Starting off on a vegan journey can be challenging. The first question you may ask yourself is, “where do I start?”
Well, starting always depends on where you are and why you began. The first step in progressing toward a plant-based lifestyle is changing your mindset.
If you are pursuing this lifestyle for health reasons, please be aware that if you treat this transition like a diet rather than a lifestyle choice, then it will end quickly.
To begin, watch this short video on how to change your mindset into a vegan mindset. Altering your mindset will make it MUCH easier to transition because you will no longer have to deal with temptation.
After you have begun to adjust your mindset, the next question may be, “what the heck do I eat?”
A WHOLE FOODS PLANT-BASED DIET
A whole-foods plant-based diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes/beans, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
While we may think there is little to no variety in plant-based foods, this diet is way more abundant in diversity.
Please abstain from consuming highly processed plant-based food such as tofu, seitan, vegan butter, vegan ice cream or any other imitation foods. The reason being that if you begin to depend on imitations rather than just “ripping off the band-aid” and diving in, it will become much more difficult to eat when you go out to restaurants, friends, and family members homes, and travel.
Consuming these products in moderation is OK. However, highly processed foods are not healthy AT ALL. Not even if they are vegan.
If you begin your journey by just swapping your food for imitations, you may start to feel bloated, heavy, and low on energy.
Why Eat a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet
A whole-foods plant based diet is comprised of non-processed or minimally processed food. Light processing includes: blending, cooking, freezing, drying, fermented and soaking.
The reason why highly processed food is not recommended is that once the whole plant food is stripped away from a component or nutrient, the body does not recognize the food and gets rid of it by storing it as fat.
For example, if you eat an entire apple, your body will use all of the nutrients from the apple to digest it and adequately absorb all of the nutrients and convert it into energy. If you then take the fiber away from the apple to make apple juice, your body does not understand how to digest the sugars and then stores it as fat.
Same goes for other highly processed foods. Highly processed foods are plant fragments and will not be easily digested by the body.
How Do I Eat Then?
After understanding what types of food you should focus on eating, we can begin to explore the magnificent world of plant-based diversity.
Discovering the vast variety of plant-based foods may be overwhelming at first, but taking it step by step will make the process much more pleasant. It may be tempting to purchase large amounts of food you are not used to consuming, but doing this will only be a waste of money.
1. Write down a list of whole-foods that you are used to consuming regularly. (ex: quinoa, almonds, oatmeal, brown rice, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, oregano, etc.)
After you have identified your plant-based staples, it is time just to add on.
2. Go to the supermarket and select new food.
The produce aisle is the most substantial section in the supermarket. After you have picked out your staples, pick out 2-3 new vegetables you are not used to eating or having not yet tried. Also, make sure to begin incorporating more diversity in fruits as well.
For example, if your household staples are bananas and oranges, you can try to add on papaya and pineapple. Same goes for vegetables.
If you are scared, the food will spoil, just chop it up and freeze it. You can use the fruit for smoothies or homemade popsicles. As for the vegetables, you can use them to save time on a rushed day and make a simple stir-fry.
When you arrive at the grain aisle, choose 1-2 new grains or legumes you would like to try.
3. Try different herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are going to make the most diversity as far as taste. There are many spices to choose from! There is turmeric, chili, cumin, curry, mustard seeds, sumac, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, etc.
4. Cold or Hot
We are usually accustomed to eating warm cooked meals, however making cold raw dishes are great for on the go! You can, for example, make a chickpea salad with cherry tomatoes, peppers, avocado, cilantro, and lemon. Or beets with parsley, lentils, and vinegar. You can, of course, used cooked ingredients and mix them with raw, but making food that tastes good cold is ideal for when you want to cook in bulk and just take it to go during the week.
Mix and Match
After you have selected your various amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, herbs, and spices, you can now begin experimenting.
When it comes time to cook, just open the fridge and pick 2-3 vegetables, 1 grain, and 1-2 herbs and/or spices.
You can choose to steam, sauté, bake, stuff, or merely eat raw.
You can cook the same exact vegetables numerous times, and it can taste completely different if you just change up the cooking method and the spices.
When going vegan, it is tempting to depend on recipes at first, but if you keep these tips in mind, you can begin to alter recipes, adopt new cooking methods, and begin personalizing them into something you can make into staples. After you have understood the basics of cooking vegan, it will then become easier to make quick, go to dishes for any occasion. You can then begin to branch out and explore brand new flavors you never knew existed!
If you are struggling with finding plant-based foods you like, try disguising vegetables with spices and hiding them in grains or legumes while your palate adjusts. Also, watch this short video to learn how to change your palate so you can learn to love eating healthy.
For a list of the top 10 items for your vegan pantry, click here.
For more information on how to live a vegan lifestyle, explore my resource page.
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