In September 2012, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and pre-diabetes. After a few months of research, I decided to change what I ate from a traditional American food-pyramid-style menu to a whole-food, plant-based diet. Becoming a vegan, vegetarian or simply trying to cut down on the animal products I consumed was not an easy task. Here are some things that have made it easier for me:
Have a real reason for changing.
None of the males in my family have lived past the age of 65. I am not willing to give up that early and neither should you! But whatever the reason is, write it down. Stick it on your bathroom mirror. Remind yourself every day why that pork chop or bowl of ice cream does not fit into your new lifestyle.
This is not a diet.
Becoming an herbivore for a period of time is like only giving your car a high-quality oil change once or twice. Sure, it is good for the engine, but a temporary solution to a permanent problem is just that: Temporary. Make your diet a lifestyle that you plan to maintain until the end, which hopefully is a long way away.
Protein can be found everywhere!
Whenever I told anyone what I was doing, they were sure to ask at some point: “Well, what are you going to eat for protein?!” I’d smile and say, “Veggies!” When I read the labels at the grocery store, I was shocked to learn that you could get plenty of protein from fruits and vegetables. In fact, broccoli has more protein than a porterhouse steak.
Just because it is vegan or vegetarian does not mean it is healthy.
I was surprised to learn that several of my favorite junk foods were vegan, including: Oreos, Sour Patch Kids, Mrs. Smith’s Apple Pie and many more. If you want to change the food you eat to be healthier like I do, cookies and candy are not the way to do it.
Embrace live, vibrant foods.
At the core of the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle is plants! Scientists estimate that only one percent of all the phytonutrients (Read: plant nutrients) have been discovered. The only way you can reap the benefits of these mystery nutrients is to eat fruits and vegetables with every meal.
Make it fun!
Eating healthier should not be a burden. I tried the Paleo Diet, Atkins, Weight Watchers and any other major diet out there. I was miserable every single time! Avoiding animal products and incorporating whole, nutritious foods into my life has become a bit of a game. There are days where I score well, and days I don’t. It was important that I learned to love myself enough to give my body the nutrients it needed while avoiding nutritionally-lacking foods.