4 QUESTIONS NEW PLANT-BASED VEGANS SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES
Some people transition to vegan diet and lifestyle because of ethical and environmental reasons, while being in good health is the reason for dietary change. You have probably read several articles on the benefits and risks of plant-based diet which made you feel a little apprehensive about your decision to say no to animal products. You came a long way to choose something that favours your health. Before continuing on this journey of new discoveries, you might want to ask yourself a few important questions.
1. Am I eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts?
Since you reduced/eliminated your intake of animal products, to make sure your macronutrient needs are met, eating enough grains, legumes and nuts is important. Vegetables and fruits do not provide a substantial number of calories. They provide phytonutrients which we need for the inner workings of our body. You have probably heard about a group of phytonutrients called antioxidants, which plant-based diet is abundant of. I would suggest reading HOW NOT TO DIE by Dr Greger for the science behind the foods on plant-based vegan diet, otherwise just download the Daily Dozen app to make it easier for yourself - you can tick off the foods once you have eaten them.
2. Does whole-food plant-based diet enhances or restricts my life?
If there is no one around you who eats similarly, social gatherings and travelling can be tough in the beginning. However, when you educate yourself and learn more about what foods are okay, the information on the food labels and what alternatives to animal products there are it will become easier. Also, you might want to make new friends who are similarly-minded. It's a matter of being confident in your decision to transition to plant-based vegan diet - the stronger it is, the easier it will be to enjoy your life without fear of judgment.
3. Do I feel better physically?
Most people do in the beginning. However, with time if the diet is not nutritionally balanced, deficiencies can develop. That's not to say that plant-based vegan diet is inadequate. On the contrary, it is one of the healthiest ways to eat, if you eat right for you. Vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium are a few of the nutrients to consider. Supplementing with vitamin D and B12 is advised. Observing changes as they happen is a good idea but our minds are capable of talking ourselves into thinking. In behavioural psychology, it is called confirmation bias - looking for proof that confirms personal beliefs. At the stage of transition, it is good to be aware of what changes can be expected but attributing them to purely dietary change is not the best idea.
4. Am I spending more money than before?
There are vegan equivalents to pretty much any animal product on the market nowadays. It's trendy to be vegan and food industry picked up on that. Being junk food vegan is also an option. These options could be labelled vegan convenience food - "open a packet and eat it" sort of thing. That is missing the point of plant-based eating. Whole grains, potatoes, and beans are some of the most affordable bulk foods you can buy. It's worth reigning in your expenses on food for a short period time to see where the money goes.
It takes time to get it "right", so don't beat yourself up for making mistakes. From experience, asking the right questions helps to find the answers. Self-inquiry is the way to go.