Diet change? Not scary at all!
Are you getting anxious about all the climate change talk and you are finally ready to make the switch in your diet? Do you want to go entirely plant-based or maybe just wish to limit your intake of meat or processed foods? The transition can seem scary at first but trust us - alternatives are everywhere and the process might be easier than you think! Let us equip you with a couple of power tips on how to veggie-up painlessly.
Trust the seasons!
The first and probably the most important trick to keep in mind is to try eating as seasonally and locally as it’s possible. With abundance of exotic and unusual products in shops everywhere, it’s easy to get hooked on constant avocado and maracuja flow but we often tend to forget what are the vegetables assigned to a given geography or season.
We recently published an article based on our observations on Asia, on how colonialism seems to have brought a lot of unnecessary non-vegan options to otherwise extremely healthy and reach cuisines. Dairy, overload of wheat and things like SPAM and condensed milk, which generally originated from military and troops that occupied some of Asia’s regions, are among things that settled in completely unreasonably. While this is true to most of countries everywhere thanks to globalisation and cultures overlapping, let’s remember that, for example, in lots of Eastern European countries autumn usually means loads of potatoes, cabbage and beetroots as opposed to more summer-y eggplant, salads or zucchini, together with lots of fruits! Each country has their own farming scheme based on the climate and, in effect, their own local-and-best produce. Farmers markets and small veggie shops that are fuelled by the most local produce providers are the way to go. Forget Lidl, Tesco and all the huge chains - they will get you basic vegetables and fruits but will rather ship them half-ripe across the globe to ripen during their trip in a lorry and it hardly makes sense. Get yourself informed what produce grows when in your country and make friends with your local veggie vendor. They are the best, freshest and most flavourful.
2. Stock up in essentials
Every guide that helps transitioning into more plant-based eating will tell you something of the kind of: get a stock of dry foods that you can have on your shelf forever so that you can whip a meal in no time. They should be at the bottom of your food pyramid, so they should always be there to fortify your meal and grant the first rank of nutrition. Make sure to play around with forms of base foods, so that it is not consisting solely of white rice and wheat pasta. Go for different species of rice (brown, wild, black, red), quinoa, bulgur, barley or whole-wheat pasta (alternatively, if you are not a gluten fan, nowadays it’s very easy to get corn or bean pasta), rice noodles, but also nuts, dried sea weed, grains, flour. Make sure you have the taste miracle-makers such as soy or tamari sauce, tahini, maybe a Tabasco or schiracha if you like it spicy. Tofu, tempeh and seitan are also always easy to store and make up a meal in no time! They are perfect for marinating so you can give them really any taste and texture that you like. For snacking, get yourself some dried fruits or nuts! What is also extremely important in vegan diet is saying hi to loads of beans and grains, because they are the main source of protein. Thankfully, beans are an extremely versatile family, and you could probably have different kind every single day of the week and still have more to try next one too.
Get used to freezing as well! As we said in the previous point, local foods are the key but freezing them when they are not around anymore is a perfect life hack if you wish to keep them with you during the whole year.
3. Don’t get too crazy!
We’ve known a lot of people who thought that they needed to read every single book and online article about nutrition before going vegan and they were really overthinking the whole thing. It’s not really about substituting the nutrition of meat (which is actually not that nutritious at all) but about making sure your diet will be more versatile and full of a lot of different ingredients - rather than custom picking exactly “the right ones”. In other words, it’s not all about that perfect avocado whole-wheat toast, but about the perfect balance of everything and giving your organism a lot of options to choose it’s nutrients from. As long as you keep the diet broad and you choose variety of non-processed products, you don’t need to count your vitamin intakes and amounts of calories. The math will do itself.
If you wish to educate yourself, there are of course plenty of materials and books that you can use, and we can personally recommend a super easy Plant-Based Nutrition, which maybe is not an extremely in-depth publication and is an “idiot’s guide” by its own definition, but it gives plenty of cool tips and suggestions and simply lines up everything that is connected to vegan nutrition. We also loved How not to die by Michael Greger M.D. which we also cited before in our articles, and which serves as a really comprehensive proof of research that supports value of whole foods and plant-based diet as a medical resource (unfortunately, largely undervalued!).
The best advice that we could ever come across was:
Stop counting and start eating!!
And that is what it is all about! As long as you eat good, well-versified and clean diet, you do not need to count the vitamin intake and quote chemical values!
4. Ditch the processed
We feel like it should be a general tip for anyone, not only for those who wish to switch their eating habits. We have already talked about processed foods in another article (read more here) but let us just say it again - heavily processed foods are really not worth eating! They have no or little nutrients, they mostly deliver fats, sugars and substances like phosphates you our body and their taste is straight up fake - because they are. Processed is really a synonym to artificial at this point and eating only highly processed foods can lead to diabetes and other health problems. That’s why it’s so essential to reach for natural, non-processed ingredients which can be found in plant-based diet. Your stomach and digestive system will only thank you for it.
Processed foods are synonymous to refined foods. Other than lack of nutrition that is sure when we eat them, they also make us prone to overeating. Because they do not deliver any significant nutrition and strength, we need all of them because they make us feel more hungry than before. The long term effects of eating only or mostly processed foods are close to those of substance-use. Meaning, processed foods are actually somewhat like drugs. Crisps, sweet chocolate bars, fizzy colourful drinks but also sugar alcohols… You know that they are addictive! The opposite of refined products are whole foods, so foods which nutritional value is entirely taken-in and absorbed by our organism.
5. Check yourself
The body is the best indicator. Make sure you check your health regularly, especially with seasonal blood tests, which usually tend to tell you if there are any deficits in your body. Watch out for vitamin B12 especially, since it is literally the only one that you cannot get from a vegan diet, so you need to supplement it. If you occasionally eat eggs or cheese you should be fine, but if you go hardcore vegan without B12 supplementation (or going for nutritional yeast or B12-enhanced plant milk), deficiency can be right around the corner and you might not know about it until it’s too late. Therefore, listen to your body, react to its needs and don’t get too attached to ‘labels’. The most important thing is to feel good and be healthy - that’s it!