So you’ve decided to try something new and exiting; something that will pay off a hundred fold in terms of your health and well-being. This is fantastic news and the start of a journey that will lead you to feeling and looking amazing, full of energy, and much more protected against the nasty modern day diseases that seem to plague so many. I’m happy for you, and aim to help make your transition as easy as possible with this ‘plant based diet for beginners how to guide’.
It’s great to have more energy than ever!
In my year of eating pretty much a 99% plant based diet I have seen my energy levels and general health go through the roof. But – and this is a big BUT, it did take me some months of learning exactly what my body needed in terms of protein and nutrient requirements for me to get to this level.
We are however all going to be different in this respect. For starters, my needs may be different to yours as I do a lot of exercise, such as weight lifting, swimming, and power walking. Nothing too over the top, but much more than the average person so therefore my body needs more nutrients to keep up with the demand being put upon it.
PUTTING TOGETHER A ‘COMPLETE’ MEAL
It is absolutely vital that before entering into this new way of eating that will (and trust me on this one) make you feel fantastic, you will most definitely need to know the basics of putting together a ‘complete‘ meal. This means protein, low GI carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables.
You’ll find that you will learn as you go along. It’s a journey, and by the time you’re a year down the line as I am you’ll be a pro and whipping up healthy meal’s at a moments notice from bits and bobs left in the cupboard – and you’ll know exactly how to order in restaurants without being too annoying 🙂
I say this in jest, but in the beginning this is one of the hardest things about this lifestyle, however fortunately now that veganism has exploded and become immensely popular, most restaurants and even fast food chains are keeping up with the trend and putting lots of delicious plant based meal options on their menu’s.
BENEFITS I HAVE NOTICED SINCE GOING PLANT BASED:-
It’s been a year on this journey for me, and what started out as a bit of a detox type experiment has led me on a path that I will never look back from – why? Because cutting out inflammation causing animal products has changed my life and transformed my health to another level.
It did however take me about 3 attempts at this way of eating before I stopped craving meat and dairy; and it was only on my third attempt that something just ‘clicked’ and I knew it was for good.
The key is to NOT beat yourself up if you give in at times, just keep plugging at it, after all you are trying to change a lifetime of conditioned thinking patterns around food so you have to go easy on yourself, and that’s my number 1 rule!
Here are some of the truly amazing things I have noticed about my body and health that have changed since eating plant based. These benefits will help you understand exactly why I’m sticking with it for good and will never go back, and also the main reason for me building a plant based eating website to help others.
1. MORE ENERGY
Yes, I definitely have more energy than EVER! This did take a little trial and error at first but these days I never have that mid-afternoon slump or feel like I can’t be bothered to exercise.
In fact, I now have the energy and impetus to do all the things I wish to do in my life without even thinking it will be a chore – which includes writing this blog to help others see how simple it is to live out the life of their dreams too!
2. CLEAR SKIN AND SPARKLING EYES
This is one of the major things you will notice very quickly also. You will see BIG changes in your skin tone and texture; my skin is so soft now it’s actually like a baby’s bum, and my eyes are definitely clearer and brighter – so much so that people comment on it… a lot.
You may say that this is due to naturally eating a lot more fruits and vegetables on a plant based diet, but it isn’t just that as I ate the same amount of veggies when I was still eating animal products. It was when I stopped eating animal products that the real magic began to happen. It really is a great feeling to have a strong body and mind and feel vital and full of energy all the time, but im not boasting – you probably need to experience it for yourself as I cannot describe it in words alone.
3. BETTER SLEEP
You will sleep better when you have good nutrients in your body; this is because on a plant based diet you will naturally cut down on sugar and refined carbohydrates, thus helping to keep your blood sugar more stable. This in turn seems to have the benefit of much deeper and better quality sleep which will have a huge positive impact on your health and life in itself.
If you think, like many people do, that you may have trouble cutting down or quitting sugar, then this post ‘Quitting Sugar in 6 Easy Steps’ will be really helpful to you and I highly recommend you check it out before starting your plant based diet.
4. FEELING LESS BLOATED/PUFFY
And I mean less bloated all over! In fact, I didn’t even realise that I was always slightly bloated until suddenly I wasn’t; but now I can see the difference and so can others so it’s definitely not my imagination. I’ve also noticed the same in some of my friends, who after seeing what it did for me, have followed suit with a plant based diet for themselves. Oh the satisfaction!
5. FEWER ACHES AND PAINS
As animal products are mostly inflammation causing, you will notice that you’ll have fewer aches and pains than before; especially arthritic pains, which can be caused by chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is now believed to be one of the root causes of many diseases, therefore we should all be trying to eat more of an alkaline, plant based diet for this reason alone.
I notice the anti inflammatory effects of a plant based diet mostly after a hard workout when I think I’m going to be aching like hell the next day; but in fact I don’t. I would even go so far to say that I hardly ever feel a thing these days, even after a hard workout, or if I do it passes quickly; and this has ONLY been the case since my change of diet. Of course, this super quick recovery time is great in terms of being able to exercise a lot more, and also be more productive in general.
6. LESS SICKNESS
I’m talking coughs, colds, and viruses; put it this way, I haven’t been sick in the last year so there must be a connection. Sometimes I may feel something trying to ‘get to me’ but it is always seems to be gone by the next day, so I’m presuming my alkaline body and immune system are fighting it off before it even gets a grip.
7. LESS, OR NO PMS
I suffered chronic nasty PMS symptoms before my plant based diet but now I get barely anything. In fact, I don’t even know when my period is going to come these days as I get no mood swings or pain, where as before I needed a whole box of pain killers to get me through this time of month. This again, I know for sure, is down to my anti inflammatory diet – I’m certain of it.
I’ve also noticed my hormone’s in general are on a much more even keel these days and I rarely get the mood swings I used to.
8. NO MORE DEPRESSION OR ANXIETY
I’ve always suffered from depression ever since I was a teenager, which has in fact been the catalyst for my whole life’s journey and study into food and exercise, and why I am experienced enough to be able help others combat it now.
I haven’t actually had true depression for years as I’ve always controlled it by eating healthily and exercising (in my opinion this is the ONLY viable long term solution for anxiety and depression, unless you want a lifetime of drugs), but since changing to a plant based diet my happiness levels have soared even higher.
A Fit and Healthy Body Will Help Beat Depression… IN A BIG WAY!
Depression is a strange beast, you always feel it’s there, underlying and waiting to come back to bite you on the butt again. Keeping your body as fit and healthy as possible, and keeping blood sugar stable with a Low GI Diet gives YOU back the control over it.
I may have times when I feel it could be reading it’s ugly head again, but I know it cannot get a proper grip on me anymore. And if you do suffer from depression or anxiety then you should know that no matter how horrendous you feel right now there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel, but you do need to make some lifestyle changes in order to achieve this .
Cleaning the junk out of your body will also clear the junk out of your head, much like a detoxification, making you feel much calmer and happier; you’ll also feel your stress levels dropping giving you much more control over your life. In fact, you will find it harder to get stressed out no matter what happens when your mood is stable through blood sugar control and low GI eating. It really can that simple!
9. BETTER MEMORY
Again I put this down to having less inflammation, evened out blood sugar, and a more detoxified body. I find that my memory is like a sponge now, whereas before my brain fog meant I could forget something as soon as it went in which was often quite embarrassing. I now am able to learn new things more quickly than ever so this is yet another a MAJOR PLUS of this super healthy lifestyle.
PLANT BASED DIET FOR BEGINNER’S – HOW TO GUIDE
I hope you can see now just how many valid reasons their are to try the plant based diet for yourself, and these are just the things I have noticed so far – who knows what the future holds as your body heals.
And can you imagine what this could mean for long term health and staving off the top 10 major diseases that afflict 4 out of 5 of us as we age; the worst of which are diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, degenerative disease, and depression.
The naturally anti inflammatory plant based diet may help protect you in a big way from these nasty life threatening diseases, and MUCH more.
Making Small Changes One Step at a Time
Here is a list of the things you can easily start changing today. You do not need to do everything at once, but instead incrementally make small changes every day/week until they become habits.
It is vital you consume ALL foods on the list as much as possible as you will need all of these food groups to ensure a well balanced diet that contains enough nutrients.
- Swap your regular milk for almond, hemp, oat, rice, coconut or soy. You can use these for anything you would ordinarily use cow’s milk for. This will take some trial and error as you find a milk that suits you best and that you like the taste of. I for instance, like almond milk in my tea and coffee and coconut milk in my smoothies. The texture is just better like that but it’s personal opinion. Sometimes plant milks will curdle in certain coffee’s and not others, but you can buy barista blend milks specifically for coffee lovers.
- You will want to check labels scrupulously as a lot of these milks are sweetened, and ideally you should go for the unsweetened versions to keep your sugar intake down.
- Swap your ordinary dairy products for vegan versions, which you can easily find these in most supermarkets; there are also a good deal of soy and coconut based versions of cheeses, yogurts, butters, and ice cream, so you need never go without.
- Buying imitation dairy/animal products is one thing on the list that you don’t actually need to do, as many of them do not offer much in terms of nutritional benefits. However, they may stand in as a good substitute while you’re finding your plant based feet.
- To keep sugars down you should shy away from most shop bought cereals; instead go for porridge oats, oat bran, or home made granola/muesli.
- Swap meat for tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa, or pulses. All of these can be added to stir-fry’s, curries, chili’s, or pretty much any dish that you would ordinarily use meat for.
THINGS TO ADD IN
It’s always important to keep your meals balanced with proteins, low GI carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Below are lists of each category so you can start to get a picture of how to combine them together.
I have only listed healthy foods here as that is the whole point of going plant based. There are however lots of vegan junk foods, such as crisps, fried food, chips, sweets and confectionery, but I wouldn’t recommend these if you want to feel the true benefits of a plant based diet.
Some of the foods on this list contain fats, carbs, and protein all together in the same food and is the reason they may be written in more than one section.
- Virgin coconut oil
- Olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil, and whole avocado’s
- Flax oil
- Soya, and soy beans
- Legumes such as baked beans, chick peas, lentils, sweetcorn, green peas, pinto, cannellini, kidney, butter, borlotti, and black beans
- Wholegrains such as granary bread, buckwheat, spelt, brown pasta, brown rice, millet, amaranth, and quinoa (these are both proteins and carbohydrates in one, but ideally should have another protein source from the list with them to get adequate amounts).
- Nutritional yeast
- Some vegetables are higher in protein’s, such as broccoli and avocado
- Protein powders such as hemp, potato, rice, pumpkin, sunflower and pea (you can buy soy protein powders, but I would not recommend eating isolated soy especially in a protein powder form; this is because it is high in plant estrogen’s that can play havoc with hormones in both men and women)
- Wholegrains, such as granary bread, buckwheat, spelt, sweetcorn, brown pasta, brown rice, millet, amaranth, lentils, pulses, and quinoa
- Potatoes, and sweet potatoes
- Pumpkin and squash
- Vegetables such as parsnips, yams, beetroot, and carrots
- High sugar fruits, such as bananas, pineapple, mango, grapes and papaya
- Dried fruits
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES:
- Eat every day a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy green veg. These should make up a big bulk of your diet as they are full of anti aging, anti cancer, and disease fighting phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- Take a shot of powerful green superfood powder every day as it really pushes your health to another level. If you can’t get enough greens down you then this is the perfect way to make up for it!
- Don’t forget to add lots of herbs and spices to your food; they all contain huge amounts of other nutrients and detoxifying elements that you may not find elsewhere. Turmeric, coriander, parsley cinnamon, cardamon, and ginger are among the best.
HOW TO ADD THESE FOODS TO YOUR EVERYDAY DIET
- For breakfast you can make green smoothies from avocado, banana, spinach, and nut milk. Or any other combination of fruits and vegetables – just be sure to add a little healthy fat such as coconut oil, peanut butter, chia seeds, or avocado.
You can add frozen fruits straight into your smoothie for convenience, plus they will also give you that cold, frothy milkshake texture. Sliced frozen really ripe banana works just great for this as it tastes like ice cream and is nice and sweet.
- Smashed avocado, or sugar free peanut butter on sourdough or granary toast is the perfect low GI filling breakfast.
- Add berries, nuts, and seeds to porridge or granola with a sliced banana.
- Having a low carbohydrate protein powder shake in the morning will help keep you full AND keep your body in fat burning mode after fasting through the night. It’s also a great idea to do this if you want to burn fat and build muscle.
LUNCHES AND DINNERS:
- Make soups and stews from a mixture of root veg, green veg, a protein such as lentils or another legume, herbs, spices and a splash of olive oil. You can literally make endless combinations of soups and stews.
- Make huge salads with lots of greens, grated carrot, chunks of avocado, sweetcorn, and sprinkle with some toasted seeds.
- Bean and chocolate chili – sounds weird but I make this every week and it lasts me days. It’s a chili made of mixed beans, such as kidney, chickpea, and butter beans, with a few chunks of dark chocolate. This really makes a difference to the depth of flavour and is a good replacement for meaty stock cubes. Just try it and see!
- Roasted root veg, such as parsnips, beetroot, squash, onions, and carrots on a bed of quinoa with some steamed broccoli.
- Hummus and/or sliced avocado on oatcakes.
- Hummus and vegetable sticks.
- Coconut yogurt with chopped fruit and nuts.
- Dried fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds.
- Dark chocolate.
- Fruit, especially bananas.
- Raw deserts.
- Vegetable juices and green powder shots.
MAKE SURE YOU GET ADEQUATE PROTEIN!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You need to be doubly sure of this if you are not eating your usual high protein animal products; even more so if you are doing lots of exercise, OR are trying to lose excess weight. When I first started on plant based I made this mistake, and on top of my usual exercise regime I started to LOSE muscle mass! I wasn’t getting enough protein for my needs, which I have now rectified.
How much protein?
Don’t panic about it, just be sure to add foods from the protein list with every meal or snack. You want to aim for about 1-2 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight depending on your specific needs; if you’re doing lots of training or are trying to lose weight/cut fat/ build muscle, then you may need to go for the higher end of the protein amounts. Some plant foods are much higher than others, so here is a list of the different amounts of protein’s in plant foods.
If you do need higher amounts then you will find this hard to attain just eating plants alone, but you can easily supplement with a protein powder to boost your intake. This made all the difference to me when I finally realised that I wasn’t getting enough.
Please read my reviews of the best protein powders of 2018 and see the amazing products that are now available in the plant based field. Some have added green superfoods, enzymes, probiotics; some are specific to men or women, or to weight loss and muscle gain.