You probably already know that a plant-based diet is better for living a healthier, longer life (and helping the planet do the same). Vegans tend to treat the Earth better as a whole by paying more attention to where their food is sourced. But if you’ve adopted the belief that going vegan or vegetarian is just too hard, this information probably won’t convince you to abandon a life of meat and animal product consumption.
As Dr. John Berardi tells Timothy Ferriss for Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Body, “In our quest for filling one-third of our plate with animal flesh, sometimes we forget to think about what the other two-thirds should be filled with.” That’s some serious food for thought. Letting go of the idea that a meal should be centered around meat and embracing an entirely plant-based diet can be tough so here are a few low-lift suggestions to help get you started on the road to becoming a vegan.
Ease Into It
Start by trying a plant-based diet for just two weeks. This alleviates the pressure of going cold turkey on hot turkey and opens the door to adopting a healthier diet that works for your lifestyle. For those of you that feel going full vegan for two weeks is still too much, too soon, try easing into the vegan lifestyle by only eating grass-fed local beef once a week (a cheat day!) for a month or two.
In fact, it’s better for the environment if you begin with a 70 percent plant-based diet and eventually turn full vegan, rather than go 100 percent vegan for two weeks and then quit because it was too difficult for you to sustain. “Removing too much, too quickly leads to abandoning positive changes,” Ferriss says. It’s good to have a process of steps to guide you in such a lifestyle adjustment, so you don’t end up relapsing with chicken wings or filling the void with vegetarian junk food.
Set Boundaries for Your Cheat Days
To help you follow-through on your cheat meals so you won’t end up backsliding, set boundaries for your cheat day. Schedule it on the weekend or after 6 p.m. And if possible, the cheat meat you are eating once a week, should fall under the following categories: pasture-raised, grass-fed, and locally sourced.
As the weeks progress, gradually start replacing starches such as bread with plant-based proteins like legumes. You should also begin cutting out red meat altogether on your cheat days, replacing it with eggs, dairy, and fish. Ultimately, you’ll want to remove those out too to make your way towards a 100 percent plant-based diet.
Shift Your Focus From Meat to Plant-Based Foods
It may seem out there but a shift in mindset can do wonders when it comes to creating a new habit. Instead of thinking about what you’re eating less of (meat and animal products), you should focus on what you need to be eating more of (nutrient-rich, plant-based foods). Approaching your plant-based diet plan from this point of view ensures that your focus will be on getting the right amount of calories, protein, and micronutrition from plant-based food sources to sustain a healthy body.
Get the Nutrients You Need
Being that you are in the beginning stages and haven’t fully converted to veganism yet, you’re probably still consuming animal products like a vegetarian or pescetarian. Don’t depend on dairy or manufactured soy-based products for your protein. There are much better and healthier ways to make sure you’re getting enough protein. Seek out whole foods or powdered protein, depending on your budget and schedule. Some protein powders that Ferriss recommends are Sun Warrior Chocolate Brown Rice Protein or Pure Advantage Pea Protein Isolate.
You might be raising an eyebrow about incorporating protein powder into your diet, but don’t be afraid to seek out supplements to help with any dietary deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to serious health problems, especially if you’re an athlete or active person.
Seek out a nutritionist to help you pinpoint the necessary supplements that are right for you. It’s all about individuality and finding balance both on your plate, for the earth, and for your health.
Illustrator: Marie Guillard