If you are reading this chances are you either a) have a plant-based diet already, b) enjoy eating plant-based foods, c) may be feeling somewhat inclined to make some adjustments to include more plant-based foods or d) all of the above. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, moving towards a plant-based diet can seem rather daunting at first. But trust us, you can do it and there is no better time to start than now. Here are 4 useful tips that can help ease this transition.
1. Find alternatives that you enjoy
There are so many tasty (but often highly-processed) products out there – dips, spreads, creams – that have become staples in our diet. Shifting towards a plant-based diet helps shed some of the unnecessary toppings that fill our plates taking cooking back to the basics.
So yes becoming vegan means you bypass the mayo, butter and cream cheese you may typically use on a sandwich but that doesn’t mean you have to limit your flavour. There are of course vegan butter and mayo replacements out there, but finding alternatives made from non-processed, ethically sourced ingredients makes for healthier and sustainable long term habits. We are talking about whole foods like Baba Ghanouj and hummus that serve as great alternatives and can transform a sandwich, toast or veggies into something delicious. Cheese can also be replaced in creative ways – not just by nutritional yeast and nut-based “cheeses” – but by adding watercress, sprouts or microgreens. Having some of these on hand also means you always have a quick go to snack that is vegan approved.
2. Prepare ‘staples’ in advance
One helpful strategy we used was to prepare quinoa and lentils (or any other legume you might enjoy) in advance. Quinoa is extremely versatile and can transform a salad into a satisfying meal. Legumes are also great to have on hand. They can add that much needed protein to a soup or salad or be made into patties for a veggies burger. Having, for instance, two cups of quinoa and two cups of lentils prepared makes it easier to cook a plant-based meal the whole family can enjoy on a weeknight when time is of the essence. Don’t forget about breakfast either. In those first few weeks have a batch of granola, chia seed pudding and overnight oats ready to go so that breakfast doesn’t require much thinking or preparation.
3. Veggies, veggies and more veggies
It is amazing how creative you can be with vegetables. Zucchini on pizza, cauliflower ‘béchamel’ sauce and all kinds of spiralized noodles – sweet potato, zucchini, beet etc. Taking yourself outside of your comfort zone and getting a meatier (excuse the pun) vegetable like eggplant and mushrooms allows you to transform a traditional recipe into a vegan friendly, satisfying meal. Not to mention the extra layer of flavour you can get by using fresh herbs. Mint, cilantro, parsley and dill all add robust flavour to any dish. And let’s be honest, nothing beats a giant salad filled with all your favourite veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds!
4. Go easy on yourself
The most important thing to remember as you choose to adopt a plant-based diet is that there will be a period of adjustment. You can expect a learning curve as you explore new ways of making traditional meals. It is both fun and challenging to rethink the ingredients and cooking methods you use on a daily basis. There will most likely be some successses and failures along the way but don’t get discouraged. This is part of the process. If you find yourself reaching for butter or eggs, it’s ok. Each meal is a new opportunity to reaffirm your choice.
Adopting a plant-based lifestyle doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when you stay true to the reasons that motivated you to make the switch in the first place, and arm yourself with some helpful tips to help you along the way.
We’d love to know what other suggestions you may have to help with adopting and maintaining a plant-based diet!
Sarah + Chantal