So you’ve decided to give the plant-based lifestyle a try. Good for you! In the long run, you’ll lower your cholesterol as well as your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, in the meantime, you’re craving meat, cheese, and sugar. These cravings are the hardest hump to get over when you’re transitioning into a plant-based diet. But don’t worry, there are a few ways to get past this tough spot.
The Deep End
If you’ve already thrown out all the meat and cheese in your house, you’ve already climbed up to the diving board. So you might as well jump. To help you stay full, add homemade juice to your meals. The most economical way to do this is by making your own. Make sure to use mostly vegetables (kale, spinach, cucumber, celery are great options for beginners) and throw in an apple or two for flavor. This method ensures that you’re eating the plants, but also getting nutrients and sugar from the juice. After about a week, you can ease up on the juice and surprisingly, the meat/dairy cravings won’t come back.
Substitute Meat with Plant-Based Options
If drinking a ton of green juice isn’t your thing, you can always try substituting meat with a plant-based equivalent. For example, grill tofu instead of steak, stir fry eggplants or mushrooms instead of chicken or try hummus instead of ranch dressing. It might take a few days for you to figure out what plant-based option you like more, but that’s okay, take your time to figure out what works best for your body. One thing you should NOT do is substitute meat with highly-processed plant-based faux “meat” (like the Impossible burger, for example). These products contain very low levels of nutrients and antioxidants and should be seen as a treat, rather than a meal.
Increase your Portion Size
One of the advantages of eating a plant-based diet is that you get to eat way more! Of course, if you’re going to do this, make sure you’re eating whole foods, not processed/packaged/fried stuff. But feel free to eat as much broccoli or mushrooms or stuffed peppers as you want. Whole grains such as rice, quinoa, barley, and oats should be your source of carbohydrates. And the best part is that now that you’re plant-based, you no longer have to fear carbs!
Remove One Meat/Dairy Product a Week
This is the slowest way to go, but a good option for people who are still skeptical about going 100% plant-based. Start by taking out one meat or dairy product a week. For example, you can start by eliminating all red meat. This should be easy since you can order chicken instead of steak or eat a fish burger instead of a hamburger. After a week, remove something else.
Let’s say you decide to remove dairy next. You can sample different plant-based milks and come up with a different way to cook/prepare your food. If you use milk to cook your oatmeal, try using hot water instead and add in some bananas at the end. This will give you the sweetness and creamy texture that you normally get from milk. Remember that sugar is a good substitute for fat and it’s okay as long as your sugar comes in the form of fruit or starchy vegetables.
Listen to your Body
The most important thing to remember when it comes to transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle is to listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re craving protein, give your body lots of plant protein. Try different approaches and methods as you ease out of eating meat, you’ll eventually find some combination that is right for you.