Want to live a successfully healthy vegan or whole food, plant based diet?
Start with my top tips for beginners:
Read up on the subject, get to know your food. Plan, not only what you will eat for breakfast, but also snacks, lunch and dinner; I am a big fan of planning meals in advance by making stocks for freezing or eating healthy leftovers the following day. Take the time to make your food from scratch or eat food that has had little preparation or processing. Deficiencies can start when we eat from only the same food groups regularly, be sure to plan the seasons into your cooking too and keep variety at the front of your mind.
If you are concerned about iron levels or any other vitamin or mineral level, get yourself checked out by a nutritionist before taking a supplement. Eat plenty of iron (or nutrient) rich foods such as green leafy vegetables. Vitamins are water soluble or fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C can be taken without testing your levels, therefore if you have too much, your body will be able to get rid of the excess easily. Fat soluble vitamins are slightly more complex as they are stored by the body, thus meaning, the excess becomes stored too. Minerals play a balancing act too as, although we need considerably less, mineral imbalances can cause a wide range of symptoms and taking a supplement that targets just one mineral is not the best approach, as each mineral can easily become too concentrated.
Going vegan, in a nutshell, refers to removing the following foods/groups from your diet: dairy, meat, fish and eggs. Sometimes, tackling each group one by one can be easier than going all in at once - it can also be the key to creating great tasting new recipes at a sustainable pace. If you'd prefer to go totally vegan from the off then begin by buying a few resource rich vegan magazines, these are usually packed full of information and you can hunt out the most simple recipes first. Make a list of food that you enjoy eating and look for recipes with vegan ingredients that can be substituted in. You might be surprised, if you find a good enough substitute, you may hardly notice the difference.
The Degrees Of Vegan
If you're looking to go vegan to live a healthier lifestyle or gain a specific health benefit, be sure to look at what's in the substitutes that you're using. If the substitute is, or is made of, a whole food, great! However, you'll often find that products (often meat substitutes) marketed as 'health foods' are processed foods with low nutrient abundance with ingredients you cannot pronounce. Of course, it is down to personal preference, lifestyle and convenience, but personally, I tend to sway more towards a whole food, plant based diet to be sure I am obtaining high quality healthy ingredients.
As mentioned, a focus on whole foods wherever possible is advantageous; ingredients including grains, beans, greens and seasonal produce should form the core of your high quality ingredient-led lifestyle. It is essential for you to be consuming foods of nutritional abundance and minimal toxins; by eating spray free, organic, seasonal, local produce, you'll be closer to ensuring a healthy vegan lifestyle. Have you tried a veg box from your local farmer's market? You'll find produce that is seasonal and local, which ensures nutritional abundance through the produce being 'at its best' for the local area and travelling minimal food miles, losing less nutrients on its way to your plate!
Learn & Discover
Only by testing and sampling will you find out what foods you will or won't like. Test recipes with and without processed meat or whole food supplements, try swapping ingredients in and out until you find flavours and textures that agree with you. Not forgetting, some things will take longer to adjust to; your taste buds have been used to particular foods for your whole life, give it a little time. Allow yourself to get excited by the possibilities of eating and cooking great tasting food that's good for you!
Going vegan is a particularly significant lifestyle change requiring a degree of commitment and desire, not something to be looked at lightly. By arming yourself with all the information and understanding the requirement for variety and nutrient rich high quality food, it is possible and dare I say it, easy, to lead a happy, healthy, successful vegan lifestyle! If you're unsure, take it one food group at a time; remove meat first, then fish, then eggs, then dairy - or whatever works well for you.
Try this simple vegan supper: Recipe