Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitian and you should consult multiple medical professionals as well as do tons of research before changing this very fundamental part of your lifestyle. This post is purely from my experiences and research. Each and every body is different and has different needs.
It’s now 2018 and a TON of people have resolved to eat more plants, which is awesome! What is not awesome is when everyone falls off the wagon after 2 weeks of extremely changing your diet and feeling the physical effects of doing that to your body. If you’ve resolved to improve your health, energy, and impact on the environment by switching to plant-based, here are some things to remember:
I worked in zoos for about 8 years and anytime you change an animals diet you always do it on a schedule that is dictated by their overall health through the transition. You slowly introduce the new food into their diet and observe their behavior, poop (that’s an important component), and overall health. The same is true when transitioning to a plant-based diet for humans.
Aim for percentages:
- Month 1 – 25/75 | new diet/old diet
- Month 2 – 50/50 | new diet/old diet
- Month 3 – 75/25 | new diet/old diet
- Month 4 – 100% | new diet
This can be way more flexible too if your body needs more time to adjust, any of these ratios could last for 2-3 months, or even longer. Let your body adjust, it’s been conditioned to digest certain things, eat certain amounts, etc. for YEARS. Changing it overnight will not only be bad for your body but it will also set you up for failure.
Don’t Aim for Perfection
When transitioning to plant-based, I never wanted to be that person with dietary needs that majorly conflicted with where I was going or even worse, what was being served to me from a friend or family member. If we are talking allergies, that’s a different story, don’t make yourself sick. But since I rarely go out to eat, I don’t put insane pressure on myself to only eat plant-based when I’m out to eat. Since my beliefs on plant-based eating are grounded in it’s impacts on climate change, I still feel like I’m making a difference by severely reducing my meat and dairy intake.
A diet consisting of more than 3.5 ounces (the size of a deck of playing cards) of meat per day produces almost 16 pounds of CO2 per day, in comparison to a vegetarian diet which is 8.4 pounds, and then even a vegan diet at 6.4 pounds. So reducing your meat and dairy intake to by three days per week you are saving 28.8 pounds of CO2 per week which is almost 1,500 pounds of CO2 per year. That is the same as saving almost 75 gallons of gasoline. Can you tell I’m a total numbers nerd?
Point being, no one is perfect. Let yourself have what you want when you want it. Start slow and don’t expect perfection out of yourself. You are still making an impact on the planet, your health, and your wallet by reducing your meat and dairy intake.
Make Nutritional Goals
Every person’s nutritional needs are different based on their individual body chemistry, activity level, working requirements, etc. For example, I aim for a macro split of 75/10/15 which means 75% of my diet is carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and grains), 10% of my diet are fats (healthy ones!!), and 15% of my diet is protein. I have a very sedentary job and my maximum activity level in a day is a 3 mile walk with Cooper and an hour of yoga.
I’ve found that this is an ideal for me at my current state. This could change if I got into more cardio and weight lifting again (New Years resolution…ugh). This could also change if I simply started to not feel well. You have to fuel your body for what it is doing. You can’t expect a car to run on not enough gasoline. Just like you can’t expect your body to operate very well on high activity and not enough fuel.
I use an app called MyPlate that is free on the App Store. You can input your calorie goal, and your macro-nutritent goals and track your progress. Again using me as an example, it shows that I am consistently over my fat percentage goal and low on my protein. This really helps me plan better for optimal health.
Don’t Put Yourself in a Box
Time for a small rant. I am SO OVER this whole need to identify myself as “vegan” or “vegetarian” or “plant-based”, and then someone dissing you for any small transgression against those labels. Like chill Rhonda, I just wanted to taste the ice cream. You don’t have to identify yourself by the way you eat. You’re just a human, trying to treat the one body you were given with as much dignity and respect as you possibly can. **End Rant**
Make it Fun!
A person can only eat rice and vegetables for so many nights or salad for that matter. One of the major keys to successfully being plant-based is to make it fun. I’ve made lentil meatless balls, to vegan pumpkin pie and even invested into plant-based proteins (soy-free). One of my bucket list items for 2018 is to cook through the Fuss-Free Vegan Cookbook from famous vegan blogger Sam Turnbull (check her out here). Being plant-based is so much more enjoyable when you don’t feel like you’re making any sacrifices for it.
All in all, whether your transitioning to more plant-based eating for health reasons, environmental reasons, animal rights, or whatever else; doing it the right way is so so crucial to being successful. There are endless resources available online for recipes, tips, nutrition, and so many more!