Emily Ellerby-Hunt takes us through her top tips for transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle.
Switching over to a plant-based lifestyle can seem overwhelming. After taking part in veganuary earlier in the year, I soon realised that my body couldn’t keep up with the lack of protein in my diet, and general unhealthy state I was in after ‘doing veganism’ rather irresponsibly. Since then, I have done my best to change my eating habits and take on a more plant-based diet, without going ‘cold turkey’ and damaging my health. Here are 5 tips to help your transition to a plant-based lifestyle!
1. Just go for it!
You can do all the preparation and research in the world, but once you start making small changes to your diet, the rest will follow! Simply taking the plunge and ordering the vegetarian breakfast instead of the Full English at brunch will be an excellent step in realising that cutting down on animal products when out and about is easier than you might think.
2. A little goes a long way
There’s no expectation for you to suddenly become the best vegan the world’s ever seen from day one, but beginning to make little changes can make a huge difference, not only to your own attitude, but to the planet as well! For example, I started by removing little bits of meat at a time from my diet, choosing a cheese and tomato sandwich on my lunch break instead of ham. Start to think of meals you have regularly, and choose a simple swap. (We have lots of recipes and advice in our Food and Drink section if you need some inspiration!)
3. Be self-aware
As I alluded to in my Veganuary series, changing your diet and lifestyle overnight is not the healthiest or safest option for your body. You need to give yourself time to get used to small changes, particularly if shaking up your diet could lead to health issues. Do your research, and make sure you are still eating as healthily as you can and know what your body can and cannot handle. For example, during my transition to vegetarianism, I continued to eat bacon quite a few times a week, as I knew my body well enough to know there was no other way to get the same fat and salt content into my diet. Sometimes a quick trip to your GP to discuss which changes are safe, and which to avoid, can be all it takes.
4. Try new things
If, like me, you’re a relatively fussy eater with a limited food palette, trying new things can seem daunting, but it’s so worth it. Even if you just find one new vegetable to add to your stir fry, it’ll make the transition to a plant-based diet so much easier. There’s no way I would have even considered trying some of the foods I love now a year ago but taking small steps to introduce new things into my diet slowly has completely transformed my eating habits!
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you are making small changes to live a more plant-based lifestyle, you’re already contributing so much more to the environment (and your own health) than you were before. The fact is you’re trying, so don’t feel bad if you’re tempted by some meat every now and again – sometimes it’s not about changing your entire diet and lifestyle, but rather making small changes that will benefit the world around you.
If you’re considering living a more plant-based lifestyle, you’re already halfway there. Making small swaps and changes is the best way to get started, so open yourself up to new foods and get talking with others. Perhaps pledge to start Meat Free Mondays with a flatmate, or plan coffee trips with your friends, ordering a dairy-free milk alternative when you get there. There are so many ways to slowly introduce these things into your diet, without completely turning your whole lifestyle upside down.
About the Author: Emily Ellerby-Hunt is the Food and Drink Section Editor for Wild Magazine, and currently studies theatre at the University of York.