How to start a plant based lifestyle - Challenge yourself for a month (preparation)

This morning I was talking to my work out partner who was refusing my post-work out treats (a banana & a piece of date/walnut roll) because she feels like she needs to lose some weight. This resulted in a friendly rant from my side because - what can possibly be bad in a banana? There is only GOOD in a banana! (She is a good friend, don’t worry, I’m not going around ranting to strangers or offering them my precious bananas for that matter!) In the end I challenged her to try a month of plant based food only and she accepted on the condition that I guide her which I am happy to do. That’s when I decided to share what I will share with her, here on the worldwide web and maybe it can help someone else wanting to try this, too. Please note; we are talking about a whole food, plant based diet. This differs from a ‘vegan’ diet, as you can be vegan on beer & chips but this will most probably not make you healthy or lose weight. Of course it would be easiest if you could convince your family to join you in this so you can support each other and not be tempted to cave in! 


Preparation is the key here. If you are not prepared or motivated, this is not going to work. I suggest doing the following in the week / weeks before you start this;

Read or Listen / Watch / Observe / Prepare / Stock the pantry / Look ahead & switch your mindset

Here we go;

Read / Listen

For reading, I definitely recommend ‘How not to die’ by Michael Greger MD. This book really opened my eyes and made me aware that most of the first world diseases we have, are caused by the consumption of animal products. It is also a great guide as to how you can eat plant based in the best way. There is a fabulous free app that he designed, called ‘Daily dozen’ where you can tick off the foods that he recommends that you’ve had already that day. 

Recently I also got into podcasts and I love the ones from Plant_Proof, Rich Roll and Nutrition Rounds from Dr Danielle Belardo. 

If you want to skip the read / listen part, know this: you will learn the following (summarized obviously)

1) animal based products will cause inflammation which is the kindle that fires up almost all diseases. 2) You don’t have to worry about being nutrient deficient if you eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. 3) The only thing you will have to supplement is B12 (which actually everyone should do, plant based or not). 4) You will poop way more and feel lighter because the amount of fiber will clean you from the inside. 5) You will feel kinder to the world. 

Watch

Netflix is a world of information. I would definitely recommend to watch ‘Forks over Knives’ and ‘What the health’ (although the latter is made to shock, it still has a lot of valuable and true information). If you’re in this to see if you can heal some ailments, then watch ‘Heal’ too. I was really touched by this documentary. If you’re in it for the Earth and the animals, and you’re ready to face what is usually hidden from sight, then have a look at Dominion. 

Observe

I think it is a good start to observe what & when you eat now, how you feel, how you sleep and what your problematic eating moments are (I’m an emotional eater, particular when the kids are driving me up the wall around 5 pm!). It would be great to make a few short notes or diary entries about how you feel, if you’re suffering from any pains or diseases and if you want you can jot down your measurements and how much you weigh.  

Prepare

It is good to think ahead about some of the meals you will be eating and find some recipes. Dr Greger recommends to start with 5 meals that you often eat at home and ‘veganize’ them, the easiest being a lentil bolognaise for example, or rice & beans in tomato sauce. If you like yoghurt for breakfast, try to replace it with a plant based yoghurt, chia pudding or a smoothie bowl. If you like to have a sandwich for lunch, see what kind of fillings you like that are easy to prepare, like mashed avocado, home made hummus or pesto. 

Borrow some books, find some inspiring websites or instagram accounts, browse google for ‘vegan …’. I personally like the Forks over knives app and always look forward to new recipes from Oh she glows and the Minimalist Baker. My favorite instagram accounts are @Avantgardevegan, @Plant_Proof, @Plantyou, @Fullyrawkristina and @Buddha_bowls.

Stock the pantry

This is an important one, as you don’t want to go hungry! Eating a plant based diet is definitely not about calorie counting or food restriction (even if that sounds contra-dictionary!); it is about filling you up with an abundance of nutrients, fiber and thousands of other goodies you’ll find in plants. 

Make sure you fill your pantry with whole grain dry foods like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats, quinoa, whole wheat flour and rye (if you bake). Then stock up on dried beans and lentils, as these will be making up a big part of your diet (especially when you have some sporty people in your family who want to eat more protein). Next up is nuts and seeds, as well as some dried fruits like dates to make energy balls or use as a sweetener in banana breads. Cashews are a must to have for sauces and ‘fake’ cheese spreads. 

Make sure you have an abundance of spices; I go through lots of cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, Italian herbs, ginger.. Some fresh herbs can grow really well on your balcony, garden or  windowsill and are amazing to add to anything. Other staples I always have are white miso, tahini and a range of different vinegars, oils and soy. I also stock glass or cans of olives, jalapeño, chickpeas and kidney beans (I find that they taste better from the can than soaked & cooked at home..). 

If you have your pantry in order, the one month will be a breeze. During the week, you will only need to stock up on vegetables, fruits and perishables like bread and tofu. Your supermarket trips will become short & sweet and probably super colorful too because of the variety of veggies and fruits! Maybe the initial stock up will feel expensive, but once you have the base, the daily / weekly shopping trips are cheap as you are not buying meat, fish, expensive dairy products or processed foods. 

ps; if in Japan; Costco is great for big sized packages of nuts, seeds, oats, quinoa, chia etc. They also sell a fabulous 2 kg bag of vegan chocolate chips that go with everything here at home! I use Amazon to order 1, 2 or 5 kg bags of flour, lentils, brown rice (make sure they come from the same warehouse so you only get 1 box) and I’ve heard Alishan is good too for flours and organic things. My spices mostly come from iHerb.

Look ahead and change your mindset

If you are going to try this for 1 month, a whole month - no exceptions - then have a look ahead to see if there are any hurdles and how you can change these into opportunities. If there are dinner parties to go to, call ahead to the host or restaurant and explain what you’re doing. Chefs at restaurants are often more than happy to create something for you. If you have travel days coming up, think about what you can make and bring or buy from the combini that doesn’t contain animal products. Install the ‘Happy Cow’ app to see which restaurants in your neighborhood support a plant based lifestyle. If you are in Kyoto or Japan, and on Instagram, follow @veganinkyoto and @diethelper for local recommendations. 

With regards to your mindset; I hope that you can go into this with an open mind and a lot of love. Don’t over complicate your thoughts. Eating in a plant based way is easy, fun and it will give you many things in return. 

Let me know how you go!