Changing your life and diet is hard — and mistakes will be made. No sweat though! We've been there and we know this: there's always time to right the ship. Here are the 8 most common mistakes all plant based beginners make and how to fix them so you can live your best plant based life.
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If you're new to a whole food plant-based diet and feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. MamaSezz was created because changing to a whole food plant-based diet is overwhelming (at first!) — and we wanted to make it easier.
Like everything in life, mistakes will be made along the way. Goodness knows every single person on the MamaSezz team has made a ton of plant-based beginner mistakes. And guess what? You will, too. But here's the awesome thing: mistakes aren't going to hold you back from living your best life. Not even close! As the late great Maya Angelou said, "do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
Here are 8 of the most common "mistakes" that all whole food plant based beginners make...and how to right the ship.
You've got this.
1. Thinking you have to change to a whole food plant based diet overnight
You don't. It's as simple as that. While cold turkey may work great for some, it's not for everyone and that's OK. If the all or nothing mentality gives you anxiety, we urge you to let that go and focus on taking smaller steps towards a whole food plant-based lifestyle.
If you're completely new to a whole food plant based diet, try eating just one plant-based meal a day for a week. Then gradually move to two plant-based meals, then three.
Need some ideas to get started? Here's an easy whole food plant based meal plan for beginners with plenty of suggestions for easy vegan breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas.
2. Failing to identify your "why"
When it comes to making positive and lasting changes in your life what you really need is a big enough reason to change — this is called your why.
A good way to really figure out your why? Complete the following exercise:
I want to feel/or have _________________.
So that/or because __________________.
Want to eat better so you can have the energy you need to enjoy time with family and live a longer life? That’s a great and important reason to change your dietary habits.
3. Worrying too much about getting protein (you're getting enough)
Want to go plant based but stressing about protein — specifically, not getting enough? This is a common concern and here's the deal: it's not worth the worry.
Yes, protein is important but will get plenty of protein on a whole food plant-based diet.
We'll say that again because it's important: you will get plenty of protein on a whole food plant-based diet.
It's actually difficult to become protein deficient and plant-based eaters get about 70% more daily protein than their bodies need. Fiber deficiency among those eating a Standard American Diet is much more common than any vegans lacking in protein (1).
Still, we get it: the protein anxiety is real and it's fed by common misconceptions about vegan diets. After all, one of the first questions well meaning friends ask when we move to a whole food plant-based diet: "But how will you get your protein?!"
So to ease your mind, here is a helpful list of whole food plant-based protein sources plus an easy protein calculator to show you just how much (or really, how little) protein you actually need for optimal health.
4. Not drinking enough water
That fiber deficiency we just mentioned? It's not going to be your problem on a whole food plant based diet, trust us. Between all the whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, raw nuts and seeds you'll be eating, your fiber intake is about to soar. This is great news for you because a high fiber diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, even cancer.
But if you're new to a high fiber diet, you're going to want to drink plenty of water to help your digestion run smoothly. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, my friends. At least 8 8-oz glasses of water a day. It'll help move things along and prevent any digestive discomfort as your stomach gets used to all the fiber.
How to get all your water in: fill up a water pitcher with your 64 oz of water and drink from it throughout the day to ensure you're getting your fill.
Pro tip: infuse your water with fresh cut fruit, cucumbers, or mint for a refreshing mix up!
5. Not eating enough
We often hear from whole food plant based beginners who say they feel like they're hungry all the time. These folks also may cite fatigue as well since changing to this lifestyle. Coupled with the fatigue, feeling hungry all the time is usually a sign that you're actually not consuming enough calories on a whole food plant based diet. If this sounds like you, try to eat more calorie-dense plant-based foods, like avocado, nut butters, raw nuts.
If you're not struggling with fatigue and feel like you may be eating enough, there are other reasons you feel hungry all the time. Here are 8 tips for staying satiated on a plant based diet.
6. Assuming if it's vegan it's healthy
Look, we get it! Buying vegan processed vegan food does make life easier sometimes when you're starting out. While processed foods aren't part of a whole food plant based diet, they can be great transitional foods to help you on your way to eating more plants. But buyer beware: vegan doesn't always mean healthy. Plant-based diets are trending right now big time, which is great, but it's led to an abundance of vegan junk food in our grocery stores, from faux meats to dairy-free cheese.
The best way to avoid the trap of some of these convenience foods: learn how to read nutrition labels the right way.
Want to eat plant based but need it to be more convenient? Get whole food plant based meals from MamaSezz delivered to your door, ready to heat and eat.
7. Not using your spice rack to its full potential
Another common thing we hear from whole food plant based beginners: they think their food is bland!
And chances are, it probably is! Not because whole food plant based meals are boring or flavorless, but because these folks are not using their spice rack to its full potential.
Have no fear, MamaSezz to the rescue. Here is your guide to no-salt seasonings to spice you up plant based kitchen.
Plus, our #1 tip for plant-based cooking.
8. Doing it without support
This is a big one. You do not have to do this alone and we encourage you to get the support you need. If your family isn't on board, that's OK (although we know that can be tough, too — here are some tips for dealing with unsupportive friends and family).
One thing you can do today to get the support you need? Join our MamaSezz Facebook Group. It's free and easy.
We're a judgment-free zone, whether you're 100% eating this way or just dipping your toes, all are welcome. This is a learning and support group that is open to everyone with an interest in eating in a way that is good for people and the planet. We recognize that everyone is at a different stage in their plant-based journey and we embrace that!
It's ok to make mistakes! They help us learn and grow. And when it comes to eating healthy (and really most things in life), it's best to focus on progress, not perfection.
So keep on keepin' on — you're doing great!
We've been there! These are the 7 mistakes whole food plant based beginners make most often — and what to do about them!
- Mistake #1: Thinking you have to go cold turkey! Easy fix:You can ease into your whole food plant based diet if that works better for you! Start with one plant-based meal a day and work your way up!
- Mistake #2: Not identifying your why, or your reason for changing your lifestyle. Easy fix: Complete this exercise: I want to feel/or have _________________. So that/or because __________________.
- Mistake #3: Worrying you won't get enough protein. Easy fix: eat a variety of whole plant-based foods and you'll get enough. It's as simple as that.
- Mistake #4: Forgetting to hydrate! Easy fix: Get a big water pitcher and fill it up with your daily 64 oz of water and drink from it throughout the day to ensure you're getting enough.
- Mistake #5: Not eating enough! Easy fix: If you have fatigue in addition to hunger, eat more! Try higher calorie plant-based foods like avocado and nuts/nut butters. If you're not tired, check out these 8 tips for staying satiated on a plant based diet.
- Mistake #6: Eating too much processed vegan food. Easy fix: read nutrition labels and order MamaSezz ready-made plant-based meals for convenience.
- Mistake #7: Under-seasoning your food! Easy fix: get acquainted with your spice rack.
- Mistake #8: Going at it alone. Easy fix: Join the free MamaSezz Facebook group for online support.
By Ali Brown
Ali is a mom, wife, and nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor. She has her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.