Once you made the decision to go plant-based, there are some problems you’ll find with a plant-based diet, challenges you are likely to face sooner or later. As with any change, it takes time to find your own way also in this lifestyle and this article will help you make the transition as smooth as possible.
The taste is different – I’m missing my old favorites
This is common especially if you are transitioning from a diet which was mainly based on meat. If you were used to having eggs for breakfast, ham sandwich for lunch and pork chops for dinner, switching to an oatmeal, veg stir fries and bean curries as your staples can feel miles away.
It turns out that the flavor we seem to be attached to is combination of spices, salt and some sort of fat, rather than the meat itself. That’s the reason we use these condiments for our food, to make it look, taste and smell more attractive.
The good news is you don’t need to let go of the flavors you love! Keep the spices and condiments and replace the source of protein. You can use the same recipe for your favorite curry only make it with chickpeas or butter beans. Do you enjoy eggs? Make scrambled tofu or an omelette from chickpea flour, spinach and mushrooms instead. And if you love a meatloaf as your sandwich filler you can make a lentil loaf or use falafel, mustard, lettuce and tomatoes to make a sandwich to die for. Problems you’ll find with a plant-based diet don’t have to be problems.
Not feeling satisfied, being hungry all the time
We often believe that changing diet is just about swapping one food for another, but there is more to it. Plants, although loaded with nutrients, are on average much lower in calories than animal foods as they contain fiber and water. This is great if you want to drop a few pounds, but it can also backfire. If you don’t eat enough and feel hungry all the time, it can lead to cravings or even overeating. It can also become a reason you may start to believe this lifestyle isn’t the right thing for you. Yet, solution is simple. Increase your portion sizes and eat until you are comfortably full.
Base your meals on starches like rice, beans and potatoes, as they pack slightly more calories than vegetables and will make you feel fuller for longer. Do you love having a salad or a soup for lunch but feel peckish an hour later? Add some beans or a baked potato to make them more satisfying. Or if you’d like to lose a few pounds while feeling comfortably full, make half of your plate vegetables while filing the other half with some potato bean casserole.
When you load up on vegetables while having your starches, you give your body plenty of nutrients and healthy energy while being spot on with your calories too.
Getting trapped in processed foods
It’s easier than ever to move towards plant-based eating because of so many plant-based alternatives offered in supermarkets and restaurants. Unfortunately, these plant-based ready to eat meals, vegan pizzas or quorn burgers are far from being healthy.
Especially when new to this lifestyle it’s tempting to rely on these foods for convenience. The truth is they may serve as kind of transition meals to help you wean off animal products. But the problem is that it can be difficult to move away and appreciate hamble beans, potatoes and broccoli again.
Never mind how delicious recipe you make yourself, it’s hard to compete with highly addictive processed foods (be it plant-based) loaded with salt, oil and sugar. So, if you do choose to include any of these processed vegan foods, make sure it’s only on occasion and vast majority of your calories come from whole plants. This will help you stay out of the addictive trap of processed foods, and you’ll get to enjoy all the wonderful benefits of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, legumes, nuts and seeds they have for you to offer.
Once you start eating plenty of plants you naturally increase amount of fibre in your diet which can create a small storm inside your gut. Depending on what you used to eat, you can go anywhere from 12 gr of fibre to 30 or even 60 grams of fibre a day. With this change your gut does need some time to get used to. That’s why go slow and low. Start with adding small portions of veggies and beans to your meals at first. That way the good bacteria living inside your gut can slowly grow and handle the increased supply of fibre which will minimise bloating and gas. If you have a sensitive gut, start with easy to digest steamed veggies like zucchini, carrots or spinach and easy raw veggies like lettuce, tomatoes or cucumbers.
Then move towards sometimes more triggering veggies like broccoli, cauliflower or Brussel sprouts. Listen to your body, even keep a food diary at start to see if there are any specific troublemakers. You can omit them for a while and then re-introduce later. But don’t give up. Eating a variety of plants is important as different strains of good bacteria feed on different plants. The more types of good bacteria you have, the bigger protection against disease, the better digestion and bigger overall benefits from a plant-based diet.
Being perfect at all costs
Give yourself a permission to go with the flow. Allow yourself to do your best depending on every situation, circumstance and environment you are in. Don’t worry about eating 100% unprocessed, if there is nothing around to eat but a store-bought burger. Or eating a perfectly balanced meal when celebrating someone’s birthday. Being perfect is paralysing and it can easily turn your heart into a stone and compassion for others into icy cold stares.
If you feel you need to be perfect, you may end up beating yourself up for eating a biscuit from a store instead of making a date sweetened carrot cake. Then all the pleasure and freedom this lifestyle offers turns into a jail and happiness is gone.
Doing sometimes better, an inch worse or even better, is what makes it exciting and real. Problems you’ll find with a plant-based diet don’t have to be problems. What matters is the energy you bring in, and how you feel at the end of the day. Living a happy and fulfilled plant-based life is about embracing the food, lifestyle and company you keep with kindness, love and compassion, including yourself.
* all photos from Unsplash.com