Do you want to change to a plant-based diet but not sure where to start? In this blog I will help you understand the difference between a vegan diet and plant-based, the healthy way to approach both diets and tips to get you started towards your vegan living journey.
Let us start with the most helpful advice for new vegans.
Swap your food from non-vegan, not by looking at how to cut out animal products but by seeking out all the wonderful new plant-based foods you are going to introduce to your meals.
There is no willpower needed, this change will be an inspiring and enjoyable journey to a happier, healthier new you!
A vegan or plant-based way of eating is not only a solution to lose weight, by adopting a predominantly plant-based lifestyle can have major benefits to your health.
It is understandably daunting embarking on a new dietary adventure. Changing lifelong eating habits for new ones and making sure they continue. The key to maintaining a meaningful diet switch is not trying to do it all at once, small steps are essential for a sustainable swap.
What is the difference between between the two healthy diets?
Let us define what a plant-based and vegan diet looks like, as they are not the same.
This focuses on most of your foods coming from plants: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The real benefit to being plant-based is that it is flexible and you can choose to include other food groups into your diet, still keeping your main food source plant-based. This is ideal for anyone wanting to make a stepping stone to being vegan.
The Vegan diet contains no animal products and by-products, this includes all types of meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, even honey is excluded.
A vegan lifestyle is compatible with the highest levels of health and wellbeing, it protects huge numbers of animals and is a powerful way to combat climate change.
Plus, the food is amazingly delicious and is becoming more and more widely available every year.
A vegan diet can be plant-based, but a plant-based diet is not always vegan.
A positive approach to a vegan way of eating.
Start with small changes that you can decide you want to achieve first, write them down so you can keep track of your progress. Add a couple more to your list every week.
Suggestions for your first changes to going vegan.
- Swap cows’ milk to soy, almond or coconut – try a few and find which ones you prefer.
- Give away any dairy butters, yogurts, creams etc you have in your fridge – re-place with non-dairy alternatives, there are so many to choose from, have fun trying different flavours and products.
- Look through your pantry, read the labels of all your tins, packets and sauces – you will be surprised how much in there is actually vegan without you realising. Items that are not, give away and make a list to look for vegan replacements when shopping.
- Go online and research vegan recipes for every meal of the day, get inspiration from all the fabulous plan-based food bloggers. You will have so much fun trying new ways of cooking.
- Do a meal plan for the week with recipes you want to try, write ingredients you need and get everything in advance.
- At the same time as looking for your meals, search for healthy snacks, if you make your own, they are so much more delicious, full of goodness and will prevent you snacking on crisps and sugary treats.
- Shop a vegan essentials shopping list (see below) this will help with combining and putting together your own meals.
- Always try to cook with fresh ingredients – there are so many healthy alternatives such as ready meals and take away burgers etc, these are not healthy choices, they contain high levels of sugar, salt and additives.
- Stock up on fruit, nuts and healthy snacks, always take some with you in a reusable tube or lunch box for when you are out shopping or at work. This will stop you buying unhealthy non-vegan snacks. It is also cheaper.
- If you are out working during the day, plan your lunches and meal prep so you take a healthy lunch with you. You will get lots of ideas and inspiration online.
- Be inspired to try all the delicious vegan recipes out there, don’t search for vegan replacements to make the same meals as before you made the change, for example: sliced Quorn chicken for chicken sandwich or non ‘chicken’ nuggets for chicken nuggets and chips, these are not healthy choices.
Remember you go at your own pace, with every swap you make, you are getting more and more comfortable following a healthy way of eating and eventually, it will become second nature, something to feel proud of and you will never look back.
As you continue to make changes you will start to feel happier with more energy. A vegan lifestyle can bring you major benefits for your long-term health, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, better weight management, improved immunity and lower levels of inflammation. Not to mention, it is better for the environment.
Here are a few vegan essentials I keep in my cupboard that you may wish to stock up on.
When your kitchen cupboards are full of versatile and tasty ingredients it is so much easier to make delicious plant-based food. You don’t need to rush out and buy everything on this list, use it as a guide to help build your shopping list and inspiration for cooking your new vegan meals.
It goes without saying that fruit and vegetables are essential vegan foods. Fill your diet with nutrient-rich fruits and veggies – eat the rainbow!
Meat alternatives – soy mince
Beans, chickpeas and lentils: dried or canned beans such as kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans.
Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, chia, flax
Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazils, pine nuts
Quinoa, bulgur wheat and mixed grains
Pasta (check ingredients on packet)
Vegetable stock (check ingredients on packet)
Oils: olive oil, rapeseed, sunflower, coconut
There are many more, but this is a good list.
I hope this will help you on your way to becoming vegan.
Going vegan will improve your life in so many ways. And every step matters. So just choose the recipes that excite you most, the more unfamiliar plant-based foods you sample each month, the faster you will go.
Every long-term vegan will tell you their transition happened far more easily than they ever expected.
So, relax and have fun – you have all sorts of delicious discoveries to look forward to!