Tried the vegan diet but couldn’t maintain it? You might have been making some mistakes. Learning how to be successful on a plant-based diet is crucial if you want to transform your health and your mind. After 10 years on my journey to plant-based high-raw veganism, I can finally say that I made it (with some slip-ups in between).
Transitioning to a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for your health and the planet. And it isn’t as hard as it sounds – as long as you follow these 10 tips (and any other advice plant-based foodies might have given you).
How to be Successful on A Plant-Based Diet
1. Eat enough food
This is one thing I didn’t do in the beginning of my plant-based journey, and it completely messed me up. I have learned that eating enough food (enough calories for your size) was enough to help me slim down and remain totally content at the same time. Plant-based foods are often lower in calories, especially fruit and vegetables, so you need to eat enough of them to make up your calorie requirement.
Also, remember, that a calorie is not a calorie, and fresh, whole plant foods provide your body with waaaaay more nutrients than processed animal-product-based junk food, so they will make you feel better, brighter, lighter, and fuller longer (because your brain will actually be satisfied instead of it constantly searching for the nutrients it needs, which leads to over-eating on a Standard American Diet (SAD)).
2. Ditch the junk
Processed vegan food is not something you should solely rely on. Focus on fresh, raw, and whole. For example, eating a potato chip is vegan, but steaming some potatoes is about 500 times better for you. This isn’t to say that you can’t splurge and eat some tasty plant-based processed treats every now and then, but just don’t rely on them. I remember when I used to eat so much soy products. It was gross, and I felt gross. My hormones were also out of whack (because soy is a phytoestrogen), and I used to spot in between my periods. Not fun.
3. Don’t forget to eat your greens
This is something that I cannot emphasize more. EAT YOUR GREENS! They are vitamin and mineral-dense, chlorophyll-rich, and make you feel incredible (and also calm you down). Whether you put them in your smoothies, in a juice, or in a salad, just make sure you eat them. They will help prevent you from over-eating, satisfy you, and ensure that your moods stay stable.
When I first went raw, I mainly focused on only fruit throughout the day with very little greens for dinner. This was a huge mistake. I felt so much better when I started including more leafy greens and other vegetables in my diet. When I make smoothies now, I always make sure to add a raw plant-based powder (like barley grass powder or alfalfa grass powder), celery, cucumber, leafy greens, or a combination of all of the above. Your taste buds do change after being on a raw diet, and now I find myself just straight up eating containers of leafy greens no problem. My body craves the green – and yours will too!
4. Make transitioning easy
Make the plant-based transition easy enough that you aren’t feeling defeated and deprived. If you are dealing with intense sugar cravings, then eat some fructose-rich medjool dates, or make a dessert smoothie with raw carob powder, bananas, vanilla and dates. When your body is craving sugar, it is usually a craving for natural fruit sugars – so load up on the fruit! This will ensure that you aren’t feeling deprived.
I wrote an article on different food cravings and how to deal with them – you should check it out!
5. Drink plenty of water
Water is so important to help curb cravings and feel great. It will also help flush out past-SAD diet toxins faster, eliminating a host of detox symptoms, or making them pass by faster. Over 95% of the population is dehydrated, so make sure you are drinking at least 3-4L of water a day (I LOVE making lemon water. It is so darn tasty!).
Consuming plenty of water also improves skin quality, makes sleeping easier, prevents you from over-eating and improves mental clarity. Whether you are going plant-based or not, ample water consumption is key to feeling amazing. Drink a glass of water right now!
6. Take it one day at a time
Being successful on a plant-based diet means not dropping all of your bad food habits cold turkey and just diving straight into veganism. This will feel incredibly overwhelming and will leave you caving into the SAD diet in a few weeks time (unless if you are really dedicated – I know some people who have done the cold turkey route and remained successful). Just take it day by day, meal by meal, and see how you feel.
There is no need to stress over going vegan right away. It took me over 4 years to finally ditch the animal-products, but only a week to ditch dairy. Every body is different, so stay in tune with your body, and listen to it. Make your meals simple, and if you have a slip-up, there is always tomorrow to start again. Make it fun! No stress!
7. Don’t make things too complicated
I have found a majority of my success in maintaining a high-raw plant-based diet is by making things simple. I’m not what you would call a “gourmet” raw vegan (although I do make some incredibly tasty gourmet meals throughout the year – maybe every 4 months or so). I find that people get very confused when it comes to plant-based eating, because they think that the recipes are too complicated and that it just takes too much time.
I find that I spend, maximum, 10 minutes making green juices, smoothies, and salads. In between that I load up on fruit, like a meal of 5 mangoes, a few pounds of grapes or a whole pineapple. Even cooking can be simple, especially if you make a huge pot of vegan stew or chili and freeze it in jars to enjoy at a later date.
For example, breakfast can be done in a pinch by blending pineapple, spinach and oranges (one of the best combinations in my opinion), then an after-breakfast snack can be some other fruit like sliced apples and date caramel (dates blended with cinnamon and vanilla). For lunch, you could eat another fruit-based meal like fruit soup, where you blend bananas and water into a milky-substance, and then add in some berries, mulberries, chopped bananas and whatever other fruit is in season as the chunky components. Snacks afterward could include some sliced fruit and vegetables.
Dinner could be cooked or raw. I usually make zucchini pasta for dinner or a massive salad with a variety of different greens, tomatoes, avocado, lemon, zucchini, dill and anything else I am feeling like that day. Cooked dinner ideas could be pre-made stews, chilis or soups along with a salad and gluten-free bun. You could also pan-roast some veggies with herbs, and pour it on a bed of quinoa with mushrooms and kale. The possibilities are endless! Keeping it basic usually means better tasting, so don’t get too complicated!
8. Go grocery shopping
Throw out (or finish) all of the non-plant-based food items in your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and get to the grocery store! Stocking up on a large amount of produce and dried-food items like beans, quinoa, wild rice, oats and condiments like tahini, apple cider vinegar, or tamari is a good place to start. I also love stocking up my freezer with organic berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Because I am raw, I typically just buy produce, or some organic dried fruits and treats like lucuma powder or acai berry powder.
If you are milk-obsessed, you can easily replace any dairy milk with almond, hemp, oat or flax-seed milk (there are so many different nut and seed milks out there!). Also, if you are transitioning from cooked to raw, legumes are a great way to satisfy the palate (think chickpeas, lentils, green peas, black-eyed peas and kidney beans). Try to stay away from highly-processed foods like soy-based veggie tenders or vegan “salami.” There is also vegan-based cheeses out there like Daiya (which never settled well in my stomach and always gave me heart-burn). Also don’t forget to read ingredient labels, and stay away from things with too much added sugar. Purchase herbs and spices too, they turn a boring meal into one that is tasty, vibrant and incredibly flavourful.
9. Educate yourself
When I first went vegetarian (not vegan), I was highly un-educated and was under-eating and malnourished. Once I started reading and learning, I quickly changed my eating habits and became a successful plant-eater. Transitioning from vegan, and then to raw vegan felt natural, but I didn’t stop reading and learning. Every day, every week, every month I learn something new.
Why are you considering a plant-based diet, whether cooked or raw (or both), in the first place? Are you doing it for your health, because your friend is doing it, or because the ethics of animal husbandry are completely absurd? Learn the benefits of the lifestyle, and follow those who have been successful over their many years of following a plant-based diet.
I find watching documentaries like Food Inc., Earthlings, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Forks over Knives dramatically changed the way I treated my body, and the food I put into it. They will not only open your eyes, but motivate you to change and get you stoked on the vegan diet.
10. Detox is only temporary
I truly mean this. When people switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a plant-based way of living, they often experience extreme detox symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, skin rashes, upset stomachs, bad breath, fatigue, and more. This is simply your body’s way of getting rid of the old, and in with the new.
I find that this is a reason why so many people quit on their path to a plant-based diet. They get tired of feeling like sh*t to say the least, and after a week they are back to their old patterns of eating. Trust me – get through the detox period and the light at the end of the tunnel is so amazing. I would never have thought that I could feel the way I do now. I literally feel like I am reversing aging and am getting younger every day. I feel better now than I did when I was 14, and to me, that is truly incredible. Never give up, and stick through it. You got this!