When it comes to our diet and food choices, everyone has to make the decision of what they want to eat for themselves – some people feel better on a vegetarian or vegan diet and others struggle without meat. For others, what they choose to eat is based on the environmental aspect or a love of animals.
A plant-based diet focuses on foods primarily from plants such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains. It doesn’t actually mean that you consume no meat, fish or dairy at all, although lots of people who choose a plant-based diet do choose to do that. It just means that the majority of your diet is made up of plants.
A vegan diet is similar in that you eat plenty of legumes, such as beans and pulses, fruits and vegetables and whole grains, but a vegan chooses to consume no animal products whatsoever.
With both diets, you eat more plant foods and reduce the intake of animal products.
If you have been thinking about turning towards a more plant-based or vegan diet then it can be a bit of a learning curve, but you don’t have to cut out animal products entirely straight away if you don’t want to or even at all. A good start is to begin to introduce more plant-based foods into your current diet, as well as looking for easy switches you can make straight away. Every small change that you make is a positive one, for both your health and the planet.
It has been found that switching to a plant-based diet can improve energy and fitness levels, reduce inflammation, make you less likely to get sick, and even prevent or control many chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Tips for Getting Started With a Plant-based Diet
Find easy substitutions
If there are particular foods you love and eat all the time, then try to find substitutions that you can easily introduce to your diet instead so that you don’t feel like you are missing out. Regular cheese, for example, can easily be swapped for Violife cheeses so you can snack on them or use them as you usually would in meals.
There will be a transition period whilst you become accustomed to the different textures and tastes, but vegan cheese is perfect for a plant-based diet and Violife have such a great range of cheeses that can replace the cheeses you usually have in your fridge.
The smoked cheese slices are really nice to eat on their own and taste so similar to regular smoked cheese to me so they are a great replacement. The Violife Le Rond is perfect for baking in the oven and really tasty with some bread to dip in it, and the grated varieties are perfect for adding to pizzas, jacket potatoes or pasta just as you usually would.
Find meals that you already enjoy
If you think about the meals that you already eat, then you will probably realise that some of them are mostly plant-based or even vegan already, or only require a small switch to make them that way.
If you have a cheese sandwich at lunch, for example, then you can easily switch that for vegan cheese or if you love snacking on houmous and carrot sticks then you can still do that! Risottos, pasta dishes, pizzas and so much more can easily be changed for a more plant-based, healthier version and thinking of it this way can make changing your diet seem a lot less intimidating. There are loads of great vegan recipes online too, so you can find new dishes that you love!
Eat more legumes
Whether switching to a different way of eating or not, consuming less meat is something we should all try to do. Eating meat does have some benefits for our health but eating too much is detrimental for us and the environment. Protein from meat products can easily be replaced by adding more legumes to your meals.
Legumes are iron-rich plant-based vegetables such as beans, peas, and lentils that are quite rich in protein. They are typically low in fat, and high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Legumes are really versatile and filling and taste great too, making them an easy way to get more plants into your diet and reducing meat.
Keep ready-to-eat meals in your fridge
More often than not, when we come back home tired and exhausted from work we don’t feel like cooking. This is when your new way of eating can feel like more of a challenge and is the time you are more likely to give up despite the best intentions.
Ideally, you would spend some time batch cooking so that you always have healthy, plant-based meals in the freezer, but if you aren’t able to do that or if you are just getting started with eating fewer animal products then keeping some ready meals in your fridge for these times is a good idea so you have something quick and easy ready to go.
Eat more salads
It is important to consume more green and leafy vegetables so that your body gets all the nutrients that it needs. You should try to incorporate more salads into your meals, such as cucumber, peppers, sweetcorn, peas, spinach, and lettuce. You can even add things like tofu to it if you want to make it into a meal. But salad pretty much goes with anything so it’s an easy way to add more nutrients to your diet.
Switch to plant-based milks
Switching your cow’s milk to a plant-based milk is one of the easiest changes you can make. Nowadays there are loads of different types so you can find one that suits you best and that you still enjoy. Oat milks, in particular, are quite creamy so make a great replacement for cow’s milk in your tea or coffee. I find almond milk a bit cardboardy but some people love it – I really love soya in my many cups of tea each day.
Go easy on yourself
Completely changing your diet can be really hard, so go easy on yourself if you do ‘slip up’. Every little change you make is a step in the right direction so don’t see it as a failure if you forgot and had your regular latte with cow’s milk whilst you were out. Just keep going and try to remember next time.
Choosing to switch to a more plant-based or vegan diet is a great thing to do, both for your own health and well-being and for animals and our planet. Take your time and start slowly so that you aren’t discouraged, making those easy swaps first and hopefully it will be something you come to love.
This is a collaborative post.