How To Go Vegan
Does the idea of a vegan diet interest you, but you’re not sure how to start? If you want, you could plunge right in and cut out all poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy at once. Or, take a more gradual approach and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat at each meal.
If removing all animal products from your diet feels overwhelming, try a less strict approach. Some diets focus on plants, but still leave wiggle room for other types of foods:
- Pescatarian: no meat and poultry, but you can still eat fish
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: plant-based diet, plus dairy and eggs
- Flexitarian: plant-based diet that on occasion includes animal products.
Your doctor or a dietitian can help you choose the right foods as you start a vegan diet. It’s very important to get help from an expert if you have a long-term condition or you’re pregnant, to make sure you get the right mix of nutrients in your new eating plan.
Pro: May Help You Lose Weight
Eating more plants also affects your waistline. In a recent study, a more plant-based diet was associated with a smaller waist circumference and lower body fat percentage. But the good news here is that you don’t have to give up meat, dairy and eggs altogether to reap the benefits. While researchers found the more you scale back, the better for your weight and waistline, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario.
Start Adding More Plants
While youre transitioning in the first month, not only do you want to start eliminating meat but its also time to start adding more plant-based foods to your diet. For example, if you normally eat scramble eggs for breakfast, try adding spinach, mushrooms and onions to the mix.
If youre eating soup, stir in some chickpeas and kale, if youre making a sandwich, try adding avocado and sprouts. By adding plant-based foods, youll also be adding tons of healthy fibre and nutrients plus the more plant foods you eat, the less youll need animal products and processed foods.
During this month you can also focus on trying new foods and recipes and start developing on your weekly food prep and planning habit.
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Get Clear: Answers To Common Concerns About Going Vegetarian Or Vegan
Its natural to have questions and concerns when considering a diet change. And when that change is to vegetarian or vegan diets that our cultural conditioning about the merits of meat and dairy certainly hasnt encouraged the need for answers is doubly important.
So here, Ill answer 12 of the most common concerns about plant-based diets. Warning: this is a long section! But I intentionally didnt hold back here, so that you could scan the list of questions and get a decent answer to just the handful of concerns that apply to you.
Of course, all of these questions could be answered at much greater length, addressing all kinds of specific situations. Obviously thats impossible to do in one article, but Ive included links to relevant blog posts about most of these topics. You can click those and find more information and go as far down the rabbit hole as you wish.
Lets get to the questions.
1. IS IT EXPENSIVE TO EAT VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN?
It can be, but it doesnt have to be. Although fresh produce can be expensive, thats something that any healthy diet is going to include. Whether or not you buy organic is up to you, and that will certainly increase your grocery bill, but again, thats not unique to plant-based diets. Often I purchase organic only for foods that are on the Dirty Dozen list, and get the rest conventionally grown.
Heres a useful chart that compares the nutritional quality of common foods with their cost.
2. DO I HAVE TO COOK?
12. IS SOY SAFE?
Environmental Benefits Of A Plant
Enjoying more plants isnt only good for you its good for the planet too! A new report from the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Plant and Health clarifies the links between diet and environment, calling for a global shift to predominantly plant-based dietary patterns to improve health and sustainability outcomes.3 They calculate that if everyone in the world moved to a more plant-based diet 11 million deaths per year could be prevented and we would move substantially towards a sustainable global food system.3
Additionally, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report,9 a diet higher in plants and lower in animal-based foods is associated with less of an impact on the environment than the typical American diet. In addition, a recent study found that a healthy vegetarian diet may have a 42 to 84 percent lower burden on the environment than other dietary patterns.10 In a new position paper, The Society of Nutrition and Behavior, acknowledges the role that dietary choices have on environmental impacts.11 They also conclude that eating fewer animal products and more plant-based foods while also reducing excess calorie intake and food waste is better for the planet.
No one leads that charge more than Clif Bar and Company a pioneer in producing products that are crafted with intention, for people and the planet. Its why they prioritize organic, plant-based ingredients and sustainable sourcing standards to create wholesome foods that energize any moment.
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Mediterranean And Vegetarian Diets
What is the evidence that plant-based eating patterns are healthy? Much nutrition research has examined plant-based eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers , depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.
Vegetarian diets have also been shown to support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity.
Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients. However, some vegans may need to add a supplement to ensure they receive all the nutrients required.
Fill Your Plate With Plants
Approximately 54% of calories in the standard American diet come from processed foods, while another 34% come from animal products. While research has shown just how detrimental these foods are to your health, federal nutrition guidelines have yet to catch up. It wasnt until 2011 that the USDA replaced their meat food group with a generic protein one. And while their MyPlate guidelines are certainly an improvement over past recommendations, its still not exactly the optimal balance of nutrition.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine created the Power Plate, which provides another take on what a healthy plate really looks like. Spoiler alert: Its full of plants! The Power Plate recommends meals consisting of a balance between fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Check it out here.
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What Are The Pros And Cons
The pros are the health benefits and the flexibility, Shapiro said. Youre focusing on foods that will serve up a lot of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. And while youre limiting certain foods , you dont have to give them up entirely.
One con is that prepping fresh fruits and vegetables can be time-consuming. On-the-go, easy-to-grab options might be limited, Shapiro said. Her advice: Plan ahead. Roast vegetables that can quickly become a salad or sandwich. Wash and cut fruit that can easily be tossed with yogurt and nuts or into a smoothie. And keep frozen fruits and vegetables on hand.
What A Day Of Eating Might Look Like On A Plant
Heres a sample menu created by Shapiro:
- Breakfast: Smoothie
- Lunch: Large salad with quinoa, beans, olives, avocado and veggies
- Snack: Pineapple slices with coconut yogurt and hemp seeds
- Dinner: Zoodles with chickpeas and shrimp in a tomato based sauce
- Dessert:Oatmeal cookies with dark chocolate chips
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What Is Vegan Cheese Made From
Vegan cheese can be made with a variety of different ingredients derived from proteins, fats, vegetables, and plant-based milks. The most common type of ingredients that are typically used to produce vegan cheeses are seeds like sesame or sunflower, and nuts like cashews, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, etc. Other common ingredients that vegan cheese contains are nutritional yeast, tapioca, coconut oil, spices, rice, and potatoes. In order to achieve similar consistency, texture, flavor, and aromas to that of the cheeses you know and love, incorporating these ingredients as a substitute will ensure you come close to the original product!
Vegan Cheese Making Products
What Other Non-Diary Alternatives Can I Use?
The CheeseMaker ensures that you use the absolute best vegan cheese making products and ingredients, so you know exactly what you’re consuming, or giving to others. Our vegan cheese cultures are used to make cheese without the use of milk. However, if you wish to use milk, you can opt for non-dairy milk choices like coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk, or almond milk which work just as great. Whether you’re sensitive to dairy, lactose intolerant, or looking for ways to be more health conscious, vegan cheese is the perfect way to incorporate creamy, delicious cheese into your diet. Making dairy-free cheese is a fun way to explore healthy cooking and the perfect addition to a cheese board that anyone can enjoy!
Should I Purchase Vegan Cheese or Make it From Home?
What Can’t You Eat On A Plant
What you decide to avoid is up to you. For the most part, people on plant-based diets eat less of the following:
- Fast food
- Refined grains: white rice, white bread, refined pasta, etc.
- Packaged foods: cookies, chips, sugary cereals, etc.
- Processed meats: bacon, sausage, etc.
But what about meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, and all those other favorites? Sheinelle decided to eat mostly vegan for the first month, but plans on enjoying eggs and seafood after the fact and that can still count as plant-based.
“I think many people get a little caught up in the idea of ‘plant-based’ meaning vegetarian or vegan and thats simply not the case,” London says. “Plant-based does not mean eliminating food groups or lean sources of protein in totality! Its much friendlier than that.”
She recommends choosing low-fat, unsweetened dairy products and dairy alternatives to get sufficient potassium, magnesium, and calcium. “These nutrients counterbalance the effects of sodium in the diet and have the effect of minimizing bloat,” London adds. Adding some seafood to your plate of veggies will also help supply your body with cognition-boosting omega-3’s.
Plus, it’s not realistic to assume you’ll never eat or drink something you love again. “I don’t want to live my life where I can’t have a cinnamon roll,” Sheinelle says. “Even if you do 70/30 plant-based eating, I think your body kind of feels a difference. That’s kind of where I am.”
Con: You May Need To Supplement
What’s the sayingfailing to plan is planning to fail? These words of wisdom apply here. Depending on where you fall on the plant-based spectrum, you may be at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. “If you don’t plan well and you don’t eat a balanced diet, you can be missing out on important nutrients, such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc and proteinall of which are part of healthy, whole plant foods,” Palmer explains. Other nutrients to take into consideration are vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Here’s how vegans can get key nutrients that they need in their diet.
How To Decide How Fast To Start A Plant Based Diet
If I were you, and I was once, I would go all in and get started. After reading this article you will know everything you need to start a plant based diet.
If you feel like you need to go a bit slower you can start by going plant based as much as possible.
Can you do 1 day a week to start? How about 3 days, or even a few meals?
There is no secret club here that you get into if you go full plant based right this second. Do the best you can and in no time you will want to eat more plant based foods.
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Bookmark This List On Your Phone
You can bookmark this page and add it to your phones home screen for easy access when youre out shopping. Heres how to do it for iPhone and iPad:
Animal Welfare And Vegan Athletes Episodes
Thats a great place to start learning more about plant-based nutrition. If youre interested in animal welfare, Id recommend this one with Gene Baur. T
There are also plenty of episodes with plant-based athletes so if youre wondering how eating vegan and performing at a high level works you can check out Mac Danzig, Patrick Bauboumian, Timothy Shieff, Landon Casill, , Lelani Munter, Griff Whalen and more.
There are a ton of other excellent conversations on other topics that are worth listening too and you can find them all here.
Ive also got a complete list of all the plant-based diet resources here.
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Foods To Fill Up On And Foods To Eat Less Of
The biggest question still remains to be answered. What do I eat on a plant-based diet? Palmer shares her recommendations for what to eat on a daily basis:
- Legumes provide plant protein and essential amino acids
- Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables for calcium and other nutrients
- Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats
- Whole grains offer essential amino acids, iron and zinc
- A variety of fruits and veggies so you don’t eat the same things every meal and every day. This will ensure you’re getting a mix of various vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
- Try these 25+ easy plant-based recipes for beginners.
One thing you’ll notice is that the recommended foods to fill up on are predominantly whole and minimally processed, which leads us to what you should aim to eat less of on a plant-based diet.
Because eating more plants and less meat is ‘in’ right now, food companies have started giving consumers more options when it comes to plant-based products. Just because a product is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The quality of the food you’re eating matters. A recent study found that plant-based eaters who consumed a diet focused on legumes, veggies, nuts, whole grains and fruit had a significantly lower risk of heart disease, while plant-based eaters whose diets centered around refined grains and other highly processed foods actually had an increased risk of heart disease.
What Cereal Can You Eat On A Plant Based Diet
Youre going to need some milk for all this cereal, so check out this hearty list of plant-based milk brands, too.
- 365 Everyday Value Organic Morning Os.
- Back to Nature Gluten-Free Apple Blueberry Granola.
- Barbaras Organic Corn Flakes.
- Barbaras Peanut Butter Puffins.
- Capn Crunchs Peanut Butter Crunch.
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Start Reducing Your Meat Consumption
If youre brand new to all this, start going meatless once per week. Meatless Mondays is a popular movement so that could be a good day to start with. I would recommend incorporating Meatless Mondays into your routine for 2-4 weeks before moving on.
If you currently eat eggs, fish and dairy, dont worry about that yet, just focus on incorporating more plant food into your diet and eating less meat. Instead of making meat the star of your dishes, try making a bean, legume or tofu-based dish or making that side salad the main course.
Treating Natural Flavors Artificial Flavors And Preservatives As Friends
Stop buying things in packages, boxes, and bags! Leave them under your Christmas tree for Mr. Grinch instead. Foods contained in these types of packages tend to be chock full of nasty, possibly carcinogenic chemicals, that can lead to allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions and other reactions. Some commercial food additives arent even disclosed by manufacturers like natural flavors. What the heck are those? The whole world is natural from a scientific perspective hence the phrase the natural world. If you dont care about not knowing whats in your food, though, you can continue to put your health at risk. Whats that television commercial song phrase? Theyre naturally deliciousI dont think so!
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Good For Our Planet And Our Health
Unsurprisingly, a diet of red meat and starchy foods isnt great for your cholesterol and your blood pressure. Tons of scientific studies have shown the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet including keeping your heart healthy, preventing Type 2 Diabetes, and lowering cholesterol.
A plant-based diet can not only be beneficial for your health, but also can create a positive impact on the environment. Meat and dairy products are fueling the climate crisis as it requires more resources to produce therefore causing higher greenhouse emissions.
Studies done by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine show that if there was a global shift to a plant-based diet, this could reduce mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10% and 70%, respectively, by 2050.
With this in mind, to help you seamlessly transition to a plant-based diet, weve shared a number of different ways that you can incorporate more vegetables, grains and protein alternatives to your meals.