“I want to go plant-based but it sounds too hard.” This is something a lot of people have said to me in the last year. Truly I am not a purist. I eat cheese every now and again. But I’ve cut out meat entirely. A friend of mine recently visited our local zoo and began feeling badly about eating meat. She said she didn’t know what to do. I could tell the idea was overwhelming for her. I gave her some advice which I want to pass along. Firstly, everyone is different, some people can quit eating meat, dairy and animal products all at once And not look back. If that works for you, great! If you find that entirely overwhelming try these less overwhelming tips:
- Ease into it. Start with meatless Mondays. I started by not eating meat or cheese at lunch. Start with something that is manageable and when that is part of your normal make another small change.
- Rather than focusing on removing things pick something to add to your meals. In the morning I made fruit bowls with nuts, shredded coconut, and raisins drizzled with peanut butter. I hadn’t made fruit a part of my meals in ages, it was exciting to eat these bowls in the morning.
- Pay attention to how you feel. Much of the reason I chose to begin eating this way was to improve how I felt. Sure, sometimes I didn’t want to eat the food I packed for lunch, but I’d think about how great I’d feel after I ate it. That was a huge motivator for me. That was how I cut sugar out also (didn’t like how short it made my fuse short with my kids).
Look at all you can choose from!
Anytime you make a change it is different and it isn’t always easy. I’ve found a lot that what I focus on can either help or hurt. Clearly, if you focus solely on what you “can’t have” you probably feel like you want it more. If you focus on the broad range of things that are available or how good you feel by eating that way, whatever your motivation, it makes for a smoother transition.
Lefty had tried to go vegetarian twice before going plant-based. She discovered in talking with others that almost everyone goes through a few failed attempts. The last time, Lefty tried going vegan it was in solidarity for a family member’s health concerns. It was basically an experiment to lower blood sugar levels. The experiment partially succeeded, but when the family member said they no longer wanted to keep eating that way, Lefty kept going. By then, eight months had passed and she’d noticed a change in overall health and energy levels. Here’s what she says:
“When you grow up in meat-eating culture and the better plant-based options are not always intuitive. Your default will be what you know. For a lot of us, it’s peanut butter and jelly, which I can’t choke down. Trying to find filling meals outside of salad and light fare proved challenging at first. I was born in the Midwest and was a hungry girl.
I wanted plant-based to work but I had to look outside of my upbringing and culture to find foods that were satisfying. I found them in Asian, Indian and Mexican cuisine. But that’s where diversity comes in. I kept talking to more and more people, and learned about Cuban, African, and Puerto Rican meals and spices! Spices are where the action is! We can learn a lot from one another and I’m grateful for all cultures. Each one literally brings something unique to the table.”
Lefty offered these tips:
- Try one new fruit, vegetable, grain or legume a week. Learn about it. Prepare it different ways. Try it at least three times before you decide if you like it or not.
- Try one new recipe a week. You’re becoming a food adventurer. Try creating one meal from another country once a month. Look into sides, and appetizers and desserts. The Moosewood Collective [book] was so helpful in helping me transitions because they also gave not only recipes, but complete menus.
Plant-based food from around the world can expand your offerings. Don’t be afraid to go online and see what others are eating and doing with their food. This is the best time in the world to make the switch. Lots of people are doing it which means the recipes keep improving. Once you get used to meal prep, you can look at ways to modify your meals to fit whatever health issues might need to be addressed.
Lefty has an intentional goal (low glycemic foods, few grains, no sugar, and no animal
protein) and tries to meet it, but has fun along the way–it’s a food adventure. Two years into this, we now call all the food we ate before ‘comfort food’. Although we rarely have it, we won’t tell ourselves, “never”. But the longer we eat this way, the less we want meals from the old from the old menu. If we do indulge, we pay attention to how our bodies react.
Suddenly, years have passed and I’m feeling the best I ever have. I feel excited about life and the future. My mind is clear and I bounce out of bed in the morning ready to go.
Why not join us? Tell us what your biggest obstacle is blocking your goal and the biggest reason why you want to try plant-based. We’d love to encourage you on your journey to a great life.