Starting out on a plant-based diet is exciting and overwhelming. Venturing into a new realm of eating can be fun but it’s also easy to get caught up in the minutia. Trying to find fancy plant-based ingredients, buying special cookware and counting macros are some of the ways people may start off on their transition. While it’s good to be conscious of the small details, they are often a form of procrastination and contribute modestly to the bigger picture.
We recommend starting off simple so your mind and body can slowly adjust to the plant-based diet. The main goal is to not only eliminate animal products from our diet, but to maintain it. It requires consistent effort in which simplicity will be in your favour.
1. Avoid Buying Expensive Things
When starting the plant-based diet, avoid buying expensive food products, kitchen appliances and supplements. Food items such as processed vegan meats (like Beyond Burger), powders and so-called superfoods are often quite expensive. We recommend buying fresh produce and eating a whole-foods plant-based diet which is healthier and much cheaper.
Another reason why this is important especially at the start of the transition is because you don’t want these expensive food items to be an external source of motivation for your plant-based diet. We go into detail about this point here!
2. Don’t Worry About Macros or Micros
Calorie and macro/micro-counting is a popular method for tracking nutrition and fitness goals.
As fitness fanatics ourselves, we used to take out our phones after every meal and log our food intake in our calorie counting app. We were also very cautious when cooking so there was definitely no eyeballing a recipe! In hindsight, this complicated our relationship with food and made it unenjoyable. When we transitioned to a plant-based diet, we wanted to calorie-count even more because of the myths about nutrient deficiencies.
At Embody Nourish, we believe eating a balanced whole-foods plant-based diet can fulfil many of these goals without the need for counting after every meal. Goals such as weight gain, weight loss, muscle gain or ensuring an adequate amount of dietary iron are all achievable with a plant-based diet. Counting macros and micros can complicate the transition and make the journey harder.
3. Start Off with Easy Recipes
Even if you’re a seasoned home-cook or chef, we recommend starting off with easy and simple plant-based recipes. During the transition, you’ll experience both physical and mental challenges such as bloating, hunger pains, cravings and social pressures. Trying out difficult recipes that doesn’t taste right or takes long to prepare can make the journey feel even more difficult.
Simple recipes can also help you find out your favourite and not-so-favourite plant-based foods. You also discover your staple vegan dishes that you can quickly make when convenience is a priority.
4. Create Your Own Whole-Foods Shopping List
Write down your own shopping list starting with your favourite vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds. Look back to your previous diet and see if you enjoyed any vegetarian or vegan meals that you could bring over to this new lifestyle. We also recommend taking your favourite meals containing meat and finding ways to veganise it. Perhaps you could substitute the meat for a hearty vegetable such as mushroom, eggplant or jackfruit.
We offer our own plant-based shopping list here.
5. Experiment Slowly
Starting simple doesn’t mean you can’t experiment, have fun and see what the plant-based world has to offer. We love experimenting with new brands and food products ourselves. However, we think it’s better to do it slowly because you don’t get overwhelmed and it is less costly. Plus, you have more time to appreciate and judge each thing that you experiment.
Remember that the goal is to transition to the plant-based diet and maintain it. We really believe that starting off slow and simple is the best way to guarantee this long-term!