advice for newbies
Hello! And welcome. Thank you so much for being here!
My name’s Erica, and I’m a certified holistic nutritionist. I went vegan almost seven years ago, and I have a lot to share with you!
In this post:
- food habits, behaviors, and traditions
- plant substitutes, also find this here
- examples of plant based meals
- healthier choices
Before we begin, I want to say CONGRATULATIONS to you for picking a new path for your eating habits. Being aware of the SAD (standard American diet) is the first step toward a lifetime of positive growth, knowledge, power, and change.
You are here! That is wonderful.
Next I want to remind you again that this will be a lifetime of growth and changes. Nothing ever happens over night, or without baby steps, backward steps, and steps that knock you to the ground so hard they make you feel as if you’ll never be able to walk again.
But one day you will be running marathons with your knowledge about food and health. One day you’ll look back with disbelief at the distance you’ve covered and the changes you’ve made.
Hold on to that hope. Hold on to that future; for it will be yours as long as you don’t let go.
A constant theme I’m going to run with throughout is “find what works for you”. Each of us are so different than the next and those differences aren’t to be hated or judged but rather to be embraced and respected. If you hate fruit, don’t eat fruit. If you don’t want to give up Christmas Ham or your grandma’s chicken, don’t give it up. Whether you’re someone who prefers to ease into change meal by meal or if you’re someone who needs a more ‘all or nothing’ approach — find what works for you! Take what resonates, leave what doesn’t. Be open minded and kind with yourself and the world around you. Try new things; don’t be afraid.
If you’d like help or guidance in finding what works for you, setting goals, and sustainable change, I am available for private consultations. There you will also find downloadable grocery lists, recipes, and other resources to help you along your journey.
The Oxford dictionary defines the word habit as:
“as a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”.
Read that again, and then sit with the information that habits can be changed. New routines can be formed. Given time, practice, and patience with yourself, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Below I’ve listed several common eating habits and alternatives to work into your routine instead!
Your behaviors can vary moment to moment, but your overall behaviors dictate your habits and your routine. Your behavior is an active choice that you have in this present moment to make a decision to act. You always have a choice in your behaviors, and that choice comes with awareness of your behaviors without judgement. Be kind to yourself as you’re growing (and we’re always growing).
Some behaviors need pointing out for you to even notice (we’ve all been there). But no one knows your eating behaviors better than you. Try to bring awareness to the way you eat, what you eat, and what you’re doing while you eat. Are you hunched over, scarfing it down? Or are you standing outside looking at the sky and the trees, breathing slowly and enjoying every bite? These behaviors make a big difference in our general relationships with food and digestion.
If you’re always craving a certain item, it might be a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral. If you always get gassy after you eat it might be because you’re eating too fast. If you have an immune response (allergies, rashes, etc) the food you’re eating is most likely not compatible with your body currently. Picking up on these nuances can help us improve our health in the long term.
Perhaps you’re someone who eats without thinking about it or has a very negative relationship with food. Here I would suggest you begin to look internally at other factors that could be creating stress in your life. You can do this without consciously thinking about it by picking up an activity such as painting, crocheting, reading, walking, journaling, or beginning a yoga or meditation practice.
Traditions involving food date back centuries, so it would be wrong of me to not address it. Meals eaten with loved ones around a conversation releases serotonin and oxytocin – the happy hormone and the love hormone, respectively.
If you’re going full plant-based here, things may be hard in this department for a bit, emotionally or physiologically. Know you’re not alone in your struggles, and things will get easier over time.
If you’re not going full plant-based, know that you don’t have to! Any changes you’re willing to make will be better for your health and the planet, so don’t let one thing hold you back from accomplishing others.
The right tribe will be supportive; it could be family or friends or new people you’ve met because of the transition! You will find your way. Below are a few common traditions and helpful tips for a WFPBD.
Take Out — Take out nights are a ritual, I get it! For this adjustment, pick a restaurant that has options for you and use this as an opportunity to try new dishes.
Family Events — Bring a dish to share with the guests that you can also eat. Bring snacks that you can pair with your dish just in case. If you’re really lucky, people will bring vegan dishes just for you (what an amazing feeling)!
Dining In — Look up the menu beforehand to be sure there are options for you. Pick the restaurant! Good options are Mexican, Indian, veggie pasta or pizza without cheese, or Asian restaurants to name a few. Search “vegan restaurants near me” and see what pops up – you might be surprised!
Picnics — One of my favorite vegan meals are hummus & veggie wraps (whole grain of course), which make a perfect on-the-go sandwich. PB&J + seed roll ups using the same wraps pair perfectly with carrots and hummus or celery and peanut butter. There are plenty of vegan sandwiches, cold pasta, and potato salad recipes as well. Don’t forget to bring some fresh fruit and ethically sourced chocolate for dessert!
Family Members — One thing I’ve had a hard time learning during my journey is that the only person who can change you, is you. And that goes for everyone else on this planet as well. If you’re fully diving into this new journey and your family members do not want to join you, let them be. Allow it to be a learning opportunity in knowledge, respect, and communication between you.
There are SO many plant-based alternatives to foods nowadays; some healthier than others. This will be the first time I mention, but not the last, for you to begin reading the ingredients. I will now speak on a few topics related to plant-based substitutions.
Plant-based meats are a great tool in the transition between the SAD and a more WFPBD (whole food plant based diet), but I will mention that they are highly processed and have added fats, oils, and chemicals that make them a food you want to only enjoy on occasion.
If you are aiming for optimal health here, you should aim to focus many of your meals around real, whole plant foods. However, plant-based meat creations are a healthier option than the factory farmed meat alternative.
If you do not want to stop consuming meat, consider looking into a sustainable meat carrier near you. Consider eating less. Or don’t. But if you’re here, chances are you’ve already made the decision to focus on a better, healthier you through diet and holistic practices. So I encourage all of you to consider eating more plants in a way that works
for your diet and lifestyle!
Adding plants into your diet in any way, shape, or form will increase your overall health. No matter where or when you eat them, they will do their job as long as they are able to get into your body! So, add plants where you are willing.
I’m stealing this line from Dr. Greger here, but the healthiest vegetable is the one you’ll eat the most of! I implore you to be open to trying new foods that you might have never heard of, or trying them in new ways to find a way of cooking or processing that you actually enjoy.
Edamame is much different than silken tofu, but each will give you the benefits of soy. If you hate peanuts, have you tried a brazil nut or a hazelnut? All are very different. If you hate all nuts, try using nut flour in your baked goods! If you’re allergic to nuts, you can try adding seeds to your diet (gradually and with caution if necessary).
I have provided a list below of common products used in meals and baking, and then provided a whole food plant based alternative. I’ll let you in on a little secret here: the internet is FULL of WFPB (whole food plant based) recipes. All you have to do is look!
Examples of Whole Food Plant Based Meals
Oatmeal with pea protein powder, cacao powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt topped with almond butter and banana slices.
French toast made with chia seeds, plant based milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Topped with fresh sliced strawberries and maple syrup.
Breakfast burrito made with tofu scramble, peppers, onions, crispy home fries, salsa, hot sauce, and avocado.
Protein shakes made with pea protein powder, various fruits and vegetables to taste. Some options for flavor: chocolate, tropical fruits, green, and berry.
Pancakes made with a nutrient-dense flour, oats, bananas, and protein powder.
Peanut butter, fruit preserves, chia seeds, and flax seeds rolled up in a whole grain wrap.
Green Goddess salad using cabbage, cucumber, parsley, and green onions topped with a green goddess salad dressing using garlic, lemon, and shallots.
Power bowl made with quinoa, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, spinach, avocado, and WFPB dressing or sauce.
Vegan sandwich made of whole grain bread, hummus, avocado, tomato, cucumber, spinach, kale, and tempeh bacon slices.
A hummus and veggie wrap using a whole grain wrap, a healthy hummus recipe, and veggies such as bell pepper, carrot, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, avocado, and greens.
Spaghetti squash roasted served with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, onion, chickpeas or peas, cherry tomatoes, and tomato sauce with spices.
Power bowl made with quinoa, black beans, sauteed kale and red onion, roasted sweet potatoes, and WFPB dressing or sauce.
Roasted veggies and chickpeas! I like to use Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and potatoes but you can add peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, and more.
Sauteed mushrooms served with Mexican style black beans and roasted sweet potatoes.
Soups! Butternut squash, broccoli “cheddar”, potato and cabbage, sweet potato and kale, quinoa and red lentil, not to mention the chili and chowder options.
Hummus recipes galore! As long as you have a blender, this is a fun path to explore! Roasted red pepper, black bean, and roasted garlic are some of my favorites.
Flaxseed crackers are easy to make and customizable.
Fruit bowls and more fruit bowls! Seriously, there’s a reason fruit grows at a grabbable distance in the branches. It wants to be eaten, and our bodies want to eat it! Eat berries every day, but also explore tropical varieties and local farmers markers, too.
Avocado with fresh lime or lemon juice and spices. Spices offer you antioxidants that up the level of health of anything they’re added to, and avocado is a healthy fat that will help you feel satiated from your snack choice.
Homemade baked goods. This is the perfect way to incorporate beans, nutrient-dense flours, and berries or other fruits into your diet. Explore whatever you’re interested in! I share a few recipes for WFPB baked goods in my Starter Recipe Package.
Here, we’re going to talk about the choices we make and the things we say to ourselves. Too often we get angry with what we’ve done in the past, and it’s important to find a way to let that go and focus on the present and the future. Negative choices are reflected in the “food habits” portion of this post. Here we are going to focus on the positive choices you can make to help guide you into a healthier lifestyle practice.
Choose the healthier option. Choose the food that is less processed and more centered around real plant foods. And this does not mean every meal has to be the healthiest meal you’ve ever eaten (that would be impossible).
Be nice to yourself. Seriously. Treat yourself like you treat your best friend or your child. Be kind and respectful of your own decisions and faults as a human being. None of us are perfect, and we are our harshest critics. Practice positive self talk and forgiveness with your mistakes.
Come at these changes with an eye for balance and longevity. Also I’ll note here: your taste buds do change over time! If you eat plant foods more often, you will eventually begin to enjoy the process of eating them. Your body will reap the benefits as well!
Surround yourself with only healthy foods. Or pretend the unhealthy options don’t exist. Sometimes, it’s about mind games. Sometimes, it’s about willpower. Sometimes, it’s about having an option wrapped in tin foil in your bag.
Hold yourself accountable. Write things down, come up with feasible goals, allow yourself to process the ‘why’ of things. Remember your reasons.
Plan in out. Plan your meals or make a detailed meal plan (or hire a coach).
Grocery shop when you are not hungry and your head is in the right space for it.
Let go of the past. Focus on the now and the future. Commit to your present-self that future-you will respect your decisions.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this post, I’m so glad you’re interested in a whole food plant based diet!! Please consider supporting me by purchasing resources for yourself, or consider having a one-on-one consultation with me! If neither of those interest you and you still want to support me, you can see what homemade goods and plants I have to offer here. Thank you so much!
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