Today I’m going to tell you a tale. A tale about a girl who didn’t eat a vegetable until she was 20 and is now eats a raw vegan diet. Why am I going to tell you this tale? Because a brand new plant based journey can be challenging when you are in transition and I want to offer you some lessons learned from this tale to help you on your way. Lucky for you all, I’ve got the inside scoop because that girl is me.
While I have been eating about 80% raw for the past month, I have been plant based for the past 4 years. Before that however my diet was pretty dismal. I was the pickiest eater I knew. Breakfast was Bran Flakes with milk or scrambled eggs with bacon toast and ketchup. Every single day that I was in school from kindergarten through high school I ate black forest ham between two pieces of white bread for lunch. Every. Single. Day. For dinner I ate plain pasta with butter, well done meat with ketchup or chicken fingers and fries. And don’t think my parents were negligent. My brother and sister ate real food growing up I just flat out REFUSED to try anything else.
Now I tell you all of this to demonstrate that just because you have always done something one way doesn’t mean you can’t change. I certainly didn’t change overnight. I quite frankly had no desire to. My relationship with food started to change when I was in university and I felt like a total idiot not really being able to eat the things that all my friends did. I don’t think I truly appreciated how weird my diet was and how bad it was for me until I got out of my little hometown bubble.
Lesson#1: You don’t have to go from chicken fingers and fries to kale salads overnight
My transition was slow. I started putting lettuce and tomatoes on sandwiches because I knew they were good for me even if at the time I thought they were disgusting! I would eat as much of the sandwich as I could handle with all the goods on there and would pick all the veggies off when it got too much to bare. Slowly but surely I stopped picking the veggies off and eventually started adding more on.
As you change the food that you ingest the bacteria in your gut starts being fed by those foods. In time your whole microbiome looks different and that some gut flora will start craving that which you are feeding it. Like I said, slowly but surely.
The takeaway? Start where you are at. Don’t feel like you need to do it all at once. Sustainable change takes.
Lesson#2: Choose high quality, local and seasonal
After university I took off travelling to Asia. I moved to South Korea, a place known for its unique flavours and I was forced to adapt. From Korea I ventured to Southeast Asia, a land of aromatic spices and the best street food you could imagine! All over Asia there are markets abundant in exotic fruits and veggies and often there are food stalls preparing traditional dishes right on the spot. While a lot of this was intimidating at first, when I met the experience with an open mind my taste buds were rewarded. I naturally started gravitating toward local plant based fare because it was so flavourful and fresh!
The takeaway? Eat fruits and vegetables that are available locally, are in season and are prepared in a traditional way. The less miles that they have travelled to get to you means they are more nutrient rich, far more flavourful and generally more appealing when you are adjusting your palette.
Lesson#3: Be inspired
About four years ago I cut out meat and was fully vegetarian for the first time in my life. I felt phenomenal! I dropped stubborn weight and felt so alive and clear minded. While I genuinely enjoyed eating meat before and I still do love the odd sweet treat of the chocolate variety I wasn’t about to default back into something that wasn’t serving me. This is when I found a dusty old food processor and decided to enjoy my favourite foods in a new way. I looked online to find recipes for inspiration and then I started re-creating my favourite foods in a much healthier way. And to be honest, the healthy version often tastes way better than the conventional because it is deeply nutritious and provides the body with the nutrients needed to stop cravings in their tracks. By far the best part of leg of the journey was how much fun I started having in the kitchen!
The takeaway? With a little inspiration and creativity you can upgrade many of your favourite foods so they pack a nutrient dense punch!
I hope these few lessons on my plant based journey help you navigate yours! Happy snacking my friends!
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For some more resources on your journey check out this post.