Going Vegan does not mean you have to miss out on either taste or nutrition, but it does mean you have to do it right. Too many people give up their favorite meats and cheeses only to find their health declining from lack of essential vitamins, minerals and proteins. Here are 10 tips to also consider before starting on an animal free diet.
Consult a Nutritionist
A trusted nutritionist is a great way to be sure you’re not missing out on the main building blocks of your diet – especially protein. Protein, considered the building blocks of your body’s energy, breaks down amino acids and initiates cell regeneration. Whether through fruit, nuts or plants, it’s recommended that one ingest at least eight grams for every kilogram of body weight (essentially 50 grams for a 145 pound woman). This can be found in items such as natural soy, beans, lentils and quinoa. Soy is an excellent source as well, but talk to your nutritionist to be sure you don’t overload on it.
Think of going vegan like scuba diving. You don’t just jump into the water without practice. Your body needs acclimation to the depths. You need the right equipment. And, well, if you come up for air too soon, you could really hurt yourself. While there’s not a ton of cases on record showing death by tofu burger, plenty of people give up on the great experience of living vegan because they jumped in before they were ready. Experts mention doing it over the course of a few months, if not half a year. Start by eliminating dairy, for example. Then move onto eggs. Then cheese. Then meat. It’s important, also, to be sure to always replace what you removed with something new and healthy so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
No More Fast Food
If you’re going to go vegan, plan on saying goodbye to quick meals on the go. It’s not that you can’t purchase a meatless patty at your favorite hamburger joint, but chances are it will be processed. It will also cost a lot and not be sustainable for your pocketbook long term. Vegan living isn’t just about only eating veggies, anyway. It’s about slowing down and taking care of your health. In addition to taking the time to prepare your meals, you’ll be teaching yourself the valuable lesson of savoring your life, moment by moment, instead of rushing through a drive through window with nothing but a credit card and your heart pounding with stress.
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With meat costing $3.00/pound, you’ll have lots of money left over to try that funky looking eggplant or the exotic looking peach variety on aisle 4. Not only will you have lots of new delicacies for your taste buds, it’s imperative you take advantage of the greens for the calcium. (No, you don’t just need milk to have strong bones. A few cups of spinach per day will do just as well.)
Meal planning is an excellent way to keep up your spirits while adjusting to your new diet. Vegan eating is not for the sprinter. It’s a marathon style of eating, one meal at a time. And like marathon running, you must prepare in advance to not tire out. This means looking at your meals one week at a time and shopping accordingly. It might feel daunting at first, but like anything worth learning, it will soon become a habit if you go easy on yourself and keep an open mind. #6 will really help in this department.
Find a Cook Book You Love
Unless you’re already a master chef, going vegan is an excellent reason to buy a new cookbook. Not only will you find new spices and sauces to freshen up that same old boring baked potato, you’ll find new combinations that just might put your mama’s meatball recipe to shame. (Don’t believe us? Just try rice with a delicious creamy Dijon recipe. You’d be surprised!)
Prepare Meals in Advance
Similar to meal planning, meal prepping can go a long way in making your journey from meat to meatless a success. Some experts suggest taking one day/week to cook a few casseroles that can be divided up and frozen. One of our circle of wellness contributors told us: “I didn’t go vegan until I had 30 frozen dinners in my freezer.” Adding: “I’m a busy executive trainer. Knowing that I could look forward to a delicious supper after a long day at the office – not to mention not having to stress over it – was the key to my success. I knew if I only had to concentrate on a healthy breakfast and lunch I’d be okay.”
Get a Blood Draw
It’s a good idea to get blood drawn before going 100% vegan, especially if you have any health issues. For example, if you are diabetic it will help to understand how to control sugar spikes and ensure that mineral levels are maintained. Work with your nutritionist and doctor to create the right balance of foods and additional supplements that your body may need to maintain optimum health.
Read a Book on Going Vegan
Consider doing your homework before embarking on your new life. One excellent read is Thrive. Written from the perspective of a tri-athlete, this book proves that one can eat vegan and still have the strength of the biggest carnivore. (Not to mention your heart will be healthier.)
Keep It to Yourself!
Sort of like pregnancy or that new significant other, keep it to yourself until you’re comfortable with the new addition. We don’t say this to be negative: Changes can be exciting, but they can also be confusing. It’s normal to be concerned and a bit insecure despite the initial excitement. Until you are used to your new eating regime, it’s advised to only share the news with people who won’t pester you with a million questions and possibly deter you from your goals.
We hope these ideas gave you inspiration for how to go meat and dairy free in 2016. We’d love to hear from you! Anyone out there a vegan? If so, what are some tips for the beginner?
by Andrea Frazer for SimpleRx
Andrea Frazer is a writer, wife, mom to two Tweens and a rescue dog. Check back for more of her posts and tips on healthy living, healthcare awareness as well as the latest news and ways to benefit from SimpleRx Prescription Discount Program.