With all the buzz about people switching to plant-based diets and the abundance of health benefits, we know many of you are considering if this could be for you. However, it’s pretty daunting to make a life-changing commitment such as this.
Adopting a vegan diet for a month, however, could be a way to see if it’s for you. Many who have tried a vegan diet have reported having more energy, clearer skin, better sleeping habits and more. If you’d like to give it a go, here are 5 beginner’s tips as recommended by The Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
NB: The difference between vegetarian and vegan is important. If you’re not sure, click here. It’s always good practice to consult a physician before you begin a new diet.
#1 Prepare, prepare, prepare
One of the most common reasons for quitting a new diet is the lack of preparation. The key to staying on the diet hinges on 3 key factors: timing, shopping, kitchen time.
Timing: you need to bear in mind that there will be physical changes as your body adjusts to being plant-based. This may include sleepiness or drops in energy. Don’t choose a stressful time at work to begin the diet. Start the diet when it’s relatively quiet at the office, so that if work ramps up, you’ll already be halfway through the month and can deal better.
Shopping: you need to be able to make more frequent visits to the supermarket for fresh, organic produce. The food you make on your vegan adventure may be prepared in advance, but they probably don’t refrigerate as well as meat-based stews or soups. A fully-stocked fridge of colourful snacks and meals ready to go at the grumble of a tummy will take you further into the month. The Institute also recommends buying ‘frozen vegetables for emergencies, as well as nuts, seeds (which also do best in your fridge to keep those delicate oils intact).’
Kitchen time: You will have to dedicate some kitchen time for chopping up vegetables and storing in containers or bags that are ready for you when you need a snack, to take away for work or can easily be tossed into a salad. The Institute also advises you to find a dish you love and experiment by making it plant-based, or look online for vegan recipes. Make enough so that you will have several meals ready for work or last-minute dinners.
#2 Embrace it
As mentioned, there may be physical, social, mental and emotional changes when you switch over to a vegan diet. According to the Institute, ‘an individual’s diet is extremely personal and can change the vibe of an entire day, and sometimes, an entire lifetime’. As your body recalibrates, your energy level may drop at first, but most experts say that you’ll find more energy as time goes on, and you’ll experience feeling ‘lighter’ and less lethargic.
In social situations, you may have to inform people beforehand about your dietary needs to avoid not being able to join in the fun or going hungry. Emotionally, sometimes you may feel deprived and that will make mildly stressful situations even more stressful. However the Institute suggests that these are just possibilities as everyone responds differently. Just listen to your body, and stay open to changes, embracing them as much as possible.
#3 Keep the Sugar, Salt and Spice
Good news! A vegan diet includes veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, fats such as olive or coconut oil and sometimes soy, and many of these foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain a lot of water. What this means is that it’s crucial to get enough sodium to balance the body. Experts say that water retention and water weight fluctuation is typical within the first month, but the body will begin to stabilise after a while. More importantly, sugar and salt as well as spices should be used as they are necessary for the body and assist with bodily functions. The other reason is that salt, sugar and spices, along with herbs and seasonings will make your meals taste good and this is important when you’re exploring a plant-based diet. Just because there might not be any meat on the plate, doesn’t mean all flavour has to go.
#4 Get Enough Sleep
The Institute emphasises that there will probably be a big difference in both ‘micro and macro-nutrients in a recent vegan’s body’. This could result in feeling tired at times.
Do listen to your body when that occurs and take a power nap, or go to bed early. It’s important to know that this is temporary, so don’t take this as a sign that the vegan diet may not be for you. A change in your calorie intake and nutrients often makes your brain tell your body to preserve energy and rest.
#5 Keep a Journal
You could keep a journal to jot down at the end of the day what you ate and how you felt physically throughout the day. This will help you see what you can tweak as you proceed with your 30-days. If you find your energy is low for a long period of time during the day, you may need to increase your calories. Also, be open to enjoying larger meals and more snacks. The Institute also advocates that you should be ‘willing to invite pleasure to the table’.
While one month may or may not be enough time to discover whether a vegan diet is for you, there’s no harm trying it to see if you do experience all the benefits that everyone’s been raving about.
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