Tips for Going Vegan/ Vegetarian
Monday, August 10, 2015

Tips for Going Vegan/ Vegetarian

Acai Bowl from Sadhana Kitchen

Have you ever thought about making the switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet but have been fearful because it seems so daunting? Or maybe you've even made a real attempt at making the switch, but fell back because it was just too hard? It can be hard because food affects so many facets of your life - your health, your fitness, your social life, your mood, your energy - it's a big change and a big commitment! I'm going to share my thoughts with you to hopefully make the change less daunting and finally help you get to the lifestyle you desire and deserve.

1/ Don't forget the basics. What I think is a common mistake when people begin their journey, particularly with veganism, is they start buying every vitamin, fancy products and meat-free alternatives. While these can definitely be great and enhance your cooking and eating experience, they can also be costly and take you out of your comfort zone. When it's too expensive and too foreign, you most likely won't stick to it because that'll take a lot more effort than you can probably be bothered for! Do not forget your basics - a sack of potatoes for $5 can bring you a range of dinner options for a week - fries, wedges, mash, a roast... On top of that, you can diversify it even more with herbs & spices which is an entirely different experience itself. Different ways to cook your vegetables can mean an entirely different culinary experience - you don't NEED the fancy stuff and it doesn't have to be expensive. Even the French - who adore their meat and couldn't imagine a life without it - place emphasis on cooking with in-season vegetables, because vegetables can truly transform your dish! You'll fall more in love with veggies than ever, which is not a bad obsession to have.

2/ Get to know your taste-buds. With so much content online and a lot of food blogs with amazing recipes, you might get over excited and start trying to make everything! This can be absolutely amazing or absolutely detrimental. Try to think of your favourite foods - or at least your favourite types of flavours and add these to your dishes. For example, if you love coriander, you an add it to your salads and your soups. On the other hand, curries are very popular for vegan/vegetarian recipes because taking out the meat doesn't affect the taste, but if you don't usually like curries as a meat-eater, don't start making it while you're starting out. You most probably still won't like it and you'll start thinking "You can't eat ANYTHING on a vegan diet!" Just like the meat-eating world, there is so much to offer from a veg point of view - try to identify your favourite flavours and look for/create recipes around them!

3/ Fake meat does not taste like meat. I'm not sure if this is an obvious one, but I have heard people say after trying fake meat 'This doesn't even taste like chicken!' No, it doesn't. In fact, there is a lot of them that don't taste good at all. But that's okay, because they're usually not very good for you anyhow! If you like that heavier, bulkier side to your base try using beans or chickpeas which fill you up but don't give you that heavy feeling... nor the meat sweats!

4/ Look for ways to make your favourite foods and enhance the natural flavour of the seasonings and spices. For instance, whenever I make Mexican food, I add a LOT of coriander and lime because I love these flavours. Bring out the beauty of spices and seasonings, lemons and limes, and it can make a HUGE difference. Not to mention, super inexpensive. 
5/ Prepare for success. This world is catered to meat-eaters and offers a lot of processed food, which can be difficult to resist because it's so easy to eat, and yeah I'll admit, it's delicious. I LOVE two-minute noodles, but I know they aren't very good for you, nor do they make me feel very good after I've eaten them. Especially in the early stages, you have to be prepared. Cooking with fresh foods and vegetables can be super easy, but not as easy as grabbing two-minute noodles or snacking on a packet of chips because you're too lazy to make anything else! Make your bases, like quinoa and rice, in bulk and refrigerate them so they're always there. Keep cans of chickpeas, sweet corn, lentils and beans in your cupboard. When you're shopping, try your best to steer clear of foods that you have made the decision to ditch and stock your kitchen up with foods that you have decided will help you become the person you want to become. Sometimes we can get tunnel vision, especially when everyone else is eating McDonald's, or KFC or that Domino's that smells so good, and you might get discouraged, but if you prepare yourself for these moments of potential weakness, you are investing in your future, and yourself. 

6/ Experiment. Experiment with recipes, portion sizes, time of the day you eat, how many meals you eat per day. Find ways that will encourage you and aid you in sticking with your decision. It may be a bit of a bounce-around for the first couple of months, but it'll soon be so normal for you, and meat won't even be on your mind anymore. All that we are is habit, so start shaking the bad habits and creating good ones to replace them. Take small steps that will create big change, but do not take steps backwards. It may take a while, but you will soon find yourself naturally ditching the foods that don't make you feel so good, and start gravitating towards, maybe even craving, whole foods that nourish you. 

7/ You will need thick skin. For some reason, as soon as you announce you're no longer eating meat, everybody has an opinion. A big argument against veganism is the assumption that you're not getting your nutrients because you're no longer eating meat or animal byproducts. This is not the place where I'm going to argue whether I think this is true or not, but I will say that hardly anyone cares about nutrients or vitamin levels until somebody brings up a diet that is different to theirs. I hardly think a fast food meal contains all these nutrients they keep banging on about, but they eat that anyway. (Nothing against people who eat fast food, just an example!) My point is that people will most probably put up an argument and try to get you to defend your decision, and they'll start making really dumb comments that aren't logical nor do they actually care about. For some reason, some people feel personally attacked because you've chosen a different diet to them, and I can say just ignore them, but it's not always that easy. Prepare yourself for these kinds of comments, because they may come. Whether you argue back or not is your own accord, however I think if you have made this decision for yourself you should stick to it regardless of what anybody says to you, or tries to put you down for it. If you decide to revert back to your old diet, make sure it is purely your decision and not the pressure from others to be 'normal'. 

8/ You will feel amazing. You'll find yourself in this weird place where you're suddenly craving green juices or smoothies, or a vegetable stir-fry and you'll take a long-hard look in the mirror and think 'Is this real life?' Food won't be just a quick-fix, a drive-thru meal or an addiction that you can't seem to shake. It becomes an experience, that makes you FEEL so good. You most probably won't feel bloated or weighed down anymore, you won't feel the need to take a huge nap after your meals. You might lose a couple of kilos, start to glow, feel a little lighter - physically and mentally, you'll have more energy than you know what to do with and you'll have this huge love for the earth and realise the amazingness that it has to offer. (I think this is a very important point, but maybe that's for another day.) I have also noticed that eating these meals can instantly refresh you and you can instantly feel the goodness moving throughout your body, it's almost tangible! Eating whole foods really does make you feel whole.

9/ Just do it. If you've been um-ming and ah-ing about making the switch, just do it! Try it for a day, or a week, or one day a week for a month! See how it makes you feel and if it really is for you, take your dining experiences to a whole new level! Good luck! 

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