As someone who's eaten a plant based diet for almost 30 years, and in my experience as a plant based coach, I've learned that there are three guiding principles that can help you start your plant based journey. These principles can also be very helpful as you continue your plant based journey. Keep reading to find out what these principles are and how you can incorporate them into your new way of living.
So you've decided to start eating (and enjoying!) a plant based diet. Go you! In my experience, making the decision to go plant based is a HUGE step so good on you for deciding to change your life (and the lives of others) for the better.
The next step is actually working out HOW to start eating a plant based diet. This can often be the hardest part of a plant based journey. There are so many options out there today, including an abundance of fake meat products and vegan alternatives for sale at the supermarket.
Compared to when I started my plant based journey, it can be super easy to find an alternative to your meat, dairy and egg options. But sometimes having more options can actually be more challenging! I know when I go to a restaurant these days that offers a wide array of vegan meals, I sometimes long for the days when there was only one option - it made deciding what to eat so much easier! Yep, I'll just have the vegie stack thanks (haha!).
In this article, I'm not going to delve into what type of plant based options you should eat - that's for another article or when you work with me one-on-one.
Instead, I'm going to help you to identify some guiding principles that have helped me and many of my clients as they start and continue their plant based journey.
Often, the start of a plant based journey can be a bit daunting.You might decide to cut out all animal products or you might decide to just cut out one animal at a time. Or even that might confuse you. Should you go cold turkey or should you take things slowly?
This brings me to my first tip -
1. Ease In
For some people, going cold turkey can be the best way to start a new regime. On the flipside, going cold turkey might mean that you are going great for a while with eating a plant based diet but then you find that you have cravings and perhaps you start dipping back in to eating animal products, and before you know it, your plant based journey is over.
So my recommendation is to EASE IN.
There are a couple of options here. You could decide to start by cutting out red meat. You could specify a particular time period for cutting out the red meat stage, or you could be a bit more flexible and just see how your body feels before going to the next stage of cutting out say, white meat. Then keep going until you've cut out all the animal products that you want to.
For me, I started my plant based diet by cutting out red meat. I was 11 and so my mum thought it best to take things slowly. She wanted to make sure that I didn't lose out on any nutrients, especially those that would help my growing body. I continued cutting out different animals until I was 15 when I cut out the last type of animal meat that formed part of my diet - fish.
I'm not saying you need to take things this slowly. If you're an adult making your own decisions, then you can freely choose the time period you want to take to ease in to eating a plant based diet. It might look something like this:
Month 1 - cut out red meat
Month 2 - cut out white meat
Month 3 - cut out fish
Month 4 - cut out eggs
Month 5 - cut out dairy
Alternatively, you may choose to start off by incorporating meat free or animal free days. Perhaps you begin by having meat free Mondays or eating a plant based diet from Monday to Friday so that you have a bit more flexibility on the weekends.
The benefit of easing in to a plant based diet is that it will reduce the likelihood of suffering from cravings and it can also help to ease any pressure that you might feel about making a drastic change to your diet. If it's too hard, it can be so easy to just give up. So ease in to a plant based diet to give you a higher chance of success.
2. No judgement
My second tip is to be kind to yourself as you embark on a plant based journey. Perhaps you slip up every now and again. Perhaps you started out great and then you slip back into your old way of eating. That's ok!
Don't be judgey. Treat each day like it's a new one. If you slipped up yesterday, start anew today.
You'll get there. It may just take a bit of time.
3. Focus on your goal
What kind of plant based diet do you want to eat?
Is it 100% plant based or is it 80/20?
Perhaps your goal is to cut out meat but still eat egg and dairy. So focus on that. Focus on reaching that goal. Give yourself a timeframe and then when you get there, celebrate. Treat yourself by going out and eating some yummy plant based fare. Celebrate the fact that you set yourself a goal and you achieved it.
Hey, you might even find that your goal changes as you continue along your plant based journey. So change the goal. Keep striving.
And don't forget why you're doing this in the first place.
Why do you want to start eating a plant based diet?
Is it because you've learned about the positive effects on your health of eating a plant based diet and you want to be the healthiest version of you?
Is it because you care about the environment and you've learned about how damaging animal agriculture is on the planet?
Or is it because you've discovered that animals suffer tremendously so that you can eat them and you no longer want to be part of that suffering?
Whatever your "why" is for choosing a plant based diet, remember that.
When you feel like eating some meat or some cheese, think about the goal you've set for yourself. The goal to be the healthiest version of you or to help the environment or to help ease the suffering of animals. Use this as your guiding light to bring you back into focus so that you can commit to your choice to eat a plant based diet.
And there you have it. My 3 top tips for starting a plant based diet -
1. Ease In
2. No Judgment
3. Focus On Your Goal.
Perhaps you've already started eating a plant based diet and you've got some helpful tips for others? I'd love for you to share those in the comments below.
And if you're new to all of this, or you have fallen off the wagon so to speak, I'd love to help you.
Until 31 December 2018, I'm offering a super special one-on-one coaching program to help you eat and enjoy a plant based diet in 2019. The program includes online consults, recipes, a meal plan, email support and so much more. Check it out here.