The Month-Long Vegan Diet: 5 Tips for Beginners

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Here at The Institute for the Psychology of Eating we do NOT endorse or promote any particular diet or nutritional lifestyle. We do highly encourage that each person openly explores the wide variety of nutritional approaches and dietary strategies that are available to them. We see nutrition as an ever changing journey. We believe that a healthy relationship with food and a well functioning metabolism is possible when we can each be open to what works best for ourselves, and others. We believe there’s a nugget of wisdom to be found in just about any diet that’s been designed with care in mind for people and planet.

While the health benefits of adopting a vegan diet are plenty, the thought of never again digging into another bison burger, steak, or grilled cheese for that matter, may be daunting to some. Contrary to what our mind often want us to believe, trying out a new diet does not mean lifelong limits or the destruction of food freedom.  Adopting a plant-based diet for a month, like any other of the three levels of diet, can serve a valuable purpose. Many studies have shown that the absence of meat in a diet may cause a lighter tummy, better digestion, clearer thinking, a fuller wallet, greater feeling of connection, and a stir of ethical values in the heart. One month of experimentation should leave anyone with a clear grasp of whether or not these studies hold true for their unique body mind.

“…But the steak,” collectively sigh all the skeptics.

Forget about having a life without your current favorite foods. That will never happen if you don’t want it to. The goal of eating vegan for a month is to experiment with energy levels, digestion, food creativity, explore some of the messages your body may have been sending you, and hey – maybe even save some money in the process.

For anybody considering a month-long Vegan Diet, here are 5 beginner’s tips to keep in mind while enjoying a plant-based diet adventure.

1. Embrace change.

There may be a few physical, social, mental and emotional changes within that first month of adopting a plant-based diet. And most likely, even in the first few days. An individual’s diet is extremely personal and can change the vibe of an entire day, and sometimes, an entire lifetime. Energy levels may dip at first as your body recalibrates, but experts say – they will skyrocket later on. Social gatherings that involve food may require a little additional preparation, such as notifying the host of some recently acquired dietary needs. Mind Body Nutrition will become even more apparent as the individual ventures into their vegan sensibility, as one may notice a sensation of being “lighter,” or even lethargic feelings, in the mind and body. On the other hand, topics that may have been bothersome before may become less stressful. That’s the “yin” kicking in  – the deep, calm, cool, collective with the slight lack of “yang,” the go, bang, boom brightness that can sometimes burn us out. These are just tendencies, so be on the lookout for your own body’s signals, as everyone will responds differently, and there is no way to know exactly what will happen. Just expect changes and embrace them as much as possible; they may lead to an eye-opening health transformation down the road!

2. Include the sugar, salt and spice.

A vegan plant-based diets consists of veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, healthy plant based fats, and sometimes soy. Many of these foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are water-rich. Many times, when individuals adopt a healthier diet, they are picky about everything they eat, include their salt and sugar intake. With the amount of watery foods a vegan consumes, it’s important to be conscious about getting in proper sodium to balance the body. Water retention and water weight fluctuation is normal within the first month, but expect the body to stabilize after it has time to adjust. Most importantly, do not stress about sugar or salt intake, use it to taste, as they are both necessary for the body and even help with everyday activity and bodily functions. Lastly, spice up mealtime with new herbs and seasonings. Explore, play! Just because there might not be any meat on the plate, doesn’t mean flavor has to go!

3. Prepare in advance.

One of the most common reasons for relinquishing a new diet is due to a lack of preparation. It doesn’t need to be a four-hour batch-cooking affair, but there are undoubtedly benefits to having a fridge stocked full of colourful snacks and meals ready to go at the grumble of a tummy. Find a few vegan meals that sound appealing, as well as six or seven versatile snacks for the week. Poor over those new eye-catching recipes. Go to the grocery store with a plan knowing exactly what meals to make for the week. A plant-based diet is thrives on fresh foods that have quickly-approaching expiration dates. There aren’t many items you will be able to buy and then eat months down the road, considering plants don’t last as long as frozen meats and canned soups – but check out the bulk section at your local health food store for grains and beans that are kind to the budget and keep well in your pantry. Buy frozen vegetables for emergencies, as well as nuts, seeds (which also do best in your fridge to keep those delicate oils in tact). Next, buy a reasonable amount of produce, as well as a few packages of tofu, tempeh and seitan if your curious. Spend about an hour at home chopping up the vegetables and storing in containers or bags that are ready for grab-and-go or can easily be tossed into a salad. Remember, there are no “off limit” meals. Find a traditional dish you love and experiment making it plant-based. Make a large batch or two so that there are multiple meals ready for work or last minute dinners.

4. Make sleep a priority.

There will most likely be a big difference in both micro and macro-nutrients in a recent vegan’s body. It could result from the lack of animal fats, a possible reduction of protein intake, a rise in vitamins, a difference in food volume, or another nutrient change. Expect to feel tired at times and embrace the moment by recharging and taking a power nap or hitting the hay early. Don’t take this as an alarming signal that veganism “isn’t for you” after just a few days. A change in calories and nutrients often signals the body to preserve energy and rest. If it’s a consistent energy dip and every day activities become difficult, that may be a signal that the body needs more calories. Enjoy a higher calorie snack, such as an avocado and spinach salad with an additional handful of nuts and filling carbohydrates like quinoa and dried fruit.

 5. Don’t over-think it.

There’s something very powerful about our thought process, especially when it becomes obsessive; it’s strong enough to motivate you into (or out of) a number of situations. Spend enough time pondering why a vegan diet may be beneficial and then move on, focusing on only those reasons that matter most to you, and be sure to include a healthy dose of realistic expectations. If the first restaurant outing was slightly difficult than any previous dinner, just use that knowledge to know what to do next time. Spend that extra minute picking out a restaurant that may be more appropriate for your new food style, without sacrificing the taste and delicacy of a dish. If you find your energy dips for a long period of time during the day, consider the number of calories you’re taking in. Without the caloric density of animal products you might need to up your game. Be open to enjoying larger meals and more snacks and then reevaluate. Don’t throw in the towel because it might take a little extra preparation, but also be aware of when it becomes too much preparation. And always be willing to invite pleasure to the table.

Changing your relationship with food and nourishment takes time. By the way, this is some of the same key great material that we dive into in our premier online program for the public – Transform Your Relationship with Food™.

The key with beginning a vegan diet is to, first: expect change and second, be prepared. Always put Mind Body Nutrition first and make happiness a priority. One month may or may not be enough time to know whether a plant-based, vegan diet is your long-term dietary soul mate, but there’s no harm in trying it. Enjoy the time spent making a nutritional change and use that knowledge to decide what will be on the meal plan for day 31.

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