I didn't turn to a vegan diet cold turkey. I turned to a vegan diet out of necessity. I was vegetarian for many years. Yet I suffered from severe heartburn and reflux. It was BAD. At times, I felt like I was having a heart attack, and the pain was so unbearable that I thought I was going to die! Yes, it was as bad as that. Medication didn't help. So I decided to eat alkaline food only. To my surprise, I was able to cure the heartburn and reflux by switching to a 100% plant based diet. I also started to sleep better. Last but not least, I was able to do proper hikes again. I happily transitioned to a vegan diet.
Because of all the pain and nausea, it was an easy choice for me. I started to focus on my health only. Because I felt so sick, I was happy enough if I managed to cook vegan and alkaline food for myself.
I know transitioning to a vegan diet is not easy for many people - yes, including myself. So, I made this list of 10 tips for a healthy transition to a vegan diet for you. I know these tips helped me, and I hope you find them useful, too. Enjoy.
10 tips to a healthy transition to a vegan diet.
1. Clean your kitchen
When you empty your kitchen of unhealthy food choices, it's easer to focus on healthy eating choices. Go through all your cupboards and fridge and get rid of everything that's processed or not 100% plant based.
Foods in unopned packages can be donated to your local street kitchen. Everything else goes in the garbage bin.
2. Stock up your kitchen
Time to go shopping: buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables - this is a given. Here are items I always keep stocked in my cupboard:
- Beans - any will do, like lentils and chickpeas - I prefer dried over canned.
- Grains - I look for non-gluten types like quinoa and rice
- Nuts and seeds (flaxseed is #1 in my book)
- Miso (fermented beans)
- Vegetable stock (not necessary)
- Nutritional yeast (not necessary)
- Herbs, whatever is in season
3. Baby steps
Start slowly. My suggestion is that you add foods to your diet and not remove any, to begin with. Start by eating a salad before lunch for a week, then expand to a salad before lunch and before dinner for seven days. When you eat a salad before your meal, you will, without thinking about it, eat less. In the following week, eat 50 percent less junky food per meal. Into the third week, keep cutting down until you eliminate 75 percent of the junk. Finally, by the end of a month's time, remove everything that's not plant based.
4. Eat what you like
If you don't like kale now, then you will not like kale when you transion to a vegan diet. Eat the fruits and veggies you like. And try new varieties to find new favorites.
5. Cut down on processed foods
Processed foods are bad for us, because they make us addicted to fat, sugar and salt. If you buy a lot of prepared meals, start cooking for yourself. Prepping your own lunch is easy, and you can find many videos online for creating easy vegan lunches. A few videos are added at the end of this post.
Drop the softdrinks. It's time to drink water when you are thirsty and not drink sugar. A beer or wine occationally - vegan of course - and with a meal is a nice treat, if you drink. You can find out if your favorites are vegan here.
6. Know your food.
Most of the commercial vegan products on the market such as fake burgers, meatballs, and cheese are processed foods and not healthy. Think saturated fat and excessive amino acids: these foods are often packed with highly refined oils, flours, sugars, and salts. Therefore, it's better to indulge in these foods only once in a while. The good thing is, our bodies get addicted to what we eat most of. Be prepared! Your body will soon prefer fresh foods to processed. It's pretty aweome when your body craves healthy vegan diet options, not junk.
7. Make you meals easy and fun.
Unless your hobby is cooking or you are a chef, I recommend you find easy and fast recipes. It's easy to make your meals more exciting and fun, through online videos, posts, and vegan communities. I like to find vegan cookbooks to pore through.
8. Give up dairy
Now is the time to give up dairy, if you're serious about a vegan diet. There are growing varieties of plant milks on the market. There are also vegan cheeses and dressings. During the transition period it can be good to buy those, but I do not recommended continuing to consume a lot as they are also processed. I have added a homemade cheese recipe at the end of this post.
I did a smoothie diet challenge, and now all the greens goodness is a part of my morning routine. Overnight oats is a great thing to eat, in the summer fresh fruit and bread. Quinoa bowls is another fun thing to try. If you are stuck on bread or muffins still, try making your own plant-based quick breads or muffins tht are easy to freeze and take out a serving at time as you need it.
10. Go easy on yourself.
You ate something non-vegan? don't beat yourself up, just go back to your vegan diet immediately. Nothing bad happened, you are human. After my reflux was healed and I could eat "normal" again, I planned cheat meals, at the beginning once a week. Now I barely cheat more than once a month, if that. Remeber you are on a journey, not a race, but do remember to get some kind of exercise regularly.
Here's an easy cheesy recipe for you:
Vegan cashew cheese
- 1 cup of soaked cashew nuts
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 60 ml / 3-4 Tblsp. water
- salt & pepper to taste
Pulse everything but the water - add the water little by little as needed.