Making the decision to go plant based can feel like a huge undertaking. Not only are you overhauling your life, but it feels like you’re breaking up with someone you really love but know isn’t good for you. I’m sure there are people out there that do this and it is like flipping on a switch. The light comes on, and it never gets shut off. But I’m guessing that isn’t the case for most of us. It definitely wasn’t the case for me. Either way is great! Not everyone’s journey is going to look the same. So, I’ve made a list of the top 10 best tips for going plant based. Pick and choose the ones that speak to you! Do them all at once or just pick one at a time… whatever works for you.
Watch documentaries (even if you’ve already seen them) and read books. Listen to podcasts. Whenever I start wondering what the heck I do this for, I get on Netflix and pick my favorite documentary to get inspired. I think I’ve seen Forks Over Knives about 500 times, and it always helps. Of course, I love to find new things to watch too!
Plan ahead for meals and snacks.
This is essential for me. Especially when I was just getting started. Planning ahead doesn’t happen 100% of the time, and that’s ok. I just try to minimize moments coming up where I’m hungry and have no options. Nowadays, there are lots of meal plan subscriptions that offer recipes and instructions. Forks Over Knives has one, but my most favorite is Clean Food Dirty Girl. These are paid subscriptions, but both offer plenty of free recipes as well!
Focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t.
If all you think about is the stuff you’re taking out of your diet, you’re making it harder on yourself. None of those foods seem to be going anywhere, right? So instead, just focus on all the amazing food you can have! Once you find recipes that jive with your tastes and begin to explore new ones, you’ll find yourself thinking less and less about your old “friends.”
Try new things, and if you don’t like it at first, keep trying it.
Your tastebuds will change, but it takes time. Listen, if I had a dollar for everytime someone told me they don’t like vegetables, I’d have a shitload of dollars. Most of the time, when someone says they don’t like a vegetable, it’s because they’ve been overcooked and under flavored or their taste buds are so used to an overload of salt, fat, and sugar that vegetables taste bland or weird. Give your mouth and mind some time to adjust. It will happen.
Eat when you're hungry, and eat until satisfied.
It is so easy to just mindlessly eat. Sometimes we eat because the food is right there, so why not? Sometimes we eat instead of dealing with an emotion or a problem. Sometimes we just eat because we’re bored! It’s important to start to notice your patterns and habits. Are you eating because you’re hungry and your body needs fuel? If not, figure out what it is you actually need. Also, take the time to sit down and enjoy your food without distractions if you can. I know, this one can be really tough. We’re all super busy and most of us probably eat on the go or eat while we work. But if you can start to make time for meals without your phone, tv, or computer, you’ll start to pay closer attention to your body’s cues. You’ll know what it feels like when you’re full. Honestly, pinpointing that feeling of fullness wasn’t as difficult for me as being ok with leaving food on my plate. I don’t like to waste food! But I’ve learned that it’s ok to stop if I’m full. Most of the time, I can save whatever is left for later (even if it’s just a few hours later).
You will fart and poop A LOT at first.
I hear a lot of people complain about this. I know, it’s uncomfortable and it sucks. And it can be embarrassing, but it doesn’t last forever! And there are things you can do to help minimize this. First, try not to drink anything while you eat or 20 minutes before. I know this one can be difficult, so it’s ok if you need to just sip on something while you eat at first, but drinking dilutes the enzymes in your stomach needed for digestion which can cause issues like gas. Also, don’t go crazy with beans at first if your stomach is sensitive to them! There are lots of other ways to get protein eating this way. And lastly, consider digestive enzymes (be careful if you’re on medication or have health issues. It’s best to check with a doctor if you’re unsure). This is usually an herbal tincture you can take 15-30 minutes before a meal. It helps to digest your food and eliminate gas and bloating. Dandelion tea helps me a lot when I’m feeling not so great in the digestive department.
Don’t stress about being perfect.
Perfection is bullshit anyway. Do your best and forget the rest. Remember, this doesn’t happen overnight for a lot of people and that’s ok!
Take it one snack/meal at a time.
If you think way too far ahead, things will seem way more overwhelming. Sure, I plan my dinners for the week and whatnot so I can grocery shop, but throughout the day, I just take it one step at a time. You’re not Bugs Bunny when he slams a whole pie in his mouth, swallows it whole, and spits out the pie tin. Take it one bite at a time.
Join and follow social media accounts that inspire you and encourage your plant based lifestyle.
There are so many fun resources out there! Likely, you can even find a local group for plant based eaters, and if you can’t, try starting one on your own. I’ve learned a lot from some of the pages I follow on Facebook and Instagram. (I’ve never been able to get into Twitter. I’ve tried. It just isn’t for me, but I’m sure there’s stuff out there!)
Be forgiving of yourself.
Listen, there's no need to derail just because you ate something that doesn’t fall under the plant based category. It happens! And the plant based police aren’t coming to get you! What matters is that you’re doing this for you, and you’re doing the very best you can whatever that looks like in the moment! Our level of “best” isn’t set on one frequency all the time, so cut yourself some slack.