Lately, more and more people have approached me to announce their desire to eat a plant-based diet i.e. vegan. I am finding that this is not the common yo-yo dieting but rather a desire to live with more peace and harmony in their lives with a new connection to nature. This involves taking care of their body utilizing nutritious plant foods and pushing the animal meat away from the dinner plate. Eliminating animal products (meat, dairy) I am finding is more of a spiritual choice than anything. The health benefits of this type of diet are astounding but there is a deeper yearning beyond the health benefits. I feel a deep joy when these people reach out to me in this way.
Here are some tips to those thinking of bringing more plant-based foods into their diet. Or perhaps you want to eliminate animal foods altogether and not quite sure how to begin:
- Baby steps can help ease this transition for you. If you feel overwhelmed, do the best you can do and don’t beat yourself up in the process. Eating should be enjoyable!
- Start your day with a nutritious green juice or smoothie. Squeeze some lemon to cut the bitter greens and add some berries (low sugar). Add fresh nut milk, spinach, kale or other greens, carrot, lemon, berries, chia or ground flax seeds. Add 1 T raw cacao powder if you need a kick in the morning. Banana or dates will add sweetness if you need this initially. This one change to your diet will bring some raw green nutrition to your day regardless of what happens the rest of the day.
- Stay away from processed vegan foods. Processed foods may be the number 1 killer of diets today with all the chemicals in them.
- Learning how to prepare delicious plant-based foods can be very easy: buy a recipe book, take a class and/or get on the internet for delicious, easy recipes. You will quickly love being in the kitchen.
- Think you need animal protein? Think again. Plant protein is not only more bio-available to your body; it is easier to digest and won’t slow you down. Cooked animal protein, on the other hand, is not only difficult to digest, it creates inflammation in the tissues and is rough on the kidneys. Some of the best plant protein sources are: almonds, bee pollen, Brewer’s yeast, chlorella, green-leafy vegetables, hemp seeds, olives, pumpkin seeds, sprouts, and vegetables powders.
- Think you need calcium from dairy? Think again. If you introduce lots of green leafy vegetables into your diet, calcium is no longer a worry. A 12-year study at Harvard with 78,000 women showed that those drinking cow’s milk are more likely to have brittle bones and osteoporosis. For more information, this was published in “The American journal of Public Health” in 1997 titled “Milk, Dietary Calcium and Bone Fractures in Women: A 12-Year Prospective Study.”
- For inspiration, find some food-related documentaries on netflix or online. There are many more but here are some to check out: “Food Inc.,” “Forks Over Knives,” “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” “Eating.”
- Eating out is easier than you might think. Find some vegan friendly restaurants like: Green, Pomegranate’s, 24 Carrots just to name a few. If you can’t pick the restaurant, look on the menu at the “sides” for some grilled vegetables, rice, beans, etc. and let your wait staff know you are meat, dairy and egg-free. They will talk to the chef if need-be and create an amazing meal for you.
- When making a meal, make enough for leftovers. Make a big pot of rice or other grain for meals during the week. Grains can really “beef” up a salad or soup.
- Things to have in the fridge every week: hummus and cut up vegetables, nuts/seeds and fruit trail mix for on-the-go calories, a week’s worth of homemade salad dressing, cut up onions, peppers, and vegetables for a quick soup or stir-fry.
- Learn one new recipe each week and have fun with it. Get the family involved.
- Grow a plant AND visit a farmers market each week. Local produce is way healthier than store bought and almost always organically grown. You will start to try vegetables you never knew could grow in the desert.
Whether you want more connection to nature, want to lose those unnecessary pounds, or want to move 100% into the plant-based diet, know that you are not alone and there are people to help you. Get inspired and find your love of real food once again in your own kitchen and garden. Hope to see you in class soon!
– your inspirational plant-based chef, Linda Curry