By Jacquelyn Nause
If you want to adopt healthier eating habits, reduce your carbon footprint or treat disorders like hypertension or diabetes, a plant-based diet is the way to go. It’s never been a better time, with campaigns like Meatless Monday and exciting new meat-free options popping up in grocers and restaurants. Here are five tips to ease your transition into plant-based nutrition.
1. Moderation is Key
Some people may thrive in all-or-nothing scenarios, but for most, flexibility is necessary. Cutting out all animal products can be a large undertaking and may not be the right fit for your lifestyle. Being mindful about reducing the amount of animal products you buy and consume still has a positive impact on your health and the planet, so don’t feel like you have to be completely restrictive.
2. Take Stock
Have you ever made the decision to shift to healthier eating habits, only to be sabotaged as soon as you open the pantry? Take the time to weed out any items you want to avoid and stock your pantry with plant-based alternatives to keep you satiated and excited about your new lifestyle. Meat analogs like veggie burgers and meatless chorizo can help you make the leap to plant-based versions of your favorite meals.
3. Know Your Nutrients
The truth is, there is no perfect diet that supplies every nutrient the human body needs. Further, each individual has different nutritional needs, sensitivities and other health concerns that may dictate additional supplementation. Always consult your healthcare provider to be sure you are getting everything you should have to stay healthy.
Some key supplements to consider are vitamins B12, K2 and D3, omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, and L-carnitine. Taurine and L-carnitine are important amino acids found in meat and seafood. Omega-3s are found in fish but can also be sourced from algae. Vitamins K2 and D work together to promote heart health and strong bones. Last but not least, vitamin B12 is essential for a strong central nervous system, but is only found in the gastrointestinal tract of other animals. Sublingual or liquid B12 supplements have the best absorption rate for this vitamin.
4. Don’t Fall Into a Beige Food Trap
We always hear the catchy phrase “eat your rainbow,” and luckily most colorful foods are plant-based! Spend some extra time in the produce section on your usual grocery run. Try new-to-you fruits and veggies and stock up on old favorites that will provide tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Superfoods like goji, moringa and barley grass might sound intimidating but are jam-packed with phytonutrients, antioxidants and amino acids. Start by adding them to smoothies or juices for a delicious nutritional boost.
5. Spice It Up
Exciting spices, sauces and condiments can make plant-based food fun if you are struggling to get creative. Additions like nutritional yeast, miso, harissa and tons of fresh herbs can kick up a bland meal in no time. Fancy finishing salts and soy sauce add the umami that meat provides in a dish. Get creative with liberal herbs and spices, and you won’t miss the meat.
You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods to shift toward a healthier lifestyle. With a little creativity and a few changes at the grocery store, you can drastically cut back your meat consumption and enjoy the bounty of plant-based nutrition.
Jacquelyn Nause is a contributing writer with specialties in plant-based diets, parenting and wellness. She enjoys traveling with her husband, being a doting mother to her two incredible kids and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest playground.