Plant-based diets, also known as vegan diets, have become increasingly popular in recent years. Cutting out animal products can help you lose weight, protect you from certain cancers, and reduce your risk of heart disease. It is also great for the environment. Animal agriculture wastes water, causes deforestation, and contributes to global warming. Many people are realizing that switching to a vegan diet is amazing for your health and the world around you.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to cut out animal products and stick with it. As with all trendy diets, many people only follow it for a couple weeks before going back to their previous habits. The vegan lifestyle is much more sustainable if it is adopted over time. Many people try to go cold-turkey and are unsuccessful. I believe that slowly cutting animal products out of your diet is the best way to ensure that you’ll still be a vegan a year from now. Here are small steps that you can take over several months to slowly follow a plant-based diet.
Completely switching around your eating habits can be difficult so it is great to have some inspiration to get started. I’ve found several amazing documentaries that convinced me that plant-based was the way to go. One of these is Cowspiracy, it is an excellent film that shows the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry. I care a lot about the environment and didn’t realize that my diet was contributing to deforestation and global warming. I also love What the Health, which focuses on health impacts of meat and dairy. Both of these can be found on Netflix.
Lastly, I watched Eating Animals on Hulu. It focuses on factory farming and how awful it is for both animals and people.
Stop Cooking Meat at Home
The easiest way to change your diet is with your own cooking. Stop cooking with meat and explore different ways of getting protein in your diet. When you’re first starting out, I recommend eating meat substitutes like veggie burgers and sausages. It’s a bit pricey, but good for transitioning. Try cooking with tofu or tempeh, they need to be seasoned well, but they are a great source of protein. Black beans, chickpeas, and nuts are also full of protein.
Stop Eating Meat at Restaurants
Once you are used to not eating meat at home, try not eating it at restaurants. Always check menus before you go to a new restaurant to ensure there is a vegetarian option! Most places are getting better about this. You can easily leave meat out of a dish or substitute tofu.
Break Your Cheese Addiction
Studies have found that cheese is super addicting. Many people find that it is the hardest thing to cut out when switching to a plant-based diet. It has been difficult for me. Cheese is high in fat and overall very unhealthy for you. I recommend quitting it cold turkey. When you have not had cheese for a while, the cravings eventually wear off!
Substitute Dairy Products at Home
Plant-based substitutes are widely available and actually quite delicious! You can find vegan butter, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, milk. I use cashews and nutritional yeast to create “cheesy” sauces because I’ve never enjoyed vegan cheese. I also substitute canned coconut milk for cream.
Cut out Dairy at Restaurants
This step is pretty difficult. A lot of restaurants have vegetarian options that are just loaded with butter and cheese. Again, always check the menu ahead of time to see if you can find something to eat. Don’t be afraid to ask for your server about ingredients and what you can substitute.
Explore New Foods and Have Fun!
Once you’ve adjusted to a plant-based diet, I recommend slowly ditching the expensive substitutes. Explore different recipes and ways of using plants in your diet! Being vegan has opened my eyes to so many new types of food and it has been so exciting.
Take your time and go through these steps at your own pace. Every change you make is great for you and the environment. You do not have to take an all-or-nothing approach to a plant-based diet. Eat lots of veggies, try new foods, and don’t worry if you slip up every once in a while!