Adding love and compassion to your life with a plant-based diet is not as hard as you might think.
Everyone has heard the phrase, “every journey begins with the first step.” And that first step is prompted by desire. There are many reasons to transition to a vegan lifestyle and everyone’s reason is going to be slightly different. A large percentage of vegans believe that there is a solid link between animal foods and a host of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension for example. Some people adapt a plant-based diet because they simply love animals and don’t want to be a repository for their corpses. There are other reasons like the environment, religion, weight loss and the list goes on. Whatever particular reason you choose, you will inevitably end up widening the circle of compassion in this world. Your mind and body will soar to new levels health and well-being.
George Bernard Shaw: “Animals are my friends…and I don't eat my friends.”
When starting off, don’t try to be a perfect vegan, just do the best you can. Every day it gets a little bit easier. With a little time and experimentation you’ll find a strategy that works for you. If you’re one of those rare individuals that feels eliminating all meat, fish, and dairy foods all at once works for you, then do it. If you need more time to adjust to a vegan diet, just take it slowly and start eliminating non-vegan items from your diet every day (or week). Make changes that you feel comfortable with, at your own pace. Some start by giving up red meat and fowl but continue eating fish (Pescatarian). Others give up fish in addition to meat and poultry but continue to consume dairy products and eggs (lacto-ovo Vegetarian).
For many people it helps to network with other vegans through blogs, web sites etc. You will soon learn much from the vegan community and will become a more informed consumer.
Stay away from processed foods, fast foods and avoid ingredients like hydrogenated/trans fats and refined sugars. Read labels, some companies remove the word “animal” from their ingredient labels to deceive the consumer. A good rule of thumb is: if you don’t know what it is, or if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
It’s not all hard to eat out at non-vegan restaurants if you’re a little selective. It just takes some time to learn what to order and adjust. Some restaurants now inform their customers that they’re “vegan friendly.” Quite a few restaurants will accommodate you and cook your veggies etc. without dairy or lard. It’s not always a good idea to proclaim you’re vegan because there’s still a lot of people that don’t understand that. Simply tell them you’re vegetarian and allergic to dairy (milk, butter & eggs). They’re more likely to take your request seriously if you say you have an allergy.
The best food you can eat is the food you prepare for yourself. Although some people are challenged to find sufficient time or energy to cook, but when they can, look at cooking as creative time. Put on some appropriate music, have fun and create. Whenever possible set some time aside during the week to make some vegan “go to” options. These will come in handy at a later date when you’re tired or short on time. Cooked grains last quite a few days in the refrigerator (like rice, quinoa & farro). Add a quick stir-fry to them or make a cold salad with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. Learn to sprout seeds (alfalfa, lentil seeds and mung beans are easy). Consider starting a small indoor herb garden, growing cilantro, basil and rosemary are popular choices and are simple to grow.
Mindfulness is one of the most important things a vegan can practice. Mindfulness itself can and will change your life and the way you eat. Never eat in front of a computer screen or television set. Instead sit somewhere quietly or with family or friends and enjoy the food. The practice of mindfulness, combine with eating slowly will help you eat less and enjoy food more. You will also find yourself practicing mindfulness in other areas of your life.
Remind yourself daily that the key to kicking meat and dairy is giving yourself enough time to feel the wonderful and extraordinary changes as they take place in your mind and body.
Stay tuned…Coming soon “Vegan Substitutes for Animal Products”
Rae Indigo is ERYT 500