How to Maintain a Plant-Based Diet: A Guide for New Vegans
Are you switching to a plant-based diet? Are you new to veganism and find yourself having struggles such as cravings for animal products?
I have a few tips on starting and maintaining a healthy vegan diet while also focusing on important nutrients that you should pay special attention to.
Before following any guidelines, make sure that you listen to your body first, and know that you are the one who knows your own needs the best.
Also, it is advisable to visit a nutritionist, dietitian, or another health professional who can help you by assessing your personal nutritional needs and who can give you more thorough advice.
So, here are a few steps for having a healthy plant-based diet:
Cut off Animal Products Slowly While Adding More Plant-Based Products
If you are new to veganism, or you are in the beginning of your process to switching to a mainly or exclusively plant-based diet, this step is for you.
It is important to cut down on animal products slowly in order to not shock your body. If you have been consuming a great amount of animal products for a long time, your body has probably already adjusted, and creating a sudden change may make it feel deprived. This will make you very likely to binge on animal products later, thus, possibly leading you to falsely think that you are not good at this lifestyle. In a few words, it may make you give up on veganism before you have even started.
However, if you do not consume a lot of animal products in general, the transition for you might be lighter and easier. The difficulty of the transition varies from person to person.
If you feel like you are not ready to completely exclude a certain product from your diet, start by decreasing your consumption of it, even if it is a long process. If you feel like you have an attachment to some foods, such as cheese, for example, cut down slowly while finding plant-based alternatives. Try leaving your favorite animal-based food the last to quit.
While cutting down on animal products, make sure to add more plant-based foods in your diet.
What types of plant-based products could possibly replace a tasty juicy steak or a cheesy burger?
Here you can see the broad variety of ingredients, foods and alternatives that are sure to satisfy everyone's taste buds and nutritional needs:
A Large Variety of Food
While you may think quitting animal products will make you have less access to a variety of foods, you will actually start becoming more aware of the food you consume, and this will make you start paying attention to foods and ingredients that you probably did not know existed before.
The vegan diet has it all: fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, grains, herbs, spices, algae, sprouts, and more. The flavors you enjoy from your usual meals come from herbs and spices, which means you can have vegan dishes that are very rich in taste and equally as delicious.
Nowadays, as veganism has been growing in popularity, you have access to alternatives to almost all of your favorite non-vegan foods. There is everything from soy milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc. You can have soy yogurt, coconut yogurt, and a lot more. There is a variety of vegan cheeses, and I am not just talking about tofu; as well as fake meats, such as seitan (wheat gluten), soy meat, among many others. Simply go to a decent well-rated vegan restaurant and see what they offer. Try a variety of foods and you will see how diverse the vegan cuisine is.
Fortunately, these days we have exposure to more and more plant-based products. It is time to take advantage of this variety.
One thing that you need to always know is that you can be healthy or unhealthy on both a vegan and non-vegan diet. However, if you decide to take the path of veganism, you need to take extra care of a few things.
The basic nutrients for your body are water, carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. You can find all of these in plant-based foods.
However, you will need to take a larger quantity of certain foods in order to meet some of the nutrition requirements that would be faster met with animal products.
For example, lean meats and eggs contain a bit more protein per gram than plant-based protein sources. What you can do is eat larger quantities of protein-rich plant-based foods. Vegan foods that are high in protein include legumes and beans, seeds and nuts, soy products and some grains.
A common concern among non-vegans is how vegans get enough calcium to keep their bones healthy.
Calcium can be naturally found in dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, okra, cabbage, etc.), soy foods, legumes, some nuts, some seeds and fortified products (ex. fortified plant-based milk).
The biggest thing to pay attention to is vitamin B12, which is important for keeping the normal function of your nerve cells. It naturally exists in animal products. So far, it has not yet been found if you can get it from plant-based foods naturally.
The only way to get this vitamin is through supplements. Luckily, there are many fortified products available, such as plant-based milks, orange juices, vegan cheeses, and more. They have been enriched and if you consume them, you may not need to take any other extra vitamin B12 supplements. While you can get vitamin B12 tablets, I would highly recommend buying nutritional yeast instead. Not only is it a natural source of vitamins, minerals and protein, but it is also enriched with vitamin B12.
Other than vitamin B12, you can give everything else your body needs with a plant-based diet.
Furthermore, try to put fruits and vegetables on top of your priority vegan foods because they are a source of water and provide you with healthy carbs, fiber, tons of vitamins and minerals. At the same time, many fruits and vegetables are low in calories, which means that you can consume so much while getting them with all the good things packed within them.
A vegan diet can be balanced and healthy if done properly. This lifestyle can make you somewhat more health-conscious and educated about food.
And no matter what any guide tells you, remember to always listen to what your body tells you. This is how you will start eating intuitively no matter what type of a diet or lifestyle you are following.
© 2020 Tery Peta