About two years ago I started transitioning to a plant based diet and with the kind of positive health results I’ve been seeing, I really haven’t looked back. While I had physical improvements such as having a much stronger immune system, my skin clearing up, my hair growing longer and my digestion becoming so much better, the largest relief came in the form of my mental health. Even when I had reduced my animal product intake by only half, I started noticing I had much more energy, my mind was much more clear and I felt a lot happier on a whole. I just felt lighter and could get through the day with much more ease than before. It’s all really no surprise as more and more studies are coming out about the adverse effects of eating animal products, not only for on our own health, but the entire planet.
After watching films like Forks Over Knives and Food Matters, it became clear to me that while I may not always be 100% vegan, doing my best to keep the large majority of my food intake (and other products I buy) was a commitment I was willing to make to lead a healthier lifestyle and lower my environmental footprint in a time when it is absolutely necessary. I won’t lie and say it was an overnight and simple process as I was basically relearning everything I thought to be true about the food I ate, having grown up in a rural agriculture community in Saskatchewan where no one even knew what a vegan was. I wanted to write this article as a sort of starter kit for anyone looking to clean up their diet and move towards a plant based lifestyle. These are the things that really helped when I was first starting, so I hope they will be of help to you as well:
#1 Educate Yourself
This is probably the most important step for making a lasting commitment because knowledge truly is power. Once I watched life changing documentaries that made me look at health, animal agriculture and food production in a completely different light, I couldn’t continue my old habits in ignorance anymore. I felt empowered that what I consistently put on my plate made an enormous difference in my life and in the lives of countless others. I then started doing my own research online and followed many trail blazers in the plant based community for inspiration. Once I was able to start putting the tools I learned into practice, the results spoke for themselves and I felt confident in my new lifestyle.
Transitioning to a completely new way of eating can be very intimidating since we are taught from a young age that animal products are the building blocks of a healthy diet, but with current research stating the opposite, we have to educate ourselves all over again on how to have a balanced diet. For a vegan diet to be healthy it still requires having the majority of what you eat be a variety of whole foods with adequate caloric intake. The largest mistake I find with people who complain about not feeling well on a vegan diet is because they are not taking in enough calories. Plant foods are far less calorie dense than animal products, so it does feel like you’re eating a lot at first. But hey, if you like to eat, #winning!
Make sure you start things off on the right foot and understand WHY you are making this transition to begin with by watching the following amazing films:
*all can be found on Netflix, but will post the trailers to give you an idea of what to expect
FOOD MATTERS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4DOQ6Xhqss
FORKS OVER KNIVES https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZb-35oV_7E
WHAT THE HEALTH? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf44vLndiRM
#2 Eliminate What Is Easiest
I didn’t eliminate the majority of animals products in my diet immediately, but I reduced probably about 70% in a matter of about two months. Everyone is different when it comes to this as some people are so disturbed by what they learn that it’s enough to make them change overnight, but others (including myself) have found it easier and less intimidating to take things one day at a time. I think it’s always easiest to take away your least favorite or conversely, just reduce on a whole. Even as a child and adolescent who ate meat I was disturbed by handling raw flesh. Just touching it put me off and it was only because I thought I was eating it for health reasons that I continued to consume it. Cutting meat from my diet was fairly simple and I really didn’t miss it. Milk and eggs were slightly more difficult as I did eat eggs fairly regularly for brunch and have a bit of a secret love for the taste of cheese. Surprisingly eggs also started to disturb me fairly quickly and unless there was just a small amount of them in something else, I did not enjoy eating them anymore. I do admit to enjoying sweets as a treat and unless I am able to find a vegan bakery (thankfully there’s quite a few in Toronto!) I usually do just allow myself to get what I want if an alternative isn’t available at the time. Everyone is different when it comes to the degree of following a plant based or going fully vegan diet, but for me I find that consistency is key and as long as approximately 90% of what I eat on a regular basis is vegan, that’s a happy place for me that doesn’t feel restrictive. Every day there are more and more amazing vegan options springing up and I’m very excited to see plant based food become the majority leader of the food that is available.
* My idea of the perfect Brunch with a tofu scramble instead of eggs and baked beans instead of meat. Absolutely delicious and courtesy of Toronto’s D-Beatstro.
#3 Try Incorporating New Plant Based Recipes
For people who don’t happen to live in a vegan friendly city like Toronto and are more limited to cooking vegan at home, do not despair because there are so many amazing and delicious recipes you can make at home that will make you feel like a five star chef. I never considered myself to be a great cook to begin with, so when I started my plant based journey I will admit to being quite intimated at cooking meals I had never even had before. You can certainly make it as complicated and elaborate as you like, but I much prefer recipes with simple ingredients that don’t take long to prepare and that I can also make a large batch of to freeze for meals later. An absolute life saver of a cookbook has been Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon as I have used her recipes religiously over the past year to make some absolutely delicious meals. The recipes are easy to follow and shockingly healthy for how good they taste. I will link her website below as well as some other amazing recipe resources:
Oh She Glows – http://ohsheglows.com/
Thug Kitchen (hilarious) – https://www.thugkitchen.com/
Deliciously Ella – https://deliciouslyella.com/
* My home made vegan sweet potato enchiladas from Oh She Glows. SO GOOD. Find the recipe HERE
* Veggie ‘meat balls’ that I made from a veggie burger recipe. Improvise, people! Recipe HERE
#4 Try Vegan Restaurants For Inspiration
As stated in the prior point, I know not everyone lives in a place with an abundance of incredible vegan restaurants around, but if you do have some in your area or are able to try some while on vacation, use it as an opportunity to surprise yourself of just how delicious plant based food can be. I will admit to being absolutely shocked of how amazing foods that I didn’t think had a vegan alternative could be. The larger the plant based community gets, the more options we have to experiment with of what is possible. We are now able to not only recreate some traditional dishes, but also invent completely new meals. I think this is so exciting and I have had so many mind blowing vegan dishes that trump anything I used to eat before. I will post a list of some of my favorite spots in Toronto, though I really could go on forever since there are so many:
* Vegan Eggs Benedict at Doug McNish’s Public Kitchen were a surprising and delicious brunch option.
#5 Reach Out For Support
Transitioning to a plant based lifestyle is certainly easier if you have like minded friends or family around, but with the ever growing vegan online community as a resource, you never have to feel alone in your journey for better health and happiness. I knew very few people personally who were plant based when I started to change my diet, but to be honest it didn’t affect me that much considering I felt I had a lot of online role models and support groups. There are so many amazing vegan YouTubers that create incredible educational and inspirational content for whatever stage or need you have. Once I became more confident in my new diet I started reaching out to groups in my community like The Toronto Vegetarian Association. They always have wonderful events going on in the city where you can make new friends or even just getting involved in their online community. I will link some of my favorite vegan/plant based YouTubers down below:
Claire Michelle – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdSx2rlQo4TAY-VZGthC6Dw
Niomi Smart – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtada9QdvOZOKgEIT-VL7Q
Happy Healthy Vegan – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE9ZKGuHAz4S9y89u-qSAPQ
Raw Alignment – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzLQ_5hu5fuVSEHkMGEq7Vg
*And as you probably know, I also have a YouTube channel where I occasionally post about my favorite plant based foods and recipes, so make sure you go CHECK IT OUT and I will also post a video down below that may be helpful to you as far as what to keep on hand when cooking plant based at home:
Know that while not everyone will agree with you when it comes to changing your diet and may even try to scare you off from getting started, know that only you are responsible for your life and that creating healthy habits is far more important than what anyone else thinks about it. You may even find that friends or family who were initially hesitant about your new lifestyle change may come around and join you once they see how well you’re doing! That was basically my situation were once I got started and saw such positive results, I shared my new found information with my parents who made some huge changes and also some friends who told me I was nuts to begin with 😉
I hope this post was helpful to you whether you’ve already started on a plant based lifestyle or simply curious. I believe that even small changes make a big difference in the long run and it’s never too late to become a happier and healthier version of yourself. A plant based diet has changed my life in immeasurable positive ways which is why I am so passionate about sharing it with you.
I’m sending you lots of love and know that you are capable of whatever you set your mind to! xo