Updated: Jan 23, 2020
A few months ago I watched the movie #TheGameChangers on Netflix. Like many people- I was hooked! Now, let me put this out here first- not every "fact" in this documentary is perfectly presented. There are plenty of articles you can find "debunking" a lot of science within the movie. I chose to take it all with a grain of salt, not as gospel truth, and use my own additional research, knowledge and common sense to make my final decision to transition to a plant-based diet.
I started by approaching my husband, Nic, who does the majority of our cooking. I literally got out of my mouth,
"Hey, what would you think if we tried going Vega---" Nic jumped in, "NO. Just, no." So I left that conversation on the table.
A couple of days (hours???) later, I just put on the movie while we were both in the room. Nic saw a part of the movie that is discussing "The China Study" and said, "Wait, you can change your health by changing your diet?" (Insert my DUHHHHHH response/expression.)
Thus began our decision to just JUMP right in. We decided we would go with a 90% rule- eat as close to 100% plant-based (NO animal products, no eggs, no dairy) for as long as we could, allowing a little room to forgive ourselves the occasional 10%, miss. Meaning if we go to family dinner and food is cooked with butter, we forgive it, or if on a holiday we want to eat Mom's gravy (um, YES!), it's OK. That's right- no prep, no weening off the animal products, no- let's use up what we already spent our hard-earned cash on. Just - GO!
Day 1 I got home from a night out with a friend (where I ate sushi and truffle fries, it's all about balance, right?!) and Nic had cleaned out our cabinets entirely. He read every label, tossed some things, put some out of sight, gave some away. We made a plan for our first few meals, I ordered a book with plant-based diets (Vegan For Everybody - literally the only book we own on this way of life to this day!) and started Pinteresting the hell out of #plantbased and #vegan recipes for us to try.
Some of the first things we tried were utter FAILS! Nic has a tendency to want to make really fun food and he really jumped into complex recipes and ingredients that in the end, just didn't work. My advice; Keep It Simple (I will not complete that acronym as I don't call anyone I love stupid and you're all loved!). Our favorite meals have turned out to be things like Quinoa with roasted vegetables. Chickpea curry. Sweet potato/black bean tacos and taco bowls. Minestrone Soup. I will link to recipes as I post them but check out my recipe section for many of these.
We basically work on recipes we already loved and re-work them as vegan. Sometimes it requires a little trial and error, recipe research and yes, failing. The recipes I post have been sussed out, tried and not fail, and can be adjusted for your preference in flavor. I tend to not like spicy food, which makes Nic's job harder sometimes, but you can spice up anything quite easily.
My advice to anyone who is entertaining the thought of going plant-based; Start by examining your current diet. Nic and I had a pretty healthy diet to start. We love veggies and the majority of our meals started with them so eliminating the animal-based protein was an easy step. I already had an aversion to red meat and we almost never cooked it in our house. So we started with the foods we already loved and looked for ways to balance out the carbohydrates with plant-based proteins. We shopped for chickpeas, beans (many varieties), lentils, seeds, nuts, tofu.
Maybe you opt to ease in by eating more vegetables and eliminate the meat first. This is an option many plant-based eaters go with, allowing time to keep their cheese, yogurts, and eggs in their diet as well as allow their brain and body to adjust. There is a lot to be said for giving your body the time to develop more good gut bacteria with the addition of more fiber in your diet before jumping into this way of life. This option will most likely result in less bloating and discomfort in the beginning. You may also feel less deprived therefore allowing you to transition comfortably and allow you to stick with this new way of eating forever.
Make a plan! No good idea ever won without a good plan. Write your meal plan (don't forget breakfast and lunch!) and then your shopping list. Don't assume that now you'll be eating salads at every meal. Honestly, I ate salad 3-4 times a week BEFORE I went plant-based, now I eat them MAYbe once every other week! Build your plan around the food you love. I happen to love soups so we make at least 2 soups per week. We always make enough to have at least 2 servings leftover so we have a lunch or two ready.
As we've embarked on this journey we've discovered some more things about this lifestyle than just the food.
Things like calling yourself "#vegan" will elicit some very negative responses. Vegan is a way of life; NO ANIMAL products or by-products anywhere in your life. #PlantBased is a way of eating. In my experience, after joining many online forums and having in-person discussions, those who call themselves "Vegan" will defend it like a religious choice that's been persecuted since the beginning of time, with vigor and sometimes downright rudeness. Many of those will berate you for your choice to include honey in your diet (even if it's from your very own beehive) or choose to have some butter. I experienced some of the WORST behaviors I've seen by exposing myself to groups like "Vegan for Beginners" on FB. Now, I'm sure not EVERYONE who calls themselves Vegan behaves in such a manner, I'm sharing my experience and saying, for your own happiness, steer clear of these groups, at least at the beginning. Search out "Plant-Based_______" and join a few and watch for a while to see if it's the right group for you. I have found some great, supportive groups that even share some great ideas and recipes.
Somewhere along the way, we discovered "Whole Food Plant-Based" #WFPB is how we are leaning and now we are exploring more ways to reduce the processed oils from our cooking. So far, this is proving a bit harder, but it's not impossible to I'll be posting more on that later.
The IF and WHY of choosing this way, or any other way, of eating is completely personal and I respect that. Every body is different and responds differently to foods.
Me and my body work really well on plants without animal meat so this was an easy decision for me. I love and miss sushi and cheese pizza so I forgive my occasional sushi or pizza date. Nic, on the other hand, loves and misses meat, so he has a tendency to use his 10% to allow a little animal protein on rare occasions. I have experienced some incidental weight loss, never a bad thing in my world! I have also noticed I no longer have the aches and pains I attributed to age. I enjoy having more consistent energy and clearer skin. As a household, we are tossing less trash and have reduced our waste significantly. We also have reduced our grocery bill. In my experience - there has been ZERO negative to making this change.
I would recommend this lifestyle change to anyone, even if you're not ready to jump in 100%, small changes can be beneficial. Maybe add a #meatlessmonday into your meal plan? Maybe try some oat or nut milk instead of cow milk in your household. There's no bad way to add more delicious plants into your diet, so go for it!