I’m sure you’ve noticed the trending lifestyle changes amongst many people, especially many college students. I’m sure you’ve noticed the signs in the dining halls labeling things as “vegetarian” or “vegan.” I am certain you’ve either said “oh, I could never do that,” or “I wonder how people do that?” Well, if you are wondering the second question, I am here to help you potentially transition into a more plant-based diet with these helpful tips.
- Know why you’re doing it. Some people try to transition into a vegan or vegetarian diet just because it’s trendy, but that is not a good reason and will not help you enjoy the process. In order to transition into a plant-based diet you will enjoy, you need to understand your convictions and motivations behind doing it. For example, what made me want to transition into a vegetarian diet almost three years ago was doing research and finding out just how bad the meat industry is for the environment. I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist; I’ve always recycled, used reusable grocery bags and reused basically anything I am able to. I felt like a hypocrite if I continued to contribute to this industry that didn’t look out for the environment like I aimed to.
That was my motivation; everyone has different ones. For some people, it’s the environment; for others, it’s the animal cruelty. If you are even remotely interested in a plant-based diet, do research and find out what would motivate you. Without your own convictions, it won’t be an enjoyable process. Find your convictions and motivations and then plan out your new lifestyle!
- Take your time. A lot of people who want to transition into a plant-based diet just think they have to go from an omnivore to a vegan in the matter of a day. There’s this shame surrounded by just becoming vegetarian or pescatarian (a person who just eats fish) or only cutting out red meat. People think it’s all-or-nothing. This simply isn’t true. I began my journey by cutting out all meat except for fish. After a year, I cut out fish. Then after a year of being fully vegetarian, I cut out dairy and became vegan. This slow transition ensured that I could take my time learning what my body needed, figuring out what vegetarian and vegan foods I liked and allowed me to explore my options. Ultimately, your diet is your own lifestyle choice and you can choose any pace you think will be best for you.
- Snack a lot. In order to change your lifestyle this drastically, you’re going to have to change some of your habits. One habit you should pick up is snacking a lot. While you are definitely able to get enough protein and iron with a plant-based diet, you have to go out of your way to think about it. Your main courses in meals don’t have as much protein or iron, so you should get your protein and iron in little things throughout the day. Snack on nuts, peanut butter crackers and fruit to ensure you’re getting all of your daily nutrients.
- Be open to trying new things. When you cut meat out of your diet in any way, it takes a bit of effort to do so. You have to think of new main courses for meals, find new restaurants, and of course, answer the age old question, “Where am I going to get my protein and iron?” You can’t possibly expect to transition into a plant-based diet without trying some new things. You might need to try different foods to be sure you’re getting your protein; you might need to try new restaurants because your old favorites don’t have as many options as you’d like. Either way, this isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean you need to be open to trying as many new things as possible.
If you’re considering cutting down your meat intake in any way, I hope you listen to these tips and they are beneficial to you on your plant-based journey.