Turning to the plant side...

How did you find the transition? The question asked by many. Some of the curious want to make the change but worry if they would be able to stick to it. Those in the process of changing their diet want to see if there are any additional tips they can get. Those settled into a plant-based diet want to hear how others have done so they can offer as much advice as possible. I mean, let’s not beat around the bush here. Whatever your motive is, making a change to a plant-based diet is not the easiest thing to do at the initial stage. Many articles say why we should eat plant-based from a nutritional and ethical perspective but not always how to adapt the mindset or habits. So, drawing from my own personal experience and that of others, I've put together some useful points that could help you when making the transition.

Eat a balanced diet – sounds like common sense but is not always the case. It’s easy to assume, after reading why a plant-based diet is beneficial, that anything plant-based could be considered healthy. Not so simple. Always think about nutrition instead of calories for optimum health. If your everyday breakfast was Oreos, lunch was French fries and dinner was plain pasta, then your body would be starved of nutrition on a cellular level even though all meals combined are high in calories and technically plant-based. Make sure to keep each meal colourful; my general rule is that a plate full of colourful vegetables or fruit is a healthy one. If you don’t give your body the nutrition it needs, you won’t feel good and are more likely to go back to habits. If you eat for nutrition you will feel good and want to maintain that feeling.

Expect the withdrawal/detox symptoms – Various foods contain additives and other ingredients that can make us addicted to/crave the taste or smell. When these foods are no longer consumed it becomes a challenge. When the symptoms start, people often give up the transition because they think a plant-based diet is not working for them (due to the headaches especially). But, the truth is the complete opposite. It is at this point the body has begun to cleanse itself. I always use the analogy of an addict who stops taking drugs. They will get withdrawal symptoms. It’s worth noting, the stricter the plant-based diet, for example switching to a raw food diet, the worse the symptoms may feel.

What’s your motive? – There will be various reasons to quit the transition so it’s important to put your motive at the forefront of the mind during these moments. Remind yourself how far you’ve come, you wouldn’t want to quit because of a temporary feeling. Don’t let short-term feelings stop you from achieving your long-term goals!

Travelling – the products you’re used to buying in your local shops are not always available in a different area. Research shops and restaurants before you travel. Recently I went Brazil and Iceland and in both countries I struggled to eat gluten-free and wheat-free vegan meals so had to comprise on a few days.

Understand your habits. When do you crave snacks/meals the most? Are you prepared for the mid-morning snack craving at work between breakfast and lunch? Do you have access to a piece of fruit or plant-based milk in the fridge to have with some cereal? Or has ‘Andre’ next to you offered some of his ham and cheese sandwich and your tempted to think, “This time won’t hurt” so you break the continuity. These moments multiplied can lead to thoughts of “O well, I tried but it’s too hard”. A little meal preparation in the morning or before bed can avoid these moments.

Existing dietary requirements – can make the transition to a plant-based diet harder. For somebody avoiding gluten/wheat, pasta dishes are not an option. Look for shops near your location that sell a wide variety of vegetables to allow you to be more creative with your meals. It’s worth noting when eating at most restaurants, salad dishes to be the only dish for someone on a wheat/gluten-free. To avoid this, look at the menus before deciding where to eat out.

Use the positive results to encourage yourself – a point more for those mid/fully transitioned. When I had just made the change from a meat-eater to a plant-based diet, I was training for a half marathon.  After one week of transitioning, my personal best for running 5km had improved by minutes. Technically speaking, various factors will be responsible for this, but my change in diet was one of those factors. I used my improved results as encouragement to sustain my new lifestyle, which made the transition much easier.

If you have any additional tips that helped you, let me know. Let’s help each other achieve the results we want and feel good!

Chris BennVegan, dietComment