Part 1 of this blog is a highly recommended read; that’s where I share my own personal challenges and breakthroughs revolving around how to #eatmoreplants and how I managed to #maketheshift and achieve results that truly blew my mind.
I also shared some invaluable tips to debunk the most common nutrition myths AND some highly invaluable tools to educate yourself on the subject so make sure you check it out before you read on.
As promised, I will now break down what I believe are the top 6 most effective tips to take gradual, incremental and sustainable steps towards being able to #eatmoreplants without feeling overwhelmed and deprived.
Here we go:
- Every week for four weeks cut down or eliminate one item from the following categories of foods that do not support your health and wellbeing:
– Processed meat: ham, turkey/chicken ham, sausages, bacon, and the likes. These items have now officially been classified by WHO (the World Health Organization) a Class A carcinogenic. This means that the link between increased consumption and increased risk of cancer is virtually irrefutable. These are the kind of foods that nobody ever needs to eat and everyone should work towards avoiding at all costs. In this instance, moderation does not apply. Much like you would never recommend anyone to “smoke cigarettes in moderation”, I would also never recommend anyone to “eat processed meat in moderation”. Feel free to experiment with all the numerous vegan alternatives now available in most supermarkets (This, Tofurky, Taifun, Linda McCartney, Vivera, Cauldron, Quorn, Vbites and the likes): they won’t all work for you for some definitely will and trust me when I say, the most processed vegan replacements are ALWAYS going to be FAR healthier than their animal-based equivalents.
– Dairy, including eggs; this is a tricky one, I know. Even some life-long vegetarians often struggle to #maketheshift to fully plant-based because they simply feel unable to give up milk and its numerous derivates. It really can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do. Let me tell you a secret as to why this is: milk is addictive. Really though. I don’t mean this in the cute, metaphorical sense of the word. I mean literally. Biochemically. Neurologically. Its digestion generates a substance called casomorphin which produces morphine-like effects in the body. So no wonder many people find it literally impossible to give up! Now that you know why it can be difficult to give up dairy, let me tell you why it is still worth pursuing: dairy is closely linked with digestive issues. At least 75% of the global population are actually intolerant and this number does not include all those people who “learn to live” with the discomforts that its consumption causes, thinking it is normal. Dairy is also linked with an increase in cardiovascular disease (due to cholesterol and saturated fat content) AND, wait for it, osteoporosis. Yep, you read that right. There no evidence to show that dairy is good for your bones and actually plenty of evidence to show that it may not be! Like I said above, feel free to experiment with the numerous kind of dairy-free alternatives out there ( Violife, Sheese, Follow Your Heart, Nush, Provamel, Alpro, Plenish, Rude Health, Kite Hill, Miyokos, Treeline and more) but let me warn you: it won’t taste the same! Much like with any substance that has addictive qualities, the brain (and taste buds) will forcefully rebel when you first try those alternatives because it won’t get the same level of stimuli. Imagine if you were to switch from doing drugs to smoking cigarettes, or from drinking vodka to drinking alcohol-free beer: would you get the same amount of pleasure to begin with? Use this new-found knowledge to inspire and motivate you along the way and trust that you will gradually lose the pull towards dairy products as you gradually reduce consumption and that your taste buds will adapt accordingly. The following exercises will really empower you even further.
– Processed foods containing animal products: anything pre-made and packaged. Generally speaking, If it contains over 5 ingredients or any ingredient that you don’t know what it is or how it’s made, I would consider it a processed food. Processed food is known to be detrimental to health and wellbeing, especially if consumed regularly (more than once a week). This is because it is generally very high in salt, refined sugar, nasty preservatives, and other questionable ingredients. If it contains animal products, it is also high in cholesterol, the bad kind of saturated fat (not all of it is equally as bad for us), antibiotics and more armful additives (since animal products tend to spoil faster). Whenever choosing a processed meal, make it a vegan one and you’ll automatically make it healthier. Although remember that the ultimate goal is to eat natural whole foods as often as possible.
2. Every day for a week note and write down (or record on your phone recorder) how you feel physically and emotionally after every meal or snack you eat. If this feels daunting, do it for at least one meal a day. What seems like a silly and maybe tedious exercise is actually incredibly powerful. It will allow you to become more present with the food you currently eat or with any new food you’re incorporating into your routine: you will start noticing what works for you and what doesn’t so much. This will empower you to maintain positive changes and avoid foods that don’t work for you without feeling deprived. Nothing is more important than how you handle your mindset and emotions around food and the only way to handle them is to first become aware of them.
3. Identify your “Why”: write down one reason why you want to improve your health and wellbeing and ask yourself “why” 5 times to find out the deeper motivation behind your quest. Write down what you discover on a card that you can easily fit in your wallet and look at it whenever you feel down or are tempted to eat something you know is not good for you. Train your mind to change your life. Never get tired of working on your mindset. The more deeply-embedded your motivations are, the stronger you’ll be and more able to handle challenges. This takes a lot of repetition, to begin with but like any other habit, it will get easier and more effortless the more you do it.
4. Stock up your pantry and fridge with easy and healthy options to snack on or eat when you’re in a rush. Setting up your environment for success is a fundamental part of the process. Don’t make it harder than it needs to me to resist bad temptations or easily access suitable options. Nothing is worse than coming back home after a long day at work to find the fridge and pantry empty or, even worse, only stocked with the very stuff you’re trying to reduce or avoid. Make sure your freezer is always stocked with veggies, whole grain bread, even ready-made healthy meals. Make sure your pantry is stocked with microwave rice and grains, bean soups, canned beans, whole grain pasta, and pasta sauce. Some healthy snacks you should always have handy include but are not limited to: cut up veggies, fruit, wholemeal crackers like Ryvita or rice cakes, nuts, nut butter, olives, healthy spreads (hummus, guacamole, low sodium salsa or any homemade ones).
5. Start with just one Meat-Free day a week and gradually work your way up: choose one day of the week (Monday is the popular one) when you commit to not eating animal products for the whole day. If this feels daunting, start with one meal only. Going all in at the deep end may work for some but it doesn’t work for most and you won’t get a special prize for how quickly you #maketheshift. This is not a race, it is a life long journey towards continuously improved health, wellbeing and life satisfaction: getting to your intended goals fast is NOT as important as enjoying the ride as much as possible. The more you embrace and have fun with the process, the more likely you are to stick with it in the long run. It is not about perfection, it is all about progress so view this as a fun experiment rather than a regimented mission and before you know it, you’ll get even further than you could have imagined.
6. Think about dishes you already make that don’t contain animal products or that are easy to adapt and try a new plant-based recipe each week to build a selection of your favorites (look on forksoverknives.com for great inspiration). It is so important to leverage what you already know and enjoy rather than feel like you have to ditch everything and start from scratch. It is equally as important however to experiment and discover new things that will soon become your new favorites. You’ve got to find a balance between the two so that you don’t feel overwhelmed but also don’t get bored and, in my experience, one new recipe a week is what most people can easily handle. In the meantime, here are some examples of easy dishes you’re probably already familiar with and have eaten before:
– Pasta with tomato sauce and oven-baked vegetables (you can add vegan cheese to make this creamy if you like)
– Vegetable stir-fry with noodles or rice (if you’re feeling adventures, why not add some smoked tofu?)
– Chilly Bean soup (or any other vegetable soup of choice) with a whole grain bread roll
– Baked potato topped with baked beans and salad or steamed veggies
– Burrito with brown rice, beans or tofu, salsa, and avocado
– Pizza topped with tomato sauce and all your favorite veggies (vegan cheese is optional)
Remember that we are NOT designed to go through life and succeed on our own so the final bonus tip is: find one or more people to support you along the way! Nothing will keep you motivated like a friend, accountability group or coach. Think about it: even professional athletes have teams that support their effort so what makes you think you can do it all alone? Plus, is more fun when you have someone that can help you see the positives when you can’t and can share your success and wins (small or large).
P.S.: If you’d like to score your current level of development across the three pillars of wellbeing and get effective tips to improve now, simply head over to https://www.wholeshiftwellness.com/scorecard/ and use our FREE tool now: you will receive a free, comprehensive pdf report with your score and bespoke tips via email (check your spam!).
So what are you waiting for? NOW is the time to #maketheshift!