If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to a plant-based diet or reducing the amount of meat you consume, research shows you’re in good company. In 2019, nearly 2.5 million Australians followed a mostly vegetarian diet and Australia is said to be the “3rd largest growing Vegan market in the world” according to Euromonitor data. For some, the decision is a highly personal and ethical one, for others it may be health related, but whatever your reasons for switching to a plant-based diet, we’ve got some top tips to help you make the change as easily as possible!
Why are you wanting to switch?
This might be the most important step you take. Being clear on your reasons for switching to a plant-based diet will help when your friends or family keep pestering you to eat meat or dairy. As Sydney City Nutritionist, Jennifer May explains: "The benefits of a plant based diet are mostly centred around what you increase, rather than what you remove. Meat and animal products contain cholesterol which can build up in our arteries when there's too much in circulation. Consuming high amounts of unhealthy cholesterol could increase our risk of heart disease. In a plant based diet you get your protein (and all other essential micro and macronutrients) from plant based foods - which are also mostly high in fibre. Fibre helps to remove cholesterol from the body and helps to reduce the risk of heart disease in result. Increasing fibre also helps to reduce your risk of colon cancer and can even help reduce excess hormones such as we see in PCOS and Endometriosis."
Things will get tough along the way and having a clear reason will help you stick to your goals as you undertake this big lifestyle change. Below are some great reasons to switch to plant-based, are there any that speak to you?
- You love animals and it’s an ethical decision
- You want to manage your blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- You want to reduce your environmental footprint
- Disease prevention is important to you
- You’re looking to manage your weight
Take it Slow
It can be overwhelming to think about how you’ll replace cheese, eggs, meat, fish, and chicken all in one go. Our advice? Take it one step at a time. Start with replacing your favourite meals such as stir-fries, curries, or burgers with plant-based alternatives. You could choose one meal per day to begin your change such as swapping out breakfast each week and then lunch until eventually you’re eating just one meat-based meal per week. By taking your time, you will give your body and mind time to adjust. Going cold turkey on meat and dairy is not advisable and checking in with how you’re feeling each step of your journey, will help make this a lasting and permanent change.
If you are serious about switching to plant-based eating, you’ll need to start reading the labels on all the products you buy. Ingredients such as casein, whey or gelatin which are often used in cereals, breads, and sweets, are all derived from animal ingredients so it’s important you start looking for hidden animal products.
It’s vital you are consuming the correct nutrients that your body needs. "Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient and is only present in animal foods (eggs, meat, dairy, fish). When following a strict vegan diet you must supplement this nutrient. This is not optional, it is a must. Vitamin B12 is a stable and well tolerated nutrient but you must always check for safety and suitability if you're on medications," says Jennifer. bRaw have developed a delicious formula Inner Beauty, which contains a Vitamin B complex to ensure you’re looking and feeling your best!
For those with Fodmap sensitivites, Jennifer says going plant-based can be tough. "The vegan diet means getting most of your protein from high FODMAP foods. These foods are a little difficult to digest and can be problematic for sensitive tummies such as those with IBS or Endometriosis."
It's a good idea to include a great quality protein powder such as bRaw’s Ultimate Plant Protein which has been formulated with digestive enzymes and a superfood blend. Another important nutrient to consider is Choline. As Jennifer states: " Choline is essential for liver health and for maintaining a healthy balance of the neurochemicals which control our mood. Choline deficiency results in severe fatigue, anxiety and depression. Choline is found in some plant foods and with careful planning you can ensure a good supply. If you find yourself tired, flat and depressed since going plantbased - take a choline supplement to combat this."
Create New Healthy Habits
Embarking on a new way of eating for the health benefits is a wonderful place to start but don’t forget that living a healthier lifestyle is not just about what you eat. Take a look at our list below of ways to incorporate new healthy habits into your life.
- Water, water, water – hydration is just as important as nutrition
- Exercise – try increase your heart rate at least once a day or include a walk, bike ride or incidental exercise to your daily routine
- Meditate – support your mental health too by taking time out each day to slow down, check in and take notice of your body and headspace
- Try new things – challenge yourself and keep your brain sharp by setting personal and new challenges as often as you can
It’s all about Progress and not Perfection
It’s ok to make mistakes along the way, you don’t have to eat plant-based perfectly all the time if you don’t want too either. Keep a sense a humour and optimism about the process and most importantly, change your mindset to think about what you’ll gain as opposed to what you’ll lose when you switch to a plant-based diet. Take it one step, one day at a time and don’t give up at the first sign of difficulty. Health is a lifelong journey, take the first step today!