It’s all the rage today to hear the buzzwords plant-based, vegan, green juice, etc…but how does one actually integrate this elusive lifestyle into their existing, hectic schedule?!
My name is Erin Simone and I live, eat and breathe this beautiful way of living. Not only do I work as a plant-based personal chef, I actually walk my talk and thrive on copious amounts of fruits and vegetables. I am 100% vegan eating mostly raw, living foods.
Now, this was a long transition as it took me about 3 years to arrive here! I tried over and over again to eat this way but until I addressed some emotional, physical and spiritual issues it was difficult for me to fully commit. Why? Because there is so much emotion attached to food as we very often use food as a crutch to self-soothe. If this sounds like you, trust me, you are not alone!
Adopting this lifestyle is fueled much more by your mental health state than whether or not you actually like healthy food.
Take a moment and truly let that sink in. You can have all the want and desire in this world but if you’re not mentally receptive and prepared to accomplish something, what good is that desire?
While this is a very introductory article about how to initially immerse yourself into this lifestyle, perhaps this will be your turning point…
1. WHERE DO I START BEFORE HEADING TO THE GROCERY STORE LIKE A LOST PUPPY?
Have you ever headed to the grocery store to find yourself walking in circles trying to figure out what the heck to make for dinner?? It’s tough enough when you already have an established “food lifestyle” let alone trying to introduce a new, plant-based way of eating. So, what worked for me? I was a vegetarian for a few months before I became a vegan and my best strategy was watching YouTube videos for weeks straight for inspiration.
This is coming from someone who already knew how to make plant-based meals but still needed something that extended past meal inspiration. I wanted (actually I needed) to hear other people’s stories, their hardships and gains as to how they were able to commit. I literally watched hundreds of videos and each video built up my courage to commit to a way of life I knew I was destined for.
You think that sounds nerdy? What’s nerdy about taking control of your health? Let me tell you something, there is nothing more sexy or empowering than watching someone take their health into their own hands. In fact, it’s downright badass. It doesn’t just have to be YouTube! Go to the library or bookstore, watch documentaries on Netflix or peruse through the prepared food section at Whole Foods. Just become acquainted with this new way of life.
2. FOCUS ON THE ADDITION OF FOOD NOT THE SUBTRACTION
It is a misnomer that a plant-based diet is lacking in satisfaction, decadence (when desired) and satiation. People hear the words plant-based and vegan and suddenly they think about all of the foods they can’t have. If you want to start eating this way focus on adding food so you don’t feel like you are giving something up.
Let’s take breakfast for example. Suppose you normally drink coffee and eat breakfast wrap from a fast food place on your way to work. Next time, make sure to order that green juice or smoothie you’ve been wanting to try or that lovely granola fruit cup in addition to your typical breakfast.
The caveat? Eat the new items first before diving into the coffee or sandwich. Chances are, you will be too full to eat the whole sandwich. You might say this is too expensive or a waste of money. That may be so, however, sometimes we learn best through hard lessons. If you just ordered the smoothie it could potentially appear like you are depriving yourself and you will swear off plant-based eating forever. However, if you order everything and get full off of the smoothie, you will see the other items and realize you don’t need all of that food. Sometimes you need to trick your brain especially when it comes to food!
The same thing applies at dinner. Order what you want but start with that nice lentil vegetable soup or Greek salad (minus the feta). Chances are, you won’t be able to eat all of your entrées. Oh, and as a side note, a lot of people think they won’t be able to find anything to eat at a restaurant. Somehow, people think plant-based means raw veggie sticks. Plant-based is not a new concept, it’s just a new term so everyone thinks it will be hard to find items to eat. Your favorite restaurants already have these items!
3. HOW TO STAY THE COURSE BY FINDING FOODS THAT REPRESENT YOUR OLD FAVORITES
Pizza, brownies, ice cream…and the beat goes on. It is absolutely amazing as to how many wonderful vegan treats there is nowadays that taste even better than their original counterparts! Treats are good but they shouldn’t be an everyday thing. Ideally, the bulk of your diet should be fruits and vegetables but you’ll also want to focus on foods that have structure so you don’t feel deprived.
Beans should become your new best friend as they are creamy, “meaty” and extremely satisfying. You could make a Mexican black bean salad with sweet potatoes, black beans, greens, tomatoes and corn with a spicy chipotle dressing. The combination of potatoes and beans will leave you so satisfied you won’t miss the chicken. One of my favorite staples is Nutritional Yeast as it imparts a cheesy flavor.
Seriously, go stock up on this if you are a cheese lover as it’s high in B vitamins and protein. Go ahead and make some brown rice pasta, add some sauce, yeast, and boom, you have dinner. You think salad is boring? There are so many kinds of salads these days as the iceberg lettuce and occasional carrot salad is long gone. I’m talking about a strawberry, spinach and quinoa salad with pistachios and citrus vinaigrette or a taco salad with avocado, black beans, corn, greens and raw corn chips.
Avocado is another example of a food with structure and its creaminess is very satisfying. A salad is anything you want it to be. Go to the salad bar and pack in some greens, beans, avocado and maybe a specialty quinoa salad.
Load up on the plants and watch your life change!