Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to eat better, lose weight, be healthy, and to help make the world a better place. The great news is that by doing just one thing you can accomplish all of these goals – try vegan!
To sustain this lifestyle in the long term, though, here are a few great tips to consider!
1. Probably don’t go vegan overnight. Instead plan to transition gradually.
Recent research indicates that the more gradually people transition to veganism, the more likely they are to stick to it. Of course, if you’re already vegetarian or not eating that many animal products, you’ll probably be able to comfortably make a quicker transition. But if you have a diet fairly heavy in meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, etc. just know that from the day you decide to go vegan, it’s OK (if not optimal!) for it to take weeks or months until you’re fully animal product–free.
2. Make just one big dietary change at a time.
Instead of making a bunch of huge dietary changes all at once, take it step by step and break it up into big changes (which you make every so often) and smaller changes (which you can do more regularly). Messina recommends that people continue veganifying their diets only once they feel comfortable with the changes they’ve already made.
For instance, a big change might be something like cutting out all chicken or all eggs.
3. Alternate big changes with smaller ones.
So, you’ve made a big change. Like, you stopped eating red meat. And it took a few months but you’re finally used to it and omg actually this portobello burger is actually everything. But it was a rough few weeks adjusting, so instead of making another sweeping change to your diet, Messina recommends making just a small tweak, something that won’t feel too oppressive or difficult to adjust to. Once that feels normal and OK, move on to your next big change.
Some smallish changes include:
Cooking a few meals per week using beans as the protein source. Like making tacos with beans instead of beef, vegan chili, or even veggie burgers.
Choosing one meal where you’ll experiment with vegan cheese or nondairy milk.
Topping a salad with with legumes and seeds instead of meat — like chickpeas and sunflower seeds.
Ordering the vegan or vegetarian option at a restaurant.
If a particular change is proving super difficult, put it aside and try something different.
For example, if you’re finding it too tough to give up cheese, stop trying for now and focus on something that might be a little easier to part with, like eggs. “Otherwise people might get hung up on one change they are trying — unsuccessfully — to make, when there might be two or three other changes that they could make with ease,” Messina told BuzzFeed Life.
4. Know that going vegan doesn’t mean you will automagically lose weight.
For example, if you’re transitioning from a diet high in processed grains, sugar, and alcohol to a whole-foods vegan diet, there’s a good chance you’ll lose some weight. On the other hand, if you already eat a minimally processed diet and transition to a whole foods vegan diet, or if you transition to a diet high in processed vegan foods, sugar, and alcohol, weight loss is less likely.
5. Expect to slip up but don’t let lapses derail your efforts.
For lots of people, lapses here and there are to be expected — just get back to your routine when it happens. “I think it’s important for people to keep moving forward and understand that they’re probably going to make mistakes and have lapses. Don’t let them stop you,” Messina says.
Andrews says that some of the healthiest cultures in the world rely on beans — a great source of protein and fiber — as a dietary staple, but most Americans don’t. Andrews says we eat about 216 pounds of meat and fish (yikes) per year and only about seven pounds of beans. So, for most people following a standard American diet, a great step in transitioning to veganism is to replace a few of your meat-based meals with bean-based meals (as long as beans agree with you gastrointestinally speaking). Bonus: Beans are an inexpensive form of protein that you can buy in bulk so they’re a great staple of a plant-based diet.
Unless you’ve been told to quit something because of an allergy or an intolerance, Messina recommends against making further eliminations from your diet while transitioning to veganism. Trying to cut out oil or gluten or processed foods (or whatever) will make a vegan diet even more restrictive and difficult to follow.
8. And don’t be afraid to seek out processed foods that remind you of the animal-based products you really miss.
Sure, the more whole foods you eat, the less processed stuff, the better (in fact Messina recommends that about 80% of your diet be whole foods). But that doesn’t mean that some tasty commercial products have no place in a healthy vegan diet, especially because some of those veggie-based meats and cheeses make it easier to transition to veganism. Plus, processed mock meats and cheeses have come a long way in recent years. Even if they don’t perfectly mimic the animal-based thing, they’re at least pretty tasty.
9. Locate the vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants near where you live, work, and travel.
10. Learn the signs that your vegan diet might need some tweaking.
Both Messina and Andrews say that eating well, being healthy, and feeling great are possible for almost anyone eating a healthy, varied, whole foods-based vegan diet. That said, everyone is different! If you notice that you’re fatigued, not sleeping well, not performing well in workouts, or just feeling otherwise off, you might need to make some tweaks to your diet beyond adding in some supplements. Check with your doctor as soon as you notice anything feeling wonky so they can do some labwork and suggest possible dietary changes or supplementation.
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