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How to follow a plant-based diet + 5 tips to becoming a healthy vegan

Updated: Dec 2, 2021


I remember my parents’ fear in their eyes when I said I wanted to be a vegan. This was over 20 years ago. To become a vegetarian, vegan, or simply follow a plant-based diet was unheard of and uncommon back then. Especially if you grew up in a meat-eating country like I did.


Nowadays it’s very common and I must say easy to follow a plant-based diet. Everyone can at least try it for a week and say they did it. I would even go as far as to say that it’s in fashion to do a plant-based diet.


First of all, there is more and more research done on the health benefits from following a plant-based diet and the benefits of leaving a carnivore diet behind. So, the health factor may be a key motivator in making your decision easier to swallow if you’re on the fence.


Secondly, there is more and more evidence showing the damage to the environment because of animal farming and there is more and more evidence showing that the high consumption of meat is not as healthy as we used to think.


Either you try to go on a plant-based diet for one week or for the rest of your life, you need to know how to do it right. A lot of people suggest that vegans suffer from mineral deficiency but let me tell you that if your diet is unhealthy, you will suffer from mineral deficiency regardless.


I’m very passionate when it comes to talking about diets because diet is the main factor in living in optimal health. And I’m a strong believer that your health is the most precious commodity you will ever possess. There are other commodities that you may have or have not in life (e.g money) but you can work something out to acquire them. Your health is your treasure. Once is gone, it’s either very hard to gain it back or it’s gone forever.


You are capable of achieving anything in your life if you’re living in optimal health and wellness. And that’s why I’m excited about this blog post because I get to share a few things with you so you can start following a healthy plant-based diet today. In addition, I created this fun, downloadable 5 planning strategies to manage your time better so you can achieve more and feel in control of your day cheat sheet to help you find this most precious resources you have!


So, let’s see what you need to know when going on a plant-based diet!



It’s all about imagination


When I started telling my friends that I was becoming a vegan, a lot of them responded the same way: ‘so, what are you going to be only eating lettuce and tomatoes?’ Back then, I only looked at them because to say the truth I didn’t know what to say. But after many years of being a healthy vegan, I’m glad to report: it’s not all lettuce and tomatoes!


We all have concerns when it comes to diet changes, either going on a plant-based diet or any diet for that matter. This is because you focus on what you’re going to deprive yourself of, rather than think about what you’re going to gain.


Look at your first reaction when somebody tells you they’re changing their eating patterns. Your first thought jumps to what your friend is not going to be eating aka what she or he is cutting out of their diet, rather than thinking what will be added instead.


I want you to start thinking about all those great foods you will be adding into your diet, all those pops of colour you will add to your plate, and how much your imagination is going to expand.

Before we jump into talking about what you need to include in your healthy plant-based diet, let’s talk imagination for a minute.


The best part of being a vegan is the opportunity to create impressive meals. You get to use different vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, or exotic spices you may have never heard of before. That is because you would be more imaginative with what you eat. You’re not cutting out proteins from your diet, you’re looking for healthy substitutes which can deliver what your body needs. You’re not cutting out fats from your diet, you’re adding more alternatives into your meals.


If you don’t like a particular vegetable, then it means you need to try to prepare it in a different way. Maybe stir fry it instead of boiling it? Maybe add caraway seeds instead of salt? The beauty is that you can experiment with your vegetables as much as you like because guess what? Each time they will uncover a different depth to it. Your taste buds will expand, and you will have a culinary explosion right in your kitchen!


If you don’t know how to cook something, Google it! It’s that simple. Really the only limit is your imagination. And let me tell you this: once you open your doors to imagination, there is no way of stopping it, and soon you will see how it spreads into other parts of your life!



It’s not all vegetables


Vegetables are great. They differ in size, texture, flavour and oh, they’re so colourful. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals which help to balance blood sugar and optimize all aspects of your biology.


Vegetables are good for you. No matter if you follow a plant-based diet or not. 75% of your plate should be vegetables anyways. The best vegetables are the non-starchy vegetables which contain complex carbohydrates.


But being on a plant-based diet is not all about the lettuce and tomatoes. No matter what diet you follow, you need to include all food groups. That means proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Your body needs all the food groups to deliver vital components for your body to operate on a healthy level.

If you are on a plant-based diet, you need to deliver all your body needs from non-animal products. But it’s not as complex as you may think. It doesn’t mean you need to eat more of something, it means you need to balance what you eat in a way to deliver the amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates your body needs to function.


Veganism gets some criticism due to a misunderstanding of high-calorie consumption and high carbohydrate intake. What it means is that a lot of people think if you’re vegan you eat a lot of simple carbohydrates, consuming a lot of calories and well sugar. In today’s calorie counting obsessed world, it looks like we replaced the calories for the vitamins and minerals which we need to deliver.


No matter what diet you follow, your body still needs sugar, because certain cells cannot grow without it. You cannot eliminate a whole group of foods because this way you’re creating an imbalance in your diet. Because guess what? For any diet to be healthy it needs to be balanced. In a plant-based diet, you still need to deliver all food groups. The only difference is the source it comes from.



Keep it healthy


After all, you decided to change your diet for a reason. The reason number one is health (losing weight, having more energy, burning fat, etc are all parts of building your health), another reason which follows shortly is the environment. And those are very valid reasons to make any changes to your diet.


As you remember from the beginning, when I decided to become a vegan 20 years ago, there were no guides, no ready meals, no vegan sausages, vegan meat, or vegan eggs. Back in those days, I needed to make every possible dish myself. Today you can go to the supermarket, and you have a separate section with plant-based food. You can have a meatless steak which (apparently) tastes like a real steak!


Although some of the ready-to-eat meals can deliver the group B vitamins, iron, or omega 3 fats, which we vegans need to obtain from non-animal products, those ready-to-eat meals are brought to you, sadly, for convenience not for health. Don’t let the big food corporations talk you into buying plant-based meals claiming that you’re improving your health. The quality can vary, but it is still processed food, which you should have on very rare occasions or not at all(from a health point of view you should not eat processed food, but from living in a 21st-century point of view, sometimes you just need to put something quickly on a Barbie!).


You decided to go on a plant-based diet for health or environmental reasons (or whatever other reason speaks to you) but to stay healthy and follow a healthy diet is to stay away from highly processed foods.


Sometimes you compromise your health for convenience, but it shouldn’t be the norm.


No matter what diet you follow.



Beginnings are the hardest


As with anything new, I want you to go slowly. When you decide to go on a plant-based diet, keep a check on your body. When it comes to making any diet changes, you will need to retrain how your body processes certain food groups. When I came off all non-animal products, I didn’t pay much attention as to whether I was delivering enough minerals and vitamins to my body. But the lack of them will quickly catch up with you. If you are always tired and lacking energy and you’ve just started a plant-based diet, it could be because you’re mineral (like for example iron) deficient.


It also means you may need to add some supplements into your diet, so your body gets all that it needs. But be wary here. Adding any supplements into your diet should be a temporary occurrence, not the norm. You should be supplementing your diet with whatever minerals or vitamins you’re lacking only so you build up a healthy level and start consuming enough healthy foods to keep the level without the add-ons. A healthy balanced diet will give you just that.




Conclusion


When I look back at my journey of being a vegan, it has plenty of ups but not many downs, and definitely no regrets.


You going on a plant-based diet may have something to do with a current trend we see, but it may be a permanent change for which you’re making space in your life.


As with following any diets, focus on all those beautiful things you will be gaining, and don’t obsess about the things you will be giving up.


Following a plant-based diet can open up your imagination and you get to be creative about your food. There is an unlimited supply of ideas on how to cook the perfect broccoli, choy sum, or those Brussel sprouts you didn’t like as a kid. Add exotic spices, experiment with different textures, colours, flavours (have you ever made a jackfruit burger? It tastes amazing!). Don’t be afraid to unleash your imagination and create something spectacular in your kitchen.


Being a vegan or following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you eat lettuce and tomatoes all the time. You still need to deliver all food groups for your optimal health. The only difference is that the source of them differs.


Sometimes you just need to choose convenience but don’t make it a norm. A lot of store-bought ready plant-based meals are not as healthy as they claim to be. A healthy diet is a diet without highly processed foods, and ready-to-eat meals are usually highly processed meals. Make eating them an exception rather than a rule.


Don’t forget that you’re making a change in your life. Give yourself, aka your body, some time to get used to it. Make small steps but keep a close check if for the time being you need to add some diet supplements. As the name suggests, they are to supply your diet, not to replace it, so don’t rely on them for too long. Build up your health and focus on adding more variety to your plate so you consume all that your body needs.


Being a vegan or going on a plant-based diet is not hard.


Get your downloadable5 planning strategies to manage your time better so you can achieve more and feel in control of your day cheat sheet to help you find this most precious resources you have!



Having problems with making diet changes? Go on: www.annadoktor.com.au to find out more about Anna Doktor Wellness Coaching and how I can help you to beat the overwhelm once and for all. Alternatively, send me an email at anna@annadoktor.com.au or call to have a chat to see how we can work together tel: 0498016440.

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