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 a big step, and I aim to help make your transition as easy as possible for you with this plant based diet for beginners ‘how to guide’.
In my year of eating a 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.
However, we will all be different in this respect, for starters my needs may be different to yours as I do a lot of exercise such as gym, swimming, and power walking. Nothing too over the top, but much more than the average person, and 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 will find that you’ll learn as you go along, it’s a journey and by the time you are a year down the line as I am you will be a pro. You’ll be whipping up meals 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 harder things about this lifestyle, but 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 menus.
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 this time.
They 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 conditioning around food, so you have to go easy on yourself.
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 never want to go back.
1. MORE ENERGY
Yes, I definitely have more energy than EVER, im not even kidding you! 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. I’m always ready to get up and go.
2. BETTER SLEEP
This one I noticed very quickly, but more so because I also naturally cut down on the sugar and refined carbohydrates when I started this way of eating. This keeps blood sugars stable, which seems to have the benefits of much deeper and better quality sleep.
If you think you may have trouble cutting down or quitting sugar then this post will be really helpful to you and I highly recommend you check it out before you commence your plant based lifestyle ‘Quitting Sugar in 6 Easy Steps’
3. 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.
You may say that this is due to eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, 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.
You may laugh at my choice of term but I really cannot find another way to explain these changes. It really is a great feeling, almost as if you are feeling how you were designed to feel, strong in body and mind, vital, and full of energy. You probably need to experience it to properly understand what I mean.
4. 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. 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 themselves.
5. FEWER ACHES AND PAINS
As animal products are mostly inflammatory you will notice that you’ll have fewer aches and pains than before, especially arthritic pains which are caused by chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is also the root cause of many other illnesses and diseases and we should all be trying to eat more of an alkaline, plant based diet for this reason alone.
I notice this the most 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 go so far as to say that I hardley ever feel a thing 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 just 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 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. NO PMS
I suffered chronic nasty PMS symptoms before my plant based diet, but now barely anything. I don’t even know when my period is going to come these days, as I get no mood swings or pain. Before I needed a whole box of pain killers to get me through this time and now I don’t need any. This again, I know is down to my anti inflammatory diet, I’m certain of it.
I’ve also noticed my hormones in general are on a much more even keel, and I rarely get the mood swings like I used to.
8. NO DEPRESSION OR ANXIETY
I’ve always suffered from depression, which has actually been the catalyst of my whole life’s journey with food and exercise, and why I am experienced enough to be able help others now.
I haven’t actually had my 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 my 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 and get you 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 grip on me anymore. And if you do suffer from depression/anxiety then I hope this post reaches you, because you need to know that no matter how horrendous you feel right now there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel.
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, and you’ll also feel your stress levels dropping. 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.
9. BETTER MEMORY
Again, I put this down to having less inflammation, evened out blood sugar, and a 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 now I’m eating plant based, so this is yet another a MAJOR PLUS.
PLANT BASED DIET FOR BEGINNER’S
I hope you can see now how there are so many reasons to try this way of eating for yourself, and these are just the things I have noticed so far on this diet!
Can you imagine what this could mean for long term health and staving off all the BIG 5 diseases that afflict 4 out of 5 of us as we age, which are diabetes, cancer,cardiovascular disease, degenerative disease and depression.
The naturally antin-flammatory plant based diet may help protect you in a big way from these 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, because you will need all of these food groups to ensure your diet is well balanced and contains enough nutrients.
- Swap your regular milk for almond, hemp, oat, rice, coconut or soy milk. You can use these for anything you would ordinarily use cows milk for. This will take some trial and error as you find a milk that suits you best or that you like the taste of. I for instance, like almond milk in my tea and coffee and coconut milk in my smoothies.
- You will want to check labels scrupulously as a lot of these milks are sweetened – ideally you should go for the unsweetened versions to keep your sugar intake down.
- Swap your ordinary dairy products for vegan versions. You can easily find these in most supermarkets, and there are a good deal of soy and coconut based versions of cheese, yogurts, butters and ice cream out there, 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 the terms of nutritional benefits. However, they may stand in as a good substitute while you’re finding your plant based diet feet.
- To keep sugars down you should shy away from most shop bought cereals and 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-frys, curries, chillis, or pretty much any dish 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 which is why they may be written more than once.
- Virgin coconut oil
- Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil and whole avocado
- Flax oil
- Soya and soya 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).
- Nutritional yeast
- Some vegetables are higher in proteins such as broccoli and avocado
- Protein powders such as hemp, potato, rice, pumpkin, sunflower and pea (you can buy soy protein but I would not recommend eating isolated soy, especially in a protein powder form as 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 every day, 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 green powder every day as it really pushes your health to another level. My favorite is Dr. Schulze’s Super Food Powder as it is just the most awesome green powder I have tried and tested.
- 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: they will also give you that cold, frothy milkshake texture. Sliced frozen ripe banana works just great for this as it tastes like ice cream.
- 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 anabolic (fat burning) mode after fasting through the night. Good for burning fat and building 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 chilli – sounds weird but I make this every week and it lasts me days. It’s a chilli 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 and some steamed broccoli.
- Hummus and/or sliced avocado on oatcakes.
- Hummus and vegetable sticks.
- Coconut yogurt and chopped fruit and nuts.
- Dried fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds.
- Dark chocolate.
- Fruit, especially bananas. Read more on the amazing benefits of bananas here.
- Raw deserts.
- Vegetable juices and green powder shots.