Veganuary: My approach to a plant-based diet

I’ve dabbled with veganism on and off over the last few years. It was a means of making myself feel better after falling very ill and helped me to regain energy and weight that I had lost suddenly. I’ve been attracted to the idea of the lifestyle ever since due to the apparent health benefits but as somebody who struggles with IBS and has grown up eating animal products I was always worried that it would be too restrictive.

A few months back I sat and watched a documentary called Earthlings that opened my eyes to the treatment of animals in the farming industry. I’ve always been an animal lover but mentally separated the food that was on my plate from the animals that I so regularly see in fields. My interest in veganism had quickly changed from being health related to being ethically driven. I continued to watch documentaries and learned of the sustainability of a plant-based diet compared to a carnivorous diet.

I still refrained from going fully vegan as I was having constant IBS flare ups and I knew that I couldn’t put myself through the pain by eating foods that would trigger the painful symptoms. These foods included beans, legumes, certain vegetables and other high FODMAP foods. I allowed myself to eat whatever I wished and worked with a nutritionist and spoke to a bio-kinesiologist to heal my gut. After a few months I learned how to cook these foods in such a way that they wouldn’t have an effect on me.

I decided that I would take part in Veganuary as it would allow me to trial the diet for a month but I ended up cutting out animal products mid-December and have stuck to it since. It’s the first time I’ve eaten vegan that I feel like I can stick to the diet in the longterm as I have done plenty of research to ensure that I will get all nutrients that I need from this lifestyle.

These are the tips and tricks that I would give to anybody starting a vegan diet to get all of the benefits it has to offer !

  1. Eat Whole Foods:  

Ensure that the bulk of your diet consists of real foods in their whole form. This included fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Eating a variety of these foods will ensure that you are getting different vitamins and minerals which will help you to reach your RDA’s. Try and cut out packaged, processed foods as much as possible as they can contain added ingredients and chemicals that are not beneficial for your body.

2. Eat Plenty of Carbs

I have made the mistake before of eating a low-carb, plant-based diet which left me with no energy and constantly feeling weak. Carbs are your body’s main source of energy so make sure to fill your plate with foods such as potatoes, sweet potato, wholegrain rice, wholemeal pasta, brown bread, oats, sourdough, legumes etc.

Homemade Sourdough Bread

3. Make Sure You are Getting Protein

Protein is an important part of your diet. Your cells are made of protein and it is required to build and repair tissue, to make enzymes and hormones, to build, maintain and repair muscle. There are lots of plant-based proteins such as chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds and you can also get protein from grains such as quinoa, oats and wheat. There are also plenty of vegan protein powders on the market if you feel that you aren’t reaching your protein requirements

4. Add Some Fats

Adding healthy fats to your meals will keep you feeling full and can prevent you from unnecessarily snacking. I’m not a huge fan of using oils as I find it breaks me out but if you like using oil then olive oil, avocado oil and flax oil are great options. I eat 1-2 tbsp nut butter and 1tbsp flaxseeds on a daily basis and I regularly incorporate avocados, nuts and seeds into my diet to get my omegas.

5. Supplement your diet

Although you should be able to get most vitamins and minerals from your diet there are a few that vegans can find it hard to get from food alone. I always make sure to buy a fortified plant based milk to get most of my vitamins but I also take vegan omegas, vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and sometimes iodine (which can be found in foods such as seaweed).

6. Experiment in the Kitchen

Whenever I’m craving something that isn’t traditionally vegan such as pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, brownies or cookies I’ll get out my cookbooks or search the web for vegan recipes. They are often made using whole-foods which means they’ll be more nutritious than their traditional counterpart and are often more tasty than the original.

7. Treat Yourself

There are plenty of vegan ‘junk foods’ available in shops now so every so often feel free to treat yourself. Some of my favourite products are Vego Bars, Vego chocolate spread, Ben & Jerry’s dairy free chunky monkey, Ombar buttons, Hummus crisps and Strong Roots sweet potato fries.

8. Follow Other Vegans

There are so many incredible vegans on Instagram that regularly share what they are eating and I find this keeps me motivated to stick to the diet. My favourites include @lauras_views @venetiafalconer @plantbasedniamh @dancingfoody @zannavandijk @healthychefsteph @gracefituk @niomismart . You should definitely give these ladies a follow and If you know of any that you think I’d like please let me know @lovedbylaurenhealth

And there you have my top tips for going vegan. There is still 19 days left of Veganuary so it’s not too late to take part. I’ve decided that I will continue to eat a plant-based diet for a long as I can and hopefully this time next year I will be celebrating one year of being vegan,

Until next time,

Lauren xx

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