Think if you go plant-based you have to go all in? Heck no! The all-or-nothing approach can make you feel defeated, guilty, and deprived. Of course, if you have a serious health condition that requires you to stay 100 percent compliant, then you may have to lay down the hammer. But for the rest of you, change doesn't have to be as drastic as you might imagine. Even if you're just thinking about giving plant-based a test ride, read this article to learn all the tips and tricks for making this lifestyle change a success, from one bacon lover to another.
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I have a secret to tell you…
Pretty much everyone loves the taste of bacon and cheese.
Yes, even vegans, picky eaters, health fanatics, people who don’t wear shoes and juice kale. Pretty much everyone.
We all love the taste of bacon and cheese because these foods are salty, fatty, and packed with flavor. Our body rewards us with a dopamine rush for eating something so efficient. By “efficient” I mean that high fat foods are an “efficient” way to fatten up!
(And if you're thinking "but my keto friend says high fats diets make you skinny!" I will politely stop you right there. The goal here is healthy, not necessarily skinny...and keto isn't so great for your long-term weight loss or health goals.)
But back when we were hunters and gatherers, it was important for us to store up on fatty foods to use as energy, especially because we had to use energy in order to find our next meal. Avocados, meat, and nuts were a great high-calorie find, but now that we have Big Macs, mayonnaise, spam, and deep fried chicken, our "fatty" options have morphed. Unfortunately, our bodies didn’t get the memo and as a result, heart disease, certain cancers, gout, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and obesity have become our new norm here in the Western world.
But, that doesn’t change the fact that bacon and cheese are delicious.
If those foods are the only thing holding you back from going plant-based, then eat bacon and cheese!
Yep, you read that right.
And ten focus on trying to swap out the other meats, dairy products, and processed foods on your plate. While this may seem like a crazy concept (because everyone else has gone all or nothing), always remember: you’re in control of what goes on your plate. "Going plant-based" doesn't have to mean 100 percent "compliance." It’s your life. You’re in the driver's seat.
Rest easy knowing that although you still eat bacon and cheese, you can incorporat many more fruits and veggies into your diet, and eliminate a great deal of processed and animal based foods. You will see results, you will be healthier, you will prevent disease. Good for you, Mama is proud.
Now that you know you don't have to be "all in" to reap the benefits of going plant-based, let’s talk about flavor, because it's important!
Your taste buds will change. How do I know that? I used to eat bacon every day, along with at least 2 cheddar cheeseburgers, and my favorite: pizza dipped in ranch dressing (okay, more like drenched).
I’m from Vermont, so topping any dish with sharp cheddar was the norm. We even put it on apple pie, no joke! Fatty foods were my life. I woke up thinking about bacon and went to bed dreaming about ribs. And I never held back, calorie restricted, and told myself “you shouldn't eat that.”
I was not sick, dying, or overweight. I was 21 years old, 120 pounds of muscle, 5'10" — and a college athlete with a trim waistline and high energy! But I was what some might call “skinny-fat,” which is when your organs are suffering, but you look fine on the outside often due to high activity or a fast metabolism.
My body was tolerating all the meat, dairy, and processed foods because I was young; but my mother was terrified that I’d have a heart attack at 30. Of course, none of that concerned me, because hey, I LOOKED healthy! If I wasn’t on the tennis court, you’d find me in the kitchen cooking with sticks of butter, fresh herbs, bacon fat, way too much garlic (like there’s such thing), and of course, Vermont sharp cheddar. What can I say? I love to cook, and I love to eat.
That being said, I haven’t touched bacon or cheese in over 5 years. And believe it or not, I don’t miss them, even a little bit.
If I can do it, anyone can do it.
It wasn’t a heart attack, a diagnosis, or any last-ditch effort that changed my life forever. For me, learning about factory farming in college was eye opening. I simply decided I didn’t want to contribute to that industry anymore. On top of my newfound knowledge, my college tennis coach was plant-based and encouraged me to give it a try to help me reach my peak performance (I was skeptical). I had never watched what I ate before, so I had no concept of self-control in that realm.
I still don’t.
Thank goodness my food cravings have shifted. Like, really shifted. I haven’t craved bacon or cheese in years, even when my friend's kitchens are filled with sizzling pork fat and sweet cinnamon buns. It didn’t happen overnight, here’s how I got there...
1. You Are In Control
In reality, you can eat whatever you want. You are an adult! You can have birthday cake for breakfast, ice cream sundaes for lunch, and chocolate chip pancakes with a side of donuts for dinner if you want to.
But there is a reason you don’t do that, just like there is a reason you are interested in going plant-based. You have respect for your body, you want to be able to do the things you love (which often requires some semblance of health), and you want to be there for your family (or at least not a burden). Beyond all else, you want to feel good, because feeling like crud is not fun. And hey, if you look good that’s just an added bonus.
So back to being in control: it means that even if you're "going plant based," you can have a slice of pizza when you really want one. Have one slice; it won’t kill you. Don’t feel guilty, just eat it, and move on with your life.
If you find that you can’t stop at one slice, drink a big glass of water then try to fill up on plant-based foods and then reassess if you’d like that second slice. Often, you may find that you were just hungry, not necessarily hungry for pizza.
2. Don’t Feel Guilty
"Fell off the wagon" and had an egg and sausage McMuffin for breakfast? Stop thinking about it like you've "cheated." Your plant-based day isn't shot and you don't have to wait until tomorrow to start fresh. Here's a little tough love: cut the drama! Seriously, you'll feel so much better if you do. Leave it in the past, and load up on veggies during your next meal.
3. Focus On What You're Adding to Your plate, Not What You're Eliminating
AKA take it slow, and don’t “meat shame” yourself. Start by adding more veggies to your plate. The more your veggies crowd out the meat, the less meat you’ll be eating! Instead of enjoying a 8-oz steak, try a 4-oz steak with an extra side of veggies. Use cheese as a garnish, not as a main ingredient. Swap out your milk with plant-based milk. Change takes time. Give yourself the gift of time.
Or...how this meat-loving, bacon-fat-saving, pizza-ranch-dipping carnivore gave up animal products and became whole food plant based :)
Step 1: Don’t Purchase Animal Products at the Grocery Store
It’s really that simple.
Over at a friend's house? Give yourself a break and eat that chicken breast (maybe just have one and load up on sides!).
Out to eat for your friend's birthday? Dig into that ice cream Sundae.
Your mother-in-law brought over a cheese plate? Try some of that stinky gorgonzola and load up on grapes.
But when you’re at the grocery store, stick to the produce section.
Here are 3 simple tips to help you navigate the grocery store on a plant-based diet:1. Eat before you grocery shop. As you know, shopping when hungry is dangerous. Your body will crave those “high efficiency” AKA high-fat foods until it’s satisfied. Eat, snack, then shop.
2. Do 80% of your shopping in the produce section, 10% of your shopping in the cans, grains and pre-made foods section, and 10% in the refrigerated section. HERE is a plant based grocery shopping list to get you started.
3. Make a plan. If you’re not gifted in the kitchen, it’s important to come up with a game plan before you throw yourself into the rink. Find three awesome and simple plant based recipes, and a few easy go-to meals that you can shop for. Fill the rest in with your favorite fruits and veggies that you can find a way to incorporate into your diet. When in doubt, buy ingredients to make a stir-fry over brown rice (garlic and Tamari flavor veggies well).
Step 2: It’s All About Flavor
It’s important to eat healthy, exercise, meditate, drink water, and blah blah blah blah blah.
You know what else is important?! Enjoying the food you’re eating.
Flavor is important, texture is important, variety is important. You shouldn’t sit there eating a plain iceberg lettuce salad, hoping to get skinny and hating your life. Will that contribute towards your overall happiness? NO! So put the energy into making food that will give you joy. And you know what else that will give you? Pride. Because cooking a meal from scratch is impressive as heck!
Step 3: Stay Inspired.
Day 3. You haven’t dropped a pound. You think you feel better, but you felt okay all along anyway. Your friends and family are giving you a hard time (for whatever reason). You really want to give up, because change is hard! Don’t give up on yourself! Here are some ways to stay inspired while you're starting a plant-based diet:
1. If you have a little extra time, watch a documentary. Try, “The Game Changers,” “Forks Over Knives,” “What the Health,” or “Cowspiracy.” These documentaries are actually really entertaining, inspirational and might be just the kick in the pants you need to stay strong.
2. Watch Youtube plant-based recovery videos. It’s that simple, just type into Youtube or Google Search “Plant-Based Recovery Story” and let the tears start flowing. Here are a few to get you started:
-Ron’s Story (Weight Loss)
-Carolyn’s Story (MS)
-Larry’s Story (Heart Disease)
-Sarah’s Story (MS)
-Ava’s Story (PCOS)
-Sue’s Story (High Cholesterol)
-Lianna’s Story (Endometriosis)
-Naomi’s Story (Breast Cancer)
-Chris’s Story (Pre-Gout, Pre-Diabetes)
-Anthony’s Story (Obesity)
3. Study up! Go to NurtionFacts.org and watch Dr. Greger’s concise analysis of double blind placebo studies about nutrition. I know that doesn’t sound like a super fun Saturday night activity, but watch this one about dairy and cancer and then make that judgement after. It’s only seven minutes of your life. It’s worth the watch. If these videos don’t inspire you, then focus on the real reason you are here: to feel better, to be there for your family, and to be able to do what you love.
And a quick dose of tough love: I don’t want to hear any “I don’t want to live to be 100 and spend a quarter of my life with a walker in a nursing home!” Here's the deal: if you take care of your body, you are less likely to be in and out of hospitals, less likely to get chronic diseases that deteriorate your body, and less likely to have those “symptoms of aging” like aches and pains, low energy, brittle bones, and a weak heart. You’ll age gracefully, and be able to enjoy life to its fullest potential — and for longer!
1. Get irritated that your friends and family are SO BLIND to the wonders of plant based living. You mean like you were before you tried it? Give them a break. The best way to encourage someone is to lead by example, and cook delicious plant-based foods.
2. Become obsessive. The whole point of a plant based diet is you no longer have to count calories, take a million supplements, or portion control. Eat as many fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains as you’d like. Don’t get fanatic, remember: skinny is not the goal, healthy is. Your body will level out where it needs to be once it starts healing.
3. Eat lots of vegan junk food. Like what? Fake cheese, fake meat, fake eggs, fake butter, to name a few. While these foods are good tools for anyone transitioning, they're a slippery slope if you want to get healthy as most of them aren't much better nutritionally speaking than their animal product counterparts. Sure, sprinkle them in every once and awhile, but if the goal is health, you’ll want to stick to as many whole foods as possible!
Beyond That, Enjoy!
Do your best and you’ll find that the more plants you eat, the better you will feel.
You are in control. Make decisions that heal your body, bring you happiness, and make you feel like a rockstar.
Want a helping hand? Don't forget the MamaSezz Get Me Started Bundle was literally created to make going plant-based easier. You'll whole food plant based meals delivered to your doorstep. And guess what…the food is delicious. And I don't just say that because I'm a chef here at MamaSezz. Seriously, just check out the reviews!
- You don't have to go 100 percent right away, or ever! You're in control.
- Take it easy on yourself, change is hard.
- Change your grocery shopping habits.
- Stay inspired with documentaries and recovery stories.
- Remember why you are making the change in the first place
- If you want to make things easy on yourself, get plant-based meals delivered from MamaSezz. No meal prep, no cooking. Just heat, eat, and enjoy.
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.