Cheers to Veganuary!

Happy New Year! I was debating what I wanted my first post of the year to be, but instead of reflecting on the past year I thought it would be more helpful to give some tips for those joining in for Veganuary! (Click on the link for more information or to sign up.)  I have had a few requests for some ideas so I plan on doing a more motivational posts like this to help give everyone a little extra support in the new year–myself included!

While I have not been perfect this entire time, I made the switch to go plant-based with my diet about four and a half years ago. Initially I still ate some eggs and occasionally allowed for some dairy, but then I slowly started phasing even those out of my cooking at home. While I still keep a few things in the kitchen for my boyfriend to eat on occasion, I have switched to a completely plant-based style of cooking. I have enjoyed it so much that I started the blog this past year! While I still do not consider myself an expert in the vegan lifestyle–I’m still learning every day– I have discovered enough tips along the way to be able to share with you some ideas to help this January. Perhaps like me, after a month you will be inspired to continue on even after the challenge has ended! 😉

I am sure I will try to contribute throughout the entire month, but here are my initial tips to those starting out. Many of these tips apply not only to beginning a vegan or plant-based lifestyle, but also to those just wanting to adopt some healthy food habits in general.

1) Clean out your kitchen. I have seen numerous new year posts on this for anyone trying to adopt a healthier eating plan, and I definitely echo the sentiment. Get out the junk and fill up your refrigerator and cabinets with lots of fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and of course beans! If non-compliant food is not in the house, you will be less likely to eat it. On the same note, if you have good foods readily available you will be more likely to eat that.

2) Make a meal plan. I have talked about this before, and will probably continue to write posts about prepping and planning. Whether you prepare everything all at once like I do or just make a list for the week and buy your groceries ahead of time, you need to put some thought into your weekly meals. It takes a little more work at first, but if you already know what you are going to eat it takes the decision-making out of the way when you get busy during the week. Plus if you are new to this type of eating, it will help you learn what types of meals you can make without meat and animal products. I have been doing this long enough that sometimes I just go to the farmers market or the store and buy what inspires me, but even if I do that I still sit down when I get home and write out what I am going to make with it. Other weeks I lack my own inspiration so I’ll sit down with some of my favorite cookbooks and pick some meals from them to make.

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One of my favorite Friday night activities! Yep, I’m an introvert. 😉

3) Eat enough food. This was a tough one for me to learn when I first switched my diet. If you are eating lots of vegetables, they are full of nutrients but many of them are quite light on calories. I realized I needed to eat a good bit more food to make sure I was getting enough fuel to support my active lifestyle. I also try to make sure I eat plenty of whole food starches (sweet potatoes, corn, quinoa, wild rice, farro, oats) and of course a few cups of beans daily to meet my caloric needs. Play around with your serving sizes to figure out what works for you. If you are feeling sluggish, it is most likely because you are not eating enough.

4) Eat the right foods. While you need to eat enough, you also want to make sure it is enough of the right things. It is easy to rely on some of the mock meats and other vegan junk food when initially making the switch (no judgement here, on a rare occasion I’ll pick up some vegan kielbasa or veggie crumbles), but try to make sure you are filling up with real food before the processed stuff. I would imagine the motivation for a lot of you is not only to go vegan for ethical and environmental reasons, but also to be healthy. Oreos are vegan, but most would agree they are not a health food.

5) Pick vibrant foods. This is one of my favorite tips to talk about (yes, you’ve heard this one from me before, too 😉 )and use in my own cooking. Eating colorful foods not only ensures good health, but it helps keep your meals interesting and pleasurable to look at. If all your meals are dull and drab you will be more likely to want to go off-plan. On the other hand, if you add in lots of colors like red and yellow bell peppers, purple cabbage, blueberries and the like it will make you look forward to your plant-based meals more.

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6) Find people to follow that inspire you. There are so many amazing vegan blogs out there to follow, vibrant Instagram feeds, and Pinterest is still great for saving and finding recipes in my opinion! I don’t know that I can name them in one small paragraph, so I will try to get together a post on my favorite blogs to follow for meal ideas and other inspiration.  I also have been cooking out of some great new cookbooks (and some classics) to be able to give you guys some reviews on those, as well!

7)  Accept right away that not everything you make is going to be delicious.  You may have to choke down a few duds during the learning process, plain and simple.  Obviously you need to find things you like to make this lifestyle stick, but it takes a bit to figure out how to cook without rich, fatty animal products.  It also takes time for your taste-buds to adjust to healthier foods if you are used to eating a lot of junk.  You may also find you like some vegetables cooked better than raw, and vice versa.  Play around with how you cook things, as well.  Brussels sprouts are not so tasty boiled, but if you roast them you may want to eat the whole pan!

8)  Don’t give up!  You may slip up.  You may have a really bad day, or bad week.  Don’t let it totally derail your efforts.  I keep learning how to be kinder to myself in all areas of life.  None of us are perfect, but we tend to expect just that.

I hope that helps give you a little bit of motivation to start!  Definitely check out the link to the Veganuary page if you want some more information and great tips.  Not sure if you are ready to take the plunge for a month of plant-based living?  I have seen Veguary is a thing, too. 😉

If you have any particular requests or want to know my take on something in particular, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!

Author: plantstoplanks

Personal trainer, nutrition and wellness consultant, plant-based cook, avid runner and book-lover. :)

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