If you have resolved to adopt a plant-based diet in 2014 this list is for you! First of all, congratulations on the decision to hop on the path to feeling and looking your best, staying healthy and disease-free, and living conscientiously! I have compiled these tips to help you along your way:
1. Take it One Month at a Time.
You have been eating a certain way for a very long time, right? Well completely changing your whole diet overnight and expecting it to last, in most cases, sets yourself up for failure. Instead, create manageable steps month by month. For example, lets say you are a vegetarian, and you know that giving up cheese is going to be your most difficult food to eliminate. So for January, you make the decision to eliminate milk completely from your diet. Then, in February, you have “cheese-less weekdays,” meaning you do not eat cheese Monday through Friday, but allow yourself some over the weekend if you are craving it. Get the idea?
2. Instead of “Giving Up” Animal Products, “Replace” Them!
Choose vegan substitutes for the animal products you are eliminating to keep readily available at home.
If you are a milk drinker, find the non-dairy milk that you like best and stay stocked. Same goes for cheese, yogurt, and ice cream (you still get to splurge every now and then on a vegan diet!). When it comes to meat, my suggestion is that for the first couple months, if you can find substitutes that you like, even if they are not the best for you (most faux meat is processed and less healthy than choosing whole foods such as beans and nuts), allow yourself some leeway to eat them anyway as a stepping stone. Ultimately though, using these products only on occasion is the best way to attain a healthy, whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.
3. Find support from other vegans.
There are vegans everywhere these days, and we have the technology to connect, so use it! Seek out other healthy vegans in your community, there are often local vegan-related meet-ups you can join. The other option is finding support online through forums (such as the new, Sexy Fit Vegan Forum!) The more support the better!
4. Talk to your friends, coworkers, and family members about your lifestyle changes.
Old habits will stay current habits if you don’t communicate with the people who surround you on a daily basis. Talk to these people and let them know about the changes you are making, and ask them for their support.
5. Take a B-12 Supplement.
Vitamin B-12 is the one nutrient that can be difficult to get on a plant-based diet. There are many products fortified with B-12, but I think it is simply a good habit to take a supplement to ensure you are ingesting enough. A deficiency can be hard to diagnose early enough to prevent permanent damage to your body. But again, it is a simple fix. Take a supplement.
6. Find at least one Protein That You Enjoy and Use It As Your Go-To.
22 Days and Plant Fusion are two I highly recommend that contain both high levels of protein and other ingredients that pack your body with powerful nutrients. All you need is a shaker bottle to create a perfect snack. Getting enough protein to gain lean muscle can be one of the most common worries among people looking to maintain/gain muscle mass and increase strength and performance. A few shakes a day is a simple way to ensure your protein intake stays high.
7. Invest in a Vitamix.
You may look at the price tag on this thing and cringe. I did! And then I received one for my birthday and my life changed forever! Ok, that may be a little dramatic, but it made me a believer in the Vitamix. The smoothies, juices, soups, nut milks, and dips you can make, quickly and easily, makes it well worth the cost. Making a smoothie with super foods like hemp seeds, flax seeds, and dates can come out chunky with a regular blender, but with the Vitamix, you are always ensured an even, smooth shake.
8. Find Time to Plan Ahead.
The first several months, it’s important to realize that it is going to take you more time than usual to figure out your food choices. Find the time so you do not get into an “emergency situation” in which you feel like you’re starving, and have no idea what to eat! We’ve all been there. If you are like me, by the time you get to that point it’s too late for your brain to think clearly and for you to make logical decisions. Avoid this situation by making the time to plan your day’s food intake. You may need to pack a lunch, or keep healthy vegan bars in your car. Always keep good-for-you snacks around. Celery and hummus, carrots and raw almond butter for example.
9. Variety is Key.
Its important to keep in mind that eating a wide variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains is the key to a well-balanced plant-based diet. Chances are, by adopting this new lifestyle you will end up eating more different foods than you did before. Research plant-based super foods to add to your meals and shakes, such as hemp and chia seeds. You are exploring new options that you probably never sought out before! Keep an open mind and adopt the attitude of fun exploration rather than limitation.
10. Continue Your Education.
Continuously learn about why a vegan diet is so great by watching documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, reading articles, reading books, and even visiting factory farms and animal sanctuaries if possible. This way you will keep your motivations fresh in your head instead of letting them fade and slipping back into old habits because of it.
Cheers to the start of the healthiest, sexiest year of your life, 2014!!!