How can we organise an easy transition into a vegan diet? Speak with nutritionists, read up about it so you know what you can expect. Get help from nutrition calculators and meal planners.
But first a bit of history…
Some think that veganism is a modern fad, but nothing could be further from the truth;
- The earliest leader in Jainism preached non-violence (toward both humans and animals) in the 7th or 8th Century BC. It is believed that a vegan diet, or at the very least a vegetarian diet was followed by the Jains at that time.
- The ancient Chinese religions of Taoism and Buddhism advocated for meat-free diets. Nuns and monks were often fully vegan. Eating vegan is thought to be pure. Therefore China has a wide range of meat alternatives (like tofu and seitan) which are very popular.
- In Japan at various times in history meat has been banned. In 675 by emperor Tenmu who was influenced by Buddhism. During the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries most Japanese had a diet of rice, vegetables, and beans. Fish would only be consumed on very special occasions.
- In Hinduism people were taught that a non-animal based diet was a positive spiritual choice. In an ancient Hindu text it states; ‘ There is no sin in eating meat, … but abstention brings great reward. ‘
- The Ethiopian orthodox church expects it’s followers to eat vegan every Wednesday and Friday. And during the whole period of Lent.
The term ‘vegan’ was introduced by Donald Watson in 1944, after Britain’s dairy cows had been hit by tuberculosis. He created the term ‘veganism’ to separate vegetarians who would avoid dairy and eggs as well.
Is a vegan diet a healthy diet?
Despite many health benefits a vegan diet might give you. It is not automatically a healthy diet. The health benefits are a result of eating more healthier plant based foods. But if someone would fail in doing so, and would eat a diet full of ‘vegan junk food’ , than that wouldn’t provide any nutritional benefit.
So important things to keep in mind, while transitioning into a vegan diet;
- Vegan cookies, biscuits, cakes or ice-cream are not healthier than regular cookies or cakes. They still contain as much fat, and sugar.
- Another thing to watch out for are the ‘mock meats & mock cheeses’. To mimic the taste and texture of regular meat and cheeses they often include many additives, flavourings and a lot of salt.
- There are many good dairy free milks on the market, but you might want to opt for the non added sugar ones. Just read the labels of the other ones, and you will understand why…
So no, a vegan diet is not automatically healthy.
But if you are open to discover new foods and are willing to use whole foods, than a transition into a vegan diet can give you a lot of health benefits.
Let’s talk Nutrition…
The daily recommendations for protein is 0.8g/kg of bodyweight. Which would come to an average of 46g for women and 56g for men.
Though, Experts find this often low, and advice;
- Between 46g and 75g for the average woman
- Between 56g and 91g for the average man
Some people would require more protein. Like; Elderly, Athletes, Body-builders, people who are recovering from injuries or physically very active people.
Some of the plant based foods with high protein are;
- soy products
- black beans
Nutrients and minerals to keep an extra eye on while adopting a vegan diet
For adult women till 50yrs old around 1000mg /day is recommended, for women between 50 – 70yrs old this rises to 1200mg /day. For adult men the recommended intake is 1200mg / per day.
Some plant based foods with high calcium are;
- calcium fortified dairy free milks
- Mustard greens
- Collard/turnip greens
- whole almonds
- sesame seeds
- calcium fortified products like, cereal or juices.
The recommendations for adult women till 50yrs of age is 18mg /day, after 50yrs this goes down to 8mg /day. For adult men the recommendations are 8mg/ day.
Vegan sources of Iron are;
- Leafy greens
- Black beans
- dark chocolate
There are three types of Omega 3 fatties, which are EPA-DHA-ALA, EPA and DHA you find in fish products, and ALA in plant based products.
Dietary sources of ALA include;
- Flaxseed oil
- Soy bean oil
- Canola oil
- Chia seeds
Vitamin B12, the one everyone talks about
Vitamin B12 is normally found in Dairy, fish, eggs and meat.
But fortunately many vegan products are fortified with B12, like;
- Dairy free milk
- nutritional yeast
These products often contain the daily recommendations.
Get help if needed
If you feel all a bit overwhelmed by these figures, and if you have concerns about your nutritional intake, I would recommend to see a local nutritionist for advice and motivation.
It is very well possible to enjoy a healthy, well balanced vegan diet. But do your own calculations, or get one of the many applications that can help you counting your nutritional daily intake. Like; My fitness pal or Cron-o-meter. At leasts for the beginning period it will give you more confidence, and motivation to continue. After a while, you will naturally know what to eat, and adjust to your body’s needs.
Let me know if you feel stuck for recipe ideas, or need some help with a balanced meal plan. We will talk about your goals, and food preferences with which I will create a personalised meal plan which is adapted to your personal goals, allergies, and likings. A transition into a vegan diet is not only good for our planet, but can be great fun too. Discover new foods, meet new people and learn new cooking skills.
CHECK OUT, My veganised recipes on this site >> Easy & Tasty Vegan Recipes.
And finally the transition…
There are several ways to transition into a vegan diet, in brief;
- Cold Turkey; The overnight switch from an omnivore diet to a vegan diet. It can makes health changes more pronounced, and exacerbate cravings. But some people find it easier to deal with cravings with a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach.
- From omnivore > Vegetarian > vegan; Many people find it easier to become vegetarian first, and at a later stage leave out the dairy.
- Gradual reduction meat & dairy; This can help people to gradually get used to new eating, shopping and cooking habits. Which for some it makes it more likely to be successful.
There is no right or wrong. It is very personal. Find the best transition method, which works for you. It depends on many factors in your life. Your private / work life. Family situation, and your current or former diet. Etc.
Some transition difficulties to be aware of, or be prepared for…
Lack of energy, feeling sluggish.
This is very common, and unfortunately people often think that a vegan diet is not their bodies needs, and give up.
But, This can often easily be explained and solved as a lack of;
Check your nutrition intake and modify your meal plan by include more protein and / or iron. Following a vegan diet will result that you often need to eat a lot more than you might have been used to in your former diet. So during a transition into a vegan diet it is very common that people consume too little calories. This is easy to solve by counting your calorie intake, there are many free applications to help you with this. So avoid under-eating or vegan snacking (junk food) which lacks in nutrition.
When we change our diet, the body will have to adjust. This can cause digestive issues, like; Bloating, Diarrhoea, discomfort or constipation.
A vegan diet is in general particularly high in fibre. Fibre is very important for healthy gut bacteria. It will give many long-term health benefits. But short-term it can cause discomfort as the body needs to adjust to the higher fibre intake.
When animal products are eliminated from the diet, we exclude the excess hormones. Which can change our hormonal balance (especially with the ‘cold turkey’ method) and might cause; Sadness, Anger, Anxiety, Depression , fuzzy-headedness or tearfulness. And though in the long term the elimination of excess hormones will be good for us and bring our hormones in a better natural balance. It can take a while for our body to adjust. Especially if the former diet was high in meat and processed products.
If your nutritional intake is up to scratch, than headaches can be cause by the ‘detox’ effect. If you transition from an omnivore diet, your digestive system, kidney, liver and lymph system might have to release toxins. To assist and speed up this detox effect you can eat ‘clean’ food, no processed foods, or hard to digest foods.
Some people experience skin issues which are caused by the detox effect. To help you can eat foods rich in vitamin C, Vitamin A and omega3. If there is no improvement after 2 or 3 weeks, than you might want to do an allergy check for; gluten, soy and nuts.
Habits and cravings.
It is always difficult to break through long-term habits. Some people might experience cravings as well. Though these are mainly psychological, partly they can be considered physical as our taste buds have to adjust to different foods. Cravings can be worsened by hunger, so make sure to get your daily calorie intake right.
Many people are strongly attached to traditions. Which might make it difficult to deal with Christmas, Thanks giving and birthday’s. The best way to deal with this is ‘organisation’. Think ahead, and pre-organise any special food from special retailers. Or research and test-try specific veganised recipe’s.
Fortunately this is becoming less and less of a difficulty with the amazing amount of really good vegan restaurants. The main thing is, again… ‘organisation’. Pre-plan ahead, check for good restaurants, and call restaurants beforehand if you are not sure if they cater for vegans.
Just remember, take it easy, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you do have a little ‘slip’,… remember; Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. ENJOY life (& Food) while keeping our planet in mind. Nicole x