Making the transition to a plant-based diet is easier than you think but it does take some perseverance. Like any new challenge, if you try to tackle it all at once, you will quickly become consumed by the overwhelming amount of information available. Recipes, influencers, nutritional recommendations, and plant-based food substitutes will bombard you from every direction, and good luck trying to avoid that one vegan friend of yours who has suddenly taken an intense interest in your health and well-being (I know because I’ve been that friend a time or two).
For the average person, this onslaught would be enough to stop them in their tracks and sifting through the noise is simply not worth the investment. That is why I’ve compiled five of my favorite tips to get you started on your plant-based journey. They’re simple, will help you avoid common mistakes and are too small for you to fail.
1. Overall I am not huge on supplements unless you have a specific deficiency (most deficiencies can be avoided with a healthy and diverse diet) but vegans do need B12. B12 is super important since it primarily comes from animal products (and also the soil that used to be more prevalent on our produce). In scientific trials, this is the only vitamin that hasn't been found in an average vegan diet and it's important for preventing anemia and keeping nerve cells happy and healthy! Of course, ask your doctor before taking it.
2. One ingredient that is sneaky and hard to avoid if you’re not careful is gelatin. Gelatin is usually made from boiled tendons and ligaments of cows and pigs and is used in anything with a “gummy-like texture”. Keep an eye out because more foods contain it than you might think. Common ones include marshmallows, Starburst, Gummy Bears, Candy Corn (be glad I told you before Halloween), and Jello. The good news is there are vegan substitutes for all of these and I recently found out Swedish Fish and Sour Patch kids are in fact vegan. There is also a similar ingredient that is totally plant-based called “agar agar” which is made from seaweed!
3. Egg replacements are always tricky, especially when baking, but there are quick substitutions that do a pretty good job. My favorite may seem a bit random, but it does the job. Ever heard of aquafaba? Aquafaba is the liquid you find in a can of chickpeas, and it actually has similar functional properties as egg whites. If you whip it up like you would egg whites, it forms a meringue you can use in pastry dishes or other baking recipes (I love using it in @rainbowplantlife’s banana bread recipe)! As an added bonus it’s basically free if you ever buy canned chickpeas.
4. Meals containing dairy have a distinct creamy consistency that can be hard to recreate with plant-based ingredients, but it's not impossible! The key is to use other foods that contain natural, healthy fats as a replacement. Some commonly used foods include avocados, raw cashews, white beans, and coconut milk. These all have plant-based fats that play the same role as dairy, but are healthier, way less processed and kinder to the animals. Avocado chocolate icing has become a favorite, and coconut milk is ideal for my homemade curries.
5. Plant based burgers have started becoming increasingly popular which is great from the perspective of animal welfare, but fake meats are normally quite processed and loaded with chemicals. Newbie plant-based people will usually start with these options because they taste familiar, but there is a whole world of plant-based burger alternatives made from whole foods that are healthier for you. If you’re down to get creative in the kitchen, try portobello mushroom burgers, tofu burgers, beet burgers, black beans burgers, and even chickpea or quinoa burgers! Beet burgers are definitely a favorite because of their earthy flavor and amazing color.
With these tips, you’re well on your way to living a plant-based life, but if you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out directly to me on Instagram. I love talking about my own transition from a college-athlete carnivore to a leafy green machine and am happy to share some insights.
*Disclaimer* If you are considering making the jump to a fully plant-based diet, please consult with your doctor before starting.