Updated: Aug 9, 2021
Have you thought about becoming vegan or vegetarian? Have you tried it once but somehow you seemed to fail? Most likely you didn't have enough tools to achieve this goal in a healthy way. Therefore, here are my favorite recommendations for anyone that is willing to start their plantbased journey.
Finding your motivation is quintessential for the journey you are about to start. Let me simplify this, you are about to embark in a lifestyle change journey and you will find yourself in some situations, in which eating vegan might not be the most accesible option at first glance. This shouldn't discourage you. Trust me there are plenty of vegan options out there. However, sometimes you do have to get creative and think a little bit beyond. Therefore, it is important that you take a moment to reflect: Why is it that you are going plantbased? Why do you want to go a step further and stop eating animal products? There are plenty of valid reasons, however, you must find them on your own, so that you can fully commit, find strength in them and keep going. Is it for the environment, or rather for health, or the necessity to stop promoting a violent industry? For me, it's a combination of three simple concepts: love, health, and the environment. The health aspect regarding plantbased diets is irrefutable, however, becoming vegan goes a step further, since veganism does not only consider the diet but all other lifestyle aspects as well; based on the love for every living thing. In addition, at the time is one of the most sustainable ways to nourish ourselves.
Remember that the key to every change in life is good planning. You need to take some action, sit down and start planning. Wether is a written grocery shopping list, a meal plan for the week, or some new recipes you want to try out. A plan will help you to stick easier to these changes.
3. If I don't buy it, I won't eat
You may think that this is a pretty lousy concept, nevertheless very accurate. If you want to stop eating animal products, the easiest thing is to stop buying them. This way you won't even have the opportunity at home to get your hands on some of them. Hence, if you want to eat some, you'll have to think twice before going grocery shopping.
4. Try out new recipes
Take advantage of our modern era full with information. If the kitchen isn't your strongest point, do not worry, because there are many easy recipes out there for you to try and delate your taste buds. The first few recipes probably won't turn out great right away, some of them you may not even like, but the important thing here is to keep trying, until you recognize what works for you.
Falsely, many people think that being on a plantbased diet, means restricting yourself. However, let me tell you that there is a gigantic plant world out there, full of new flavors, vegetables and spices, you might have never even heard of. Not only will a plantbased diet delight you but it will nourish your body. You can visit some recipes here as well.
5. B12 supplementation
B12 supplementation is essential when transitioning to a plantbased diet. Wether you are vegetarian, vegan, or just don't consume that many animal products you will need to supplement with B12, in order to meet your daily requirements and prevent B12 deficiency. B12 is a vitamin from bacterial origin that is only found in animal products or in supplemented products, such as plantbased milks or nutritional yeast. However these are sadly not a reliable source of B12.
Nowadays access to a B12 is quite easy. You can find them at your local vegan grocery store or in pharmacies. Just check that it is the right presentation and the right dosis. Or if you want you can order them online as well, here you can find some B12 supplements I approve of.
If you miss meat or chicken flavor, don't worry we have all been there and let me tell you that there is great variety of replacements for animal based products. By no means are they healthy (Sorry I'm a physician, hate to break it to you) but from time to time they are a great tool to transition into a healthier diet.
7. Transition. Gradually or From one day to another
I receive this questions a lot in my praxis; however I always answer it depends. What kind of person are you? This is a very relative approach, but unless you have clear health indication for you to start doing immediate changes, you could gradually transition if you want so. Whatever suits you is fine. If you are a black or white kind of person, you will probably go from one day to another vegan. Either way enjoy the journey.
8. Get to know your diet
In order to get the most out of nutrition you must understand the basics of your diet, so that you are able to choose your meals wisely. The base of the vegan diet, as in any other diet are fruits and vegetables. Remember to include them daily, at least 3 fruit portions, and 5 vegetables portions per day and make sure some of them are eaten raw.
First of all, protein, we have diverse sources of vegetable protein. In the Western world meals turn around protein, however, remember that protein only accounts for 10-15% of our diet, which means it should be exactly the other way around.
In the plant world there are the following major sources of protein: on the one hand there is soy, and its derivates such as tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, and so on. On the other hand, there are legumes, which are amazing for gut health, for example beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas. They all are excellent sources of protein. Last but not least, nuts and seeds, which not only have protein but are a very healthy fat source as well.
Fats: The vast majority of fats are plantbased, but I wouldn't be a physician if I didn't explain to you which are the ones you should be eating. As above mentioned nut and seed are in deed a great option. Furthermore, everyone's favorite avocado is a great source as well. Finally, oils from which I would advise you not to heat them: extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil. In addition, from time to time coconut can be a great source of fat.
At the beginning it may seem a little bit overwhelming, it's a whole new world, and different approach than you are used to, new ingredientes, new recipes. Despite of it, choose to enjoy the journey. If it get's too confusing stick to simple meals, such as bowls: you can choose a vegetable base, let's say leafy greens, tomatoes and carrots, add some protein sources, and put an avocado on top.
If you have any questions regarding plantbased diets, don't hesitate to ask. I'm glad to help you out.
Your favorite vegan Dr.
Dr. Pep Mondragó