13 Tips For Transitioning from Meat-Based to Plant-Based Eating (…And Stay On It)
By: Shaiyah Luthuli
According to an article that was published on PsychologyToday.com, 84% of vegetarians and vegans return to meat after a while. I know, that’s a huge number! But why is this? Well, it is mostly due to social pressure, taste (sentimental) issues and shallow reasoning, because of a lack of information. Most people become vegan to be popular or just want some adventure. Some are just moved by emotional refreshment which gets short-lived.
There is nothing wrong with being vegan because you felt sorry for animals after watching Earthlings and Cowspiracy.
But being vegan is more serious than many people think today. It is not a fringe movement as popular media would have you believe. It is important that one grows and develops a deeper sensitivity to the truth about the practices of the food industry and the impact of what we eat on our health and our environment. Your intentions may be initially pure and sincere. But there is a right and wrong way to go about anything. In the wise words of Dr. Milton Mills, “If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing it right.” That’s why Vegan eKasi is here. Let’s get it right and reduce those stats.
So, how do you let go of meat and stay off it?
That’s one of the questions I get asked the most (besides the “Where do you get protein?” question lol). It seems that most people try to go vegan but find themselves unable to resist and miss fried chicken at some point.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy to let go of foods you have been eating all your life. As Doctor Milton Mills states in one interview, “…When most humans think about food, we think about it in a romantic sense. We think about it in terms of you know, Grandma, Thanksgiving and first dates, and favourite meals. And we think about the romance of foods, but we don’t think about what food really is and what it’s supposed to do.”
And that’s real talk! Food plays an important role in defining who we are and where we have been. Certain foods trigger certain memories in our psyche. So, it becomes difficult for some to let go because we are so emotionally attached to them. However, when we consider going vegan, we must think more logically about why we’re doing it. Informed logic must override emotions at this point. So, first up on the list is reasoning:
1. Define your reasons.
People transition to a vegan plant-based lifestyle for many reasons.
This could be personal health, abstaining from harming animals, conserving the environment, supporting a friend or any other reason. Whatever your reason, it must be clearly defined so that you live with purpose and you can answer why you’re doing it when asked. This also serves as a reminder at the back of your head to help you stay focused. Clarity of purpose is key to achieving anything in life.
2. Research the benefits of the vegan lifestyle.
In line with your reasons for going vegan, research further about the great benefits of being vegan.
For example, if you are doing it for health reasons; research further on the health benefits of eating vegan for health reasons. This will expand your mind and give you more reason to stay on your path. Not to say that you shouldn’t look at other environmental or animal welfare reasons. But strengthen your main cause first. It is inevitable that you will become more aware of the far-reaching benefits of this lifestyle.
The Benefits of the Vegan Diet (Image from VeganPpl.com)
3. Go Meat Free once a week (more if you can).
According to Dancing with Mangoes, eating just one vegan meal saves about 3000 gallons of water and 16 pounds of grain and saves your money and health. So, going meat free once a day in a week can help you towards meeting your meat-free goal. That equates to 4 meat-free days in a month. So Why not try observing meat free Mondays?
Meat Free Monday is a non-profit campaign launched by Paul McCartney and family in 2009. According to their website MeatFreeMonday.com, the campaign “aims to raise awareness of the detrimental environmental impact of eating meat, and to encourage people to slow climate change, conserve precious natural resources and improve their health by having at least one meat-free day each week” to help minimise the impact that animal farming and meat eating has on the environment, animals and human health.
4. Set goals
In her book, “The Sacred Diet,” Dr. Karaliah E. Nasik Gavriel advises that “for the first 5-7 months of your transition, try to limit your meat and dairy consumption, while you include plenty of vegetables and fruit daily.” This allows the body to adjust to a different climate and different types of foods and avoid an uncomfortable cleansing crisis. “After 7 months to the end of the first year, add more limitations to your diet, such as graduating to a diet of fish only (from the meat family), no dairy, and plenty of fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds.” This entire process can also be made very easy by the introduction of meat-substitutes.
5. Transition Gradually
I recommend transitioning into a vegan diet rather than stopping all at once. This will help prepare your mind and body for the change.
What this would look like is going meatless one day a week as mentioned above and having a meat and dairy free meal for one of the 3 meals you consume daily. This can be a cereal, smoothie or porridge of choice for breakfast, veggie burger with salad for lunch or pasta with roasted veggies for dinner. You can also snack with a lot of fruits and nuts in-between meals. This will ensure plant intake and reduce meat intake to zero over time. You can increase the number of meat free meals you have a day as you get into the swing of things.
6. Use what you know and have
We’ve all gone through this stage of wondering what vegans eat. Don’t start thinking too deep about what you will eat. Don’t look too far either. Eat more of the foods you are already familiar with and know are not from animals.
Yes, many of us know many vegetables already, but they’ve lost their VIP status. That changes now. It’s time you started to become excited again when you think of potatoes and the many dishes you can do with them from potato salads, potato soup, wedges, mashed potato and so on. All those veggies and fruits that are accessible at your local market must become your best friends as you learn more and discover other meals.
To give you an idea of the meals, there are many plant-based dishes that we eat when we’re omnivores before we even make the decision to go vegan. If you live in the townships you will already be familiar with umngqusho (samp and beans), umfino (pap and spinach), sugar bean curry with steamed bread (ujeqe), various pumkin and butternut dishes, coleslaw and so on. There are also various sorghum (amabele) and wheat dishes that we eat for breakfast and dinner as well. Embrace them!
Also, you can revamp and “spice up” some of these and your favourite dishes. It’s amazing how much flavour herbs and spices can add to the usual sugar bean curry and how tasty cabbage becomes when you add coconut milk and coriander (dhania) to spice to them. Again: FLAVOUR!
Try this creamed cabbage recipe. Simple yet so tasty. It’s to live for!
7. Find Vegan-friendly Substitutes.
I mentioned coleslaw in a previous point. You can easily have a vegan coleslaw with dairy-and-egg-free mayonnaise that is readily available at many supermarkets. You just have to read the labels to make sure it has no eggs and no milk. You’ll find it very rewarding to introduce that mayonnaise to your family and get it to be the family choice. It worked for me when I did it. Learn more about other vegan options available in the usual South African shops and supermarkets on the SA Vegan Directory.
8. Read Books and magazines with easy recipes.
As I advised above, when I started my journey, I started by eating more of the dishes I already knew that didn’t feature any meat in them. But I was also curious to learn and try new dishes and I wanted that process to be as simple and short as possible. So, I started looking for books with easy vegan recipes. They’re plenty. I would also look at the recipes in magazines and newspapers and surprisingly found some simple recipes there that I could explore.
So how do I measure a simple and easy recipe? Well, firstly it doesn’t have too many ingredients. Secondly, the method to prepare it is easy. Thirdly I am familiar with the ingredients and they’re easily accessible to me. Lastly, I know myself, what I am capable of doing and how much patience I possess. So, it was easy to pick a book.
You can also go for those 30-minute meal books or also 5-7 ingredients books when you begin. They help a lot. I needed something that would be quick to prepare especially since I had a full-time job and I came back late and tired from work. Or you can simply search the online vegan community for recipes.
9. Connect with other vegans
These days you can find vegans easily. Make sure to hang out with more people that are already vegan or people that want to transition to veganism just like you. You can find other vegans in your neighbourhood easily online these days on groups like the SA Vegan Society and other groups specific to an area near you. Also you get to meet more people at vegan events like vegan markets, gala dinners and others.
10. Stick to Whole Foods Instead of Processed Foods.
Let’s just face it. Not all vegan foods are healthy or natural. If your aim is to reach maximum health, then processed and chemically-based foods will hinder that goal. Wherever possible, go for whole plant-based foods instead of the processed stuff. If you do happen to eat processed, keep it in minimal moderation.
Learn more about the health benefits of wholefoods and the bad effects of processed foods. If you’re going to give up hot wings and cheese, you might as well rip all the benefits of not consuming that stuff. A vegan diet filled with overly processed foods is what has given a bad rep in the medical world as “nutrient deficient.” But what we are talking about here is a wholefoods plant-based diet.
11. Plan your meals weekly.
This isn’t always easy, but it helps a lot. When you plan your meals, it becomes easy to buy produce for what you plan to eat that week. Having things to cook already in the house will save you from buying the ever-available junk foods in the desperate moments where you don’t know what to eat.
12. Try new recipes
Try new recipes at least once a month or once a week if you are able to. This can help you to get that vegan chef out of you. We know he/she exists deep down inside you. This also helps you to introduce a new meal to your ordinary meals. If you try the recipe and love it, why not make it a regular feature on your menu?
13. Take it easy.
Please relax and enjoy the learning process. If you fall, then dust yourself and get up again. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re not competing with anybody else. Strengthen your connections and commitment to your cause instead.
In conclusion, Dr. Karaliah advises that “after the first year, continue to set goals and plan toward your ultimate goal of becoming a complete vegan. Try to envision yourself in another year. Note the positive changes in your physical health, mental consciousness, etc. and develop or make time for an exercise plan that will enhance the results of your new lifestyle.”
Enjoy your journey!
If you’re new to the journey, please let us know your thoughts on this post. Is it helpful in anyway? Are there any other questions that you’d like for us to address particularly? Let us know in the comments section.
And if you’re a seasoned vegan, are there any other points you’d like to add to assist our new fellow aspirants to take with them? Please feel free and drop them in the comments! Thanks in advance!
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