradually in whatever way suits you.
- Make a shopping list. I know, it sounds boring, but it really does help to prevent impulse or ‘grab and go’ unhealthy eating habits for any diet.
- Please experiment. Pick some new fruit and vegetables you have never had before as well as your favourites. Try a few meat substitutes (gradually) to get used to different tastes and textures. Think about specific cuisines like Indian or Middle Eastern, where vegetables are used prolifically in dishes and create some of those.
- Learn a little about what your body needs in terms of macronutrients, i.e., how much protein, which can be lacking in a vegetarian/vegan diet.
- Stock up on grains, pulses, seeds, nuts and items like chickpeas. You can make delicious soups, stews etc with these basics. Also stock up on dried herbs and spices, you can do wonders with them.
- Think of your favourite comfort dish – perhaps shepherd’s pie, bolognaise, chili? Practice with meat substitutes of these favourites and use the same sauces (but vegetarian) that you would normally do. You might be surprised how tasty they will be.
- Find a soulmate or ‘buddy’ who can be a vegetarian who has transitioned or one, just like you, who wants to change. Do it together if you can, exchange ideas etc.
If you follow these tips, you have a good chance of changing. Never leave yourself hungry or not satiated, keep yourself happy with quantity and quality and you should not deviate from your plan for a new and healthier you. If you find it all too hard, don’t beat yourself up about it, at least you tried.