Transitioning diets can be hard -
food is such an important aspect of our lives. It can seem intimidating to suddenly become fully plant-based. How does one find the motivation? Where do you start? And most importantly, what do you eat to get essential nutrients? This blog is meant to offer some advice when it comes to making these transitions, whether that be motivational or nutritional advice.
First, decide why you want to go plant-based.
Identifying the “why” is important in order to make yourself motivated to make any type of change. Your “why” could be health, climate change, animal cruelty, environmental racism, or something else. My original reason for eating more plant-based was the animal cruelty factor - it was very upsetting to learn how badly animals were treated in factory farms, such as the beatings or tiny cages. It soon expanded to be all of these reasons and plus some, especially after interning with FFAC. The more reasons and information you have, the easier it is to stay motivated.
Second, realize that making a difference when it comes to your diet does not have to be an all-or-nothing scenario!
FFAC’s presentations give some great advice on trying to make small, but meaningful, changes. Trying “Green Mondays” or trying just a few vegan meals a week is especially helpful to make a more gradual, not so alarming, change. In fact, if every person in the United States ate no meat or cheese just one day of the week, it would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road (Source: Environmental Working Group "Meat Eater's Guide").
Third, the best part - the food!
To start off, there is some nutritional information that you should keep in mind. NutritionStudies.Org offers some great advice when it comes to plant-based diets. To sum up their website, some great plant-based foods are whole grains, legumes, vegetables (root, greens, etc.), fruit, flax, and chia seeds. Some higher calorie foods such as nuts, avocado, and dried fruit should be enjoyed in smaller portions. Some of my favorite vegan meals are making stir fry with a variety of veggies and rice, pasta with salad, or tofu scramble. It is important to remember that plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Technically, oreo’s and many potato chips are vegan - however, they should be consumed in moderation, as with everything!
Finally, there are some nutrients that beginning plant-based eaters often have questions about, especially protein, B-12, and calcium.
Of course, consult a nutritionist if you are concerned about any deficiencies. However these nutrients can be easily found in plant-based foods. Protein is in tofu, seiten, edamame, beans, nutritional yeast, peas, quinoa, soy milk, rice, oats, and nuts. B-12, mostly found in animal products, can be found in fortified cereals and non-dairy milks. If you are concerned about it, it is recommended to take a supplement. Seeds, beans, almonds, dark leafy greens, and orange juice are all surprisingly great sources of calcium. Iodine can be found in iodized salt and seaweed and omega3 in walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseeds. Orange foods, such as cantaloupe, squash, and sweet potatoes are all great sources of vitamin A. And lastly, zinc can be found in cashews, tofu, hummus, lentils, peanuts, and oatmeal. Check out Vegan Health’s Tips for New Vegans for more information!
Cora Gertjejanssen was a summer college interns and fall college fellow for FFAC.