Do you want to change how you feel for the better? Get excited, because you are about to THRIVE. I am encouraging you to trial 30 days, 100% PLANT-BASED!
First, let’s clear this up. It’s not animal products that are lacking in most of our diets. No! It is beautiful, simple fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other plant foods that have protective effects against chronic diseases. Well-planned vegan diets can be rich in protein, omega 3, iron, calcium and zinc, despite common beliefs. They are also inadvertently always packed with fibre, low in saturated fat and cholesterol and full of antioxidants, to ward off some of the most common, serious diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Try not to focus on “what you can’t have”. Instead, begin to visualise what you can enjoy. A vegan diet is a very colourful, textural, tasty way of eating. It truly encourages you to eat the rainbow – a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and spices.
Think about your favourite meal. Seldom is it plain, un-marinated slabs of meat without any veggie sides or sauces! That is because it is these plant-foods, brought to you by mother nature, perfect and unadulterated, that bring life and flavour to a meal.
“But I’ll be hungry” I hear you say. Listen, it is not simply about cutting out the animal food sources, but rather replacing / swapping. Instead of mince, use lentils, Try replacing chicken with tempeh. Why not enjoy a bean or grain burger instead of a slab of steak for once?
It doesn’t matter if you don’t see this as sustainable, a long-term way of eating, give it a proper go, and take from it this: the one thing that all diets agree upon is that plants should make up the majority of your plate. It is indisputable.
So use this 30 day challenge as a way to find new and creative ways to experiment with plant-foods, so that if you do decide to reintroduce animal products, you are still ensuring that a large portion of your dietary intake comes from plants. Plus, you now have a repertoire of recipes and different ways to prepare vegetables, and you have given your body a much-needed reset and boost!
There are many moral reasons I could list – environmental concerns, animal welfare issues – let’s be honest, we all know them, we just try not to think about them. However, most interestingly, and not talked about often enough, are the health benefits, the correlation between standard western diets and disease, and the way in which we have allowed mainstream media and food marketing to distort our beliefs, our instincts and our relationship with eating. We have become entirely disconnected from our food; what it is, where it comes from and what it does for us.
Let’s look at the benefits
Better energy – animal protein is extremely acidic and hard to digest, utilising a lot of your energy. When you eliminate them for a time, feel your energy free-up and be available for other things!
Improved digestion – as mentioned, meat and dairy is acidic and difficult to break down. It can “putrefy” in the very long human digestive tract, taking anywhere from 24-72 hours to digest red meat. It also has no fibre (zero!) to help push it along. This can mean that other foods, such as plants, which digest quicker, can often get “caught” up in the process, leading to bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements.
Proper detoxification – Healthy bowel movements are essential for proper detoxification and elimination of toxins. We should be “going” around 3 times a day! Yet so many are not. A plant-diet is a high-fibre diet, whereas a high protein diet is generally a low-fibre diet. As mentioned, meat has no fibre whatsoever! With less than 4% of the population meeting the recommended number of serves of vegetables/legumes, our most fibrous foods. On a vegan diet, there is no way you can avoid hitting and exceeding the daily fibre target of 25g!
Brighter and clearer skin – since eliminating meat helps free up energy, your body can now focus on cellular repair to keep hair, skin and nails strong, glowy and lustrous.
Improved mood – some studies suggest that a plant-based diet may reduce anxiety and depression whilst boosting productivity and mood!
Weight loss – weight-loss can be a pleasant side effect of a healthy, nutritionally complete diet centred on whole plant-foods. Studies comparing The Body Mass Index (BMI) of meat eaters, flexitarians, pescetarians, vegetarians and vegans, indicate that vegans maintain an ideal weight/BMI.
Cardiovascular benefits – Cholesterol levels and blood pressure are likely to go down, reducing risk factors for chronic disease.
Are you ready to hit reset? Here’s how! See below for quantities you should aim for and what constitutes a serving.
5+ or more servings of vegetables/day:
- ½ cup cooked vegetables; 1 cup leafys/salad vegetables; ½ cup legumes
2-3 pieces of fruit/day:
- 1 serving = 1 medium sized fruit (apples, pears, banana); 2 smaller fruits (kiwi, stone fruits); ½ cup berries
2 servings of grains/day:
- 1 serving = slice of bread or ½ cup grains
2 servings legumes/day:
- 1 serving = ½ cup chickpeas, lentils or beans; 100-150g tofu/tempeh
2-3 of the following:
- 1 serving = 30g raw nuts/seeds/nut butters; ¼ avocado; 1 tbsp good quality oil
Recommended additionals to super-boost your nutrients: sea vegetables (dulse, nori, arame, kelp); nutritional yeast; spirulina; fermented vegetables; ground flaxseeds; Apple Cider Vinegar; pea or rice protein powder. Note, long-term vegan diets require B12 supplementation.
Breakfast ideas include: smoothies, oats, chia puddings, bircher muesli, baked oatmeal, breakfast crumbles, homemade loaves, tofu scrambles, quinoa & bean breakfast salads, healthy nut/muesli bars;
Lunch/dinner ideas include: grain/starch & legume salads with avocado/tahini; brown rice sushi with edamame beans; lentil/bean burgers and salad; dahl with rice and vegetables; rice or soba noodle miso vegetable soups with tempeh and seaweed; pumpkin and chickpea curry with brown rice/millet; tofu and mushroom stuffed lettuce cups; teff, lentil, tomato & olive stuffed capsicums; buckwheat noodles with lentil bolognese;
Feeling hungrier is quite normal and common when transitioning. Choose healthy snacks that include protein/fat such as: bliss balls; raw nuts/seeds,; carrots and hummus; rice crackers and avocado; nori wraps with tahini and avocado; celery and nut butter.
Try to leave 3 hours between meals/snacks, and always plate snacks for portion control. Include 1 tbsp vegan protein powder in your smoothie or oats if you workout in the morning and feel you need the energy. This is a time to experience – be your own best guide! Include 1-2 tbsp ground flaxseeds for plant-based omega-3; Include sea vegetables for healthy sources of iodine; Include nutritional yeast for B vitamins and amino acids;
Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates! There is no place for extremely low-carb diets on a plant-based diet. The good news is, eating this way, you don’t have to restrict these types of foods.
So give it a go! Eat the rainbow – pile your plate, bowl or blender with a variety of vegetables – the more the better!