How To Create A Sustainable Plant-Based Diet
Are you thinking about starting a vegan diet, but you’re really not sure where to start...or maybe how to make it last? Maybe you’re afraid to start because you feel like you’re going to fail anyways. Maybe you’re a week in and wonder how you could keep this going.
Certainly every vegan or plant-based person I’ve talked to has had these thoughts at some point or another, including myself. Having some self-doubt about a massive life change is only natural for us as human beings. What matters most is what we do to overcome it.
The area of plant-based/veganism that I love to explore is the idea of a sustainable lifestyle. I’m not necessarily talking about an ecofriendly lifestyle, but a long-lasting way of life that lights you up each day.
In the beginning, a lot of people treat a vegan or plant-based diet much like a weight loss diet. We eat the things that we feel we should be eating or that the food items that we associate most with that diet. However, most people don’t see themselves being vegan long-term - aka the same as dieting. Whether you’re expressing hesitation or you’re not finding the right type of plant-based diet that works for you, there’s so many forms of self-doubt that can crop up and ultimately sabotage you from fully transitioning.
Finding my sustainable plant-based diet and lifestyle has kept me eating 100 % vegan for over 2 years now - and absolutely loving it. In this article, I wanted to outline the basics on how to create a sustainable vegan diet to make you actually excited to transition.
Switching up your diet is a major change that takes a lot of considering, especially if you’re facing any sort of challenges such as health issues. The easiest way to get yourself motivated to transition is to link it to something you’d like to accomplish.
For me, I tried a vegan diet basically on a whim, and absolutely fell in love with it. At the same time, I was also focusing on losing weight and reducing my body fat percentage. Within the few 2 weeks, I had lost 5 pounds, which was honestly mostly water weight. However, the difference in my body was dramatic! In the next few months, I lost an additional 5lbs, but I was also monitoring my eating and working out consistently along with a vegan diet.
Because I could link my eating to my fitness goals and saw that I was making progress towards my goal, it was really easy to keep eating this way. I was putting all my focus into achieving my fitness goals, that I wasn’t really thinking about missing certain food items.
If you’re thinking about switching to a plant-based or vegan diet for health or the environment or you really love animals, I highly recommend linking it with something you’re really passionate about. Maybe this is your opportunity to start going to farmer’s markets or volunteering at an animal shelter or cleaning up your eating. Whatever you’re reason is, the more you can link it and ingrain it in your life, the higher chances you have for success.
Finding compelling reasons to switch and stay is only the first key. To make sure that the diet you chose is long-lasting, you need to make sure that it’s sustainable for you in the long term.
When it comes to sustainability, you need to make sure that it’s a way of eating that you actually enjoy. A lot of people who try to lose weight including myself start with dieting. When you diet, you limit your food intake for a set period of time. In short, you’re really not thinking about the long-term here. If you couple this with food that you don’t really enjoy eating in the first place, a lot of times that dieting period becomes much shorter.
One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in my fitness journey is that you need to eat like you want to eat for the next 10 years. So, whatever goal you’re hoping to achieve by going plant-based or vegan, make sure it’s with food that you actually enjoy eating. Since I’ve adopted this way of eating, not only have I continued to achieve my fitness goals, I’m just a lot happier in general.
However, the flip side of this is that you need to make sure you’re eating in a way that your body can sustain for a long period of time. I know I’d love to be eating vegan mac and cheese, burgers, pizza regularly, but I know that’s not really good for my body. That’s not to say that I never have these items, but I consider them treat foods.
Since I went plant-based for health and fitness, eating this way would not only be detrimental to my goals, it would actually be counterproductive. What I found worked for me was focusing on a whole food vegan diet, which is popular for people who are focusing on health. And, I absolutely love what I eat, don’t feel like I’m missing out, and I’m not walking around miserable like I was on other diets.
The most important thing is that you find what works for you long-term, and that’s going to be different for everyone. Everyone has different goals, unique challenges and tastes. So, there’s really no one size fits all answer here. However, if you can find something that tastes good and is sustainable for you. It’ll make it A LOT easier to keep eating that way.
Where To Start
I see a lot of people failing to start transition to a plant-based or vegan diet just because they have no idea at where to start. The first thing that I tell anyone who wants to switch, but is afraid that they’re going to fail is that you’re going to make mistakes. You’re not going to be perfect, and that’s 100% ok. When I first transitioned to a vegan diet, I was eating honey for the first 2 months since it just didn’t even occur to me that honey was an animal product. Even still after eating this way for over 2 years now, I make the occasional mistake. So, take the pressure off yourself!
The first step is focusing on how a plant-based or vegan diet is figuring out how you want this to fit into your current lifestyle or the lifestyle that you want to have. Are you linking this to a current goal or do you want to use this as a catalyst to change something?
Once you figure out how you want to incorporate a plant-based or vegan diet into your life, start researching different vegan diets that might work for you - fyi there are a ton! I found it really helpful in the very beginning to use established diets as a guideline until I become more comfortable and confident with my own cooking skills to start forming my own.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to adapt as necessary. Going plant-based or vegan is usually a trial and error process, until you find what’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to try new or different products and not like them. Don’t like almond milk? You can always try cashew, coconut, oat, soy, or pea alternatives.
Here’s some great news- the list of vegan products is growing rapidly right now. When I first switched, the vegan products on the shelf were limited, and to be honest, most of them didn’t taste that great. Now, it’s a different story. If you find something that you don’t like, there are plenty of products out there for you to experiment with and see if you can find something that you like - or even create your own.
Like anything, it may take some time for you to find the right fit. You may also find that your diet adapts the longer you’re vegan or plant-based, and what goals your setting for yourself. Just be flexible and patient with yourself.
The last thing I want to leave you with is to HAVE FUN. This process is what you make it. If you treat it like a diet, that you’re going to be missing out on so many different dishes that you love, then it’s going to be really difficult for you to transition. If you do the opposite, have fun, experiment and take what works and leave the rest, it’s going to be a lot easier.