Vegan eating has been one of the fastest growing food trends in the last few years. Plant-based mince and other meat alternatives are now commonly sold in supermarkets across the country. Most years begin with Veganuary, an opportunity to commit to veganism for a month as a new year’s resolution. Well into 2020, this trend shows no sign of stopping or even slowing down.
And is it any wonder? Advocates of a vegan diet claim that it has many, many benefits including increased health, environmental sustainability and even better sex! But transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle isn’t always smooth sailing. Here’s what to expect in the first few weeks, as well as a few recipes that can help make the transition a little easier.
How to begin
Perhaps you’ve considered following this trend, but wondered if you could really do it. Many people advocate a gradual approach to becoming vegan in order for the change to be sustainable. Following this approach, you slowly ease yourself away from eating meat, eggs and dairy by going vegetarian first or by committing to days in the week (meat-free Mondays for example) where you aren’t consuming animal products.
But this isn’t necessarily the only way to approach a transition to a plant-based diet. Many people prefer to commit to a vegan lifestyle for an initial period of time and then work it out from there. This approach does bring the benefits and drawbacks of vegan eating into sharp focus. Here’s what you can expect in the first few weeks of your plant-based eating journey:
Swapping relatively high-calorie animal products for lower calorie plants foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will most likely result in weight loss. However, if this is the result you desire, it’s important that you don’t swap out healthy foods for junk foods. If you are ditching meat and dairy, ensure you choose healthy substitutions.
This doesn’t have to leave you hungry! There are plenty of delicious ways to be both healthy and satisfied. Try:
- Vegan Macadamia and chickpea curry with macadamia roti bread
- Roast vegetables, lentil and macadamia salad
- Dukkah baked pumpkin and macadamia salad
A super-charged energy boost
Many new vegans report that they have more energy when they convert to a plant-based lifestyle. If you are replacing high-sugar junk food with fruit, vegetables and wholegrains it’s likely that you will be eating a healthier diet overall, leading to more sustained energy. You’ll also be avoiding the energy peaks and slumps that high-sugar food can cause.
However, some people do report feeling more hungry when they first switch to veganism. Bulk preparing vegan snacks for your first few weeks can help you maintain your stamina and ensures you have something suitable to hand if you do start to feel hungry. Recipes to prepare in bulk include:
- Macadamia power bars
- Macadamia bliss balls and slice (just swap the ghee for coconut oil to make this slice vegan).
- Fruity snack bars (use maple syrup instead of honey)
Removing meat, eggs and dairy from your diet will inevitably mean increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, and will most likely mean that you are consuming more high-fibre foods. This is extremely beneficial to your gut, but a sudden change to a high fibre diet may mean that you experience bloating and other gastro-intestinal side effects in your first few weeks as a vegan. This should subside over time as our body adjusts.
It’s important that you eat plenty of gut friendly foods during this time so you could try incorporating a vegetable sauerkraut into your routine.
Meal prep will take on a new meaning
A healthy vegan diet over the long term involves planning for nutrition. In your first few weeks, you might find your usual on-the-go breakfasts or busy weeknight meals are off the menu because you can’t find vegan options. Meal prep will most likely become an important part of your life as you have to plan ahead to get the best nutrition while remaining satiated.
We suggest making a batch of macadamia cheese for salads, snacking and cooking in the first few weeks of entirely plant-based eating. While you are in the kitchen, you might want to make ahead one or two of the other dairy substitutes (like butter, milk and mayonnaise) that can be made from macadamias. It will certainly make the first few weeks pass more smoothly while you are working out your new food routine.
How were your first few weeks as a vegan? What recipes got you through?