We are raised to believe that eating meat is normal, natural and necessary. It is built into our cultures, traditions, national holidays and even our sense of pride.
With that in mind, switching away from a lifetime of consuming animal products can be a serious challenge.
Many of us know that eating less meat is the right thing to do. For the planet, for the animals, for our health. But from time to time we struggle to stay true to the cause and slip-ups can happen. Whether it’s a drunken burger at 3am after a boozy night out, or a full-blown week of guilt-laden meatatarian gorging, the first step is forgiveness.
Human beings are at our best when we forgive ourselves, each other and move forward.
The fact that you are reading this article shows that you care. Deeply. Lean into that love and stay away from self-admonishment.
You are enough. No one is perfect. Every day, every meal is a chance to make a difference.
Read on for my best tips and advice for getting back on the plant-based train.
Tip 1: Accept that this is not a binary argument.
If you set yourself a goal of running a marathon but give up with 5 miles to go, you would walk away feeling let-down /disappointed. That is human nature at its finest. We set ourselves lofty, often unrealistic goals and dive deep into disappointment when it finds us. Or, more realistically, when we go searching for it.
In that moment of suffering, we all too easily forget that we have just run 21 miles (a full marathon is 26.2 miles). 21 miles is probably far further than 99.9% of the world’s population will ever run in one go in their entire lives. It’s more than some would run in total over their whole lifetime.
If you eat a plant-based diet 95% of the time, you are still doing 95% of the good that a fully plant-based person is doing. Give yourself some credit. You are awesome.
I don’t know you personally, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your efforts.
Tip 2: Learn the ethical and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet.
Many people switch to a plant-based diet to improve their health. If you have ditched animals products to lower your cholesterol or improve your athletic performance then bravo! Just keep in mind, that when you embrace new habits for personal gain, they are all too easy to drop when the going gets tough.
We have all had a gym membership that turned into a gym donation. We have all started flossing for 1 week after visiting the dentist, then given up for the rest of the year. We have all started running every day in summer before giving up entirely when it gets cold.
There are 3 foundational pillars that support a plant-based approach to life: Personal health, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. For most of us that live a plant-rich life, animal welfare and sustainability provide far more meaning to our daily choices than personal health.
Animal Welfare: No animal deserves to die for my personal culinary pleasure.
Environmental: What could be more important than embracing the most powerful personal choice we can make to reverse global warming?
Tip 3: Embrace good fats.
Have you ever finished a plant-based meal and felt like you were missing something? That you weren’t ‘full’ yet?
What you are probably missing is not meat, per se, but the satiating fat that comes with it. Instead of jumping for a steak, drizzle a little fresh extra-virgin olive oil over your meal, add avocado to each dish, or fry/roast your veggies in a suitable high-heat oil (ie. coconut or rapeseed oil). You will find your meals to be more satisfying and filling as a result.
Also be sure to add flavour to your vegetables, beans and grains. When we eat meat, we all too often look at vegetables as a necessary afterthought. Boiled broccoli doesn’t get too many people excited.
Instead, roast it in a little bit of oil and some dried oregano and drizzle with a little lemon juice before serving.
Other herbs that add a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to veggies are:
Plus salt and pepper of course. Play around with combinations of those until you find what you like.
Tip 4: Embrace energy-dense foods.
The app allows you to track your intake of the essential “Daily Dozen” foods. Which together form the ‘whole foods plant-based diet‘. They are:
Beans (3 servings)
Berries (1 serving)
Other Fruits (3 servings)
Cruciferous Vegetables (1 serving)
Greens (2 servings)
Other Vegetables (2 servings)
Flaxseeds (1 serving)
Nuts and Seeds (1 serving)
Herbs and Spices (1 serving)
Whole Grains (3 servings)
Beverages (5 servings)
Exercise (40–90mins per day)
Vitamin B12 (once per day)
The biggest takeaway from this list is the 3 servings each of Beans and Grains. These energy-dense feeds provide you with plenty of plant-based fuel to kick-ass and take names doing whatever your day involves.
Moral of the story is, get more rice and beans in your life and you’ll be on the right track.
If you manage to tick all those boxes it’s highly unlikely you are going to feel like you are ‘missing’ anything.
Tip 5: Eat more!
Following on from the points above. Please understand that you need to eat more food in general on a plant-based diet. For those of you who obsess about your weight, this can be a challenge. If you have struggled with staying plant-based in the past, try not worrying about portion sizes for a month and see how you feel. Stay away from vegan junk food and avoid loads of sugar while hitting your ‘Daily Dozen’ and you should be on your way to success.
Oh and remember to be kind to yourself!
Photo by Johan Nilsson on Unsplash