Rice noodle bowl

Transitioning to a plant-based diet: careful consideration of what to eat

Following on from my last post (an introduction to a plant-based diet), this article is to help your transition into the wonderful world of plant-based eating!

The end goal of a plant-based diet is to remove animal products. However, this would be extremely difficult overnight, and a waste of any food in the fridge! Which food groups you swap, and how quickly you swap to plant-based foods is obviously dependent on yourself, your commitment, and your time. It can be extremely daunting and tiresome walking around the supermarket searching for the plant-based sign and failing to successfully find the swaps you’re looking for. Breaking the transition down into smaller manageable food groups is a good place to start.

Another great tip during your transition to a plant-based diet is to see yourself as slowly cutting down your consumption of animal products, rather than completely restricting yourself. Having a “cut down” mindset will help reduce the amount of animal products you eat, without restrictions or cravings, eventually eradicating foods without noticing.

What can you cut down on?

High protein sausage spicy rice, with spinach, peppers, and spring onion.
High protein sausage spicy rice, with spinach, peppers, and spring onion.

A great first choice is meat. There are plenty of different alternatives, from your usual burgers, sausages, and chicken, all the way to bacon, steak and duck! Every supermarket will have meat alternative options. Trying out the different options and different brands can be fun.

Another step to reduce your animal product consumption can be eradicating cow’s milk. There’s a variety of plant-based milks to try for different things. My favourite is oat milk for cereals, chocolate soya milk to drink, and sweetened pea milk for my protein shakes. Remember, you might not like every plant-based product you try (like you never loved every meat and animal product you tried). Don’t get disheartened if you try something and don’t like it. There’s plenty of different alternatives to try.

Another swap during your plant-based journey is carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, and rice. This is quite an easy swap because a lot of brands and recipes are already plant-based, so there isn’t much swapping to do. Similarly, sauces and jars, like mayonnaise and pesto, have plant-based alternatives easy to find in supermarkets. Some sauces, like tomato ketchup and BBQ sauce, are usually already plant-based. Again, not requiring too much effort.

Carefully considering your food swaps

Swapping your diet to plant-based can be nutritionally sufficient (The vegan diet – NHS), ethically and morally satisfying, not least delicious. However, having a balanced healthy diet always requires consideration surrounding your food decisions. With some nutrients harder to find in a plant-based diet, there are some deficiencies to be aware of.

Peanut & Coconut Tofu Bowl. With broccoli, mango, carrots, rice noodles, black sesame seeds, lime and chilli.

Often, the first criticism of a plant-based diet pertains to one of the three macronutrients, protein! Therefore, when swapping out meat, it is important to ensure you are replacing that protein source with plant-based sources of protein. Plant-based diets have gained momentum within the athletic and sports community, evidence to suggest you can achieve your protein goals without animal derivatives. The Netflix programme “Game Changers” provides a great insight into the vegan lifestyles of athletes and world champions. This debunks the myth which wrongly assumes a plant-based diet creates a skinny and weak body type. With a better understanding of plant-based protein food sources, protein goals can be successfully hit. Plant-based protein sources include tofu, lentils and beans, or vegetables like edamame beans and peas. Plant-based shakes or clear protein juices are other easy and delicious ways to up your protein intake.

Low levels of iron and vitamin B12 can also be a risk for vegans. This can be associated with tiredness and shortness of breath, both symptoms of anaemia. However, with awareness, vegans can ensure they are eating all sources of vitamins! Sources of B12 include nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, and plant-based milks. Sources of iron include broccoli, chickpeas, and dark chocolate. Yes, you read that right, chocolate! Here’s a great read with helpful tips on how to achieve the optimal nutrients on a plant-based diet: Optimal nutrition on a vegan diet – Inessa (inessawellness.com).

Hopefully this simple and introductory article has given you some confidence in starting your transition to a plant-based diet. For delicious plant-based meal inspirations, check out my blog.

Keep an eye out for my next article: being a plant-based student: where to shop, what to eat, and cooking for one!

While actual studying and organisation is important for education, other aspects of life are also important for a healthy life and better functioning. In Active-Class, while we help you have a better educational experience, we take other aspects of lifestyle utterly seriously. Therefore, in these blog series (Active-Class blog page) we look at diet and the effects it may be having on you and your mind.

Katy Bannister
Katy Bannister

Psychology Graduate and Food Content Creator.