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Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
What Should I Know
By Kayla Moses-David
I am a vegan and so is my family which means animal products are not a part of our diet. We have been this way for at least three years. We eat mainly fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and minimal grains. In my conversations with others, I have observed that most people desire to eat healthier but are not sure how exactly to eat or think that they will be too hungry. We have to keep in mind that we are creatures of habit meaning that we become familiar with what we do over and over and then this becomes our norm. With that in mind, any change from our norm requires care, mindfulness and planning. Changing your food or what you nourish your body with ultimately changes your life! The way you think, the way you feel, your energy level, what you have interests in and how you desire to spend your time become new as you renew. Below I have put together a few simple steps to help you and your family in this time of transition.
#1- Start with Substitutes!
Switching cold turkey may sound easier but it is actually more harmful. You could experience a major cleansing reaction from drastically changing what your body is used to consuming. Ease into it and allow you and your body to adjust to the changes. Tofu is a great substitute for meat as it is a vegan source of protein made from soy beans. I would not recommend too much soy as this can affect your hormones adversely, however, using tofu as a replacement protein for one meal in the day will be okay to get you started. Definitely get organic and non-gmo tofu! For the bacon lovers, switch to turkey bacon first as you begin to ween off of pork. Start to incorporate beans and legumes as a source of protein for dinner. Instead of steak, broccoli and mashed potatoes try cooked lentils with steamed broccoli and potatoes.
#2- Get a Vegan Recipe Book!
A lot of the meal planning and ideas for what to eat we get from using a cookbook. Get excited about planning a healthy meal for your family and experimenting in the kitchen. Recipe books usually have lots of information to read and learn from in addition to the recipes. Also get used to the idea of being hands on and responsible for what you are putting in your body and ultimately preparing for your husband/wife and children. Eating healthier requires you to think ahead! Try Heal thyself for health and longevity by Queen Afua. Also, The Vegan Soul food Guide to the Galaxy and The Vegan Remix by Afya Ibomu.
#3- Eat More Fruits and Vegetables!
When in doubt eat more fruits and vegetables. Our bodies were made to assimilate that which comes from nature. You can never go wrong with eating more from these food categories. For breakfast try a smoothie with almond milk, strawberries, bananas and almond butter. About fifteen to twenty minutes later, have a bowl of mixed berries; blueberry, blackberry, strawberry and add a few grapes too! For lunch have a fresh pressed juice made with apples, pears, kale and spinach. About fifteen to twenty minutes later, have a large bowl of salad. Make the base of your salad with red cabbage, kale, spinach or a more nutrient dense lettuce like boston or romaine. Top your salad with carrots, avocado for healthy fats, broccoli and strained; cooked chick peas. For a dressing all you need is oil, salt and acid. So for a homemade dressing mix coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and real salt together. All it takes is determination and creativity!
#4- Do not become a Starchatarian!
Despite what we have been shown in the food pyramid, grains and starches should not get the largest servings of portions in our diet. It is best to eat grains and starches in moderation and not with every meal. Grains need moisture to cook and absorb liquids very quickly. If you are consuming grains as a part of every meal every day, it is absorbing a lot of the moisture in your body. Therefore, instead of eliminating meat and piling on the carbohydrates, we want to increase the amount of vegetables we eat. For example, have a tuna steak with a large side of cooked greens or red beans with a vegetable stir fry. Quinoa, millet and black rice are some better option grains to incorporate into your meals. Quinoa can be used in place of oats for a morning porridge, black rice can be used in place of white/brown rice which contains high levels of arsenic and millet can be used as a side with beans or as a topping in a green salad!
The key is also to remain confident and be okay with being different. You may go to a party and they are not offering anything that you eat and that is okay! Most times I have a green smoothie or trail mix before I go to an event just in case. You may also want to choose the best option out of what is being served but remember your goals as you are deciding. Your health is your greatest wealth and I want to encourage you to keep this as a priority. Not everything that is available on the market is fit for human consumption! Sometimes you have to say “No, I am sorry I cannot have that!”
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