At the Christmas table the other day, someone asked me the age-old, annoying question: 'How on earth do vegans get their protein?' I couldn’t take it, so I rolled my eyes and started rattling off vegan food sources to which they replied, 'I know, I know, but vegans have to be careful… you can’t just switch to a vegan lifestyle overnight because it shocks your body.’ Welcome to the next annoying statement made to vegans. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of it, you’ll know how ridiculous it sounds that your body can be “shocked”, almost as though you’ve started eating glass. However, as someone with an open mind I must say this interested me and I wondered if there could possibly be any reality to the statement that you need to somehow ease into a vegan lifestyle. There is - but not because you’re going to be lacking protein (that’s just silly talk).
- Go Easy on Yourself
Rather, switching to any new lifestyle requires a bit of gentleness. You might think jumping in and making all the changes you want overnight will help you hit the ground running, but it could actually feel overwhelming if meat and dairy have been huge staples in your diet. Try to cut out one item a week, such as red meat the first week, then dairy the next, and so on. This gets you psychologically ready for the changes and will improve your longevity, especially if non-vegan foods have played a large role in your diet.
- Get Ready Before You Start
Take time to prepare your meals. This is an important step before becoming vegan. Making a switch to a vegan lifestyle will probably leave gaps in your meals so you don’t want to wing it - rather plan from a week or so what you’re going to eat and prepare substitutes for dairy and meat (such as with nut milks and vegan protein sources) that will prevent you from reaching for unhealthy vegan packaged foods that are full of sugar and unhealthy ingredients.
- Take Note of How You Feel
Bear in mind that whenever you make a change to your diet, your body might react. This could take the form of stomach woes or mood changes, for instance. This is normal because even a positive change can require time before it makes you feel good! However, if you concentrate on eating nutritious foods, this will offset the side-effects and make you feel healthy. As with any lifestyle change, preparing yourself for a vegan diet is a smart way to get into the zone and succeed. It also means that you can be healthier, because you will be more conscious about the foods you’re purchasing and where you’re getting your nutrients. Remember that everyone’s body is different and if you feel discomfort, take longer to ease into a vegan lifestyle. There are no rules, except for what works for you!
*Image courtesy iko / Dollar Photo Club