I wish I could go back to my old self and read this article! But moreover, I have seen people get very excited about the concept of veganism after my seminars/ workshops and decide to switch overnight to last for exactly 24 hours later before they fall of the wagon.
Its not their fault, because in the sway of emotions, intelligence does not work ;). But these steps could make your transitions easy, surprisingly quick and even consistent.
Now you could choose going vegan for a number of reasons, your health, losing weight, the animals or the environment. Irrespective of your reasons, know that it will be the best decision you will make. Trust me this is true, because before anything else your body will thank you for it. You will see a huge difference in your energy levels, your immunity boosts up and you stay more fresh and connected to your body.
But before you jump into opening your vegan Instagram page or make declarations on Facebook, consider the following points:
1) Do not freek about getting it all right in the first go:
Especially when you make a public announcement about going on a plant- based diet, people around you will suddenly become critics and point out every single thing you cannot eat.
Till you explore food options and experiment with cooking, give yourself the freedom to be imperfect once in a while. Its ok if you eat a cookie or are unsure if your favourite vada pav joint has bread that might or might not contain milk. Going on a plant- based diet from a meat/ dairy eating lifestyle is a huge change in itself. Give yourself some credit for that and do not try to get everything right in one go.
You will have family dinner’s sometimes where you might be obliged to eat something or a cake at some birthday party. People will get used to you being on a plant- based diet soon and make arrangements in the future but don’t freek out if you have to dig into something not- so vegan in the first few weeks/ or even months if thats how long it takes you to switch.
The key is to make sustainable long term changes and not chase a 30 day challenge.
2) Plant- based food is more than just carrots:
I have actually met a client who used to have only carrots for breakfast because he could not think of any other food options that were plant- based! Who says vegan’s eat only fruits and vegetables! If you follow my Instagram stories, you have seen me post pictures of everything from pizza’s to smoothies.
NO, you do not have to survive only on ghaas- phuus. Prepare to explore food options more than every before. Plant- based diet is never about limiting your food options but instead expanding it. In fact, if you are not eating delicious, yummy and colourful food on a plant- based diet, you are probably doing it wrong.
Explore using spices and herbs and pretty much everything you used for cooking when not vegan, just keep the dairy/ meat out. Over time, you will realise that its not that hard to cook vegan and most food falls under the ‘accidentally vegan’ category anyways.
3) Get comfortable with customising menu’s at the restaurant:
Call your server, politely ask him to call the chef. Explain to the chef that you will not consume any meat/ dairy. In India you will have to specify no cheese, no butter, no ghee, no cream, no paneer, no mayo, no meat. Most places will not understand the word vegan. Or you can use the old ‘doodh se allergy hai, khaya toh vomit hoga‘ trick.
This might be intimidating the first one or two times, but trust me you will get very comfortable with it. And restaurants are more than happy to customise your order. Makes sure to ask your server and chef their name and call them by their name as often as you can. People get excited when you call their name and are more happy to help you. Also, you will remember who knows exactly what you want the next time you go there.
Most pan- asian food is already accidentally vegan. They use tofu instead of paneer and no other dairy products. Mexian and indian food is also easy to customise. Italian- indian and some mumbai type street food might be tricky to customise. Make it clear to them whatever your reason for going vegan is and not just specify your order. Some places automatically assume you are on a diet and that’s why no butter. They will come back with the ‘thoda he butter daala hai, nahe toh taste kaise aayega‘.
Trust me, pizza without cheese still tastes great, most liquor is vegan and starbucks makes a kick- ass soy mylk coffee! Within weeks of exploring you will make your own side menu’s at all your favourite joints and wont miss out on much when out with friends.
Honestly, I stopped taking multi- vitamins, flaxseed oil’s, calcium and a bunch of other supplements when I switched to a 100% plant- based diet. Supplements are only necessary when you are not getting enough micro- nutrients and vitamins from your regular diet. Plants and have more than enough micro- nutrients and taking a multi- vitamin when you are already eating healthy becomes an overdose and too toxic for the system.
There are however a few things to consider:
- Vitamin B12 and D! Get yourself checked for these two and only supplement if necessary. If not, make sure you are eating enough food fortified with these so you do not go deficient. B12 is derived from a bacteria that lives in the soil. Unless you are getting enough exposure walking/playing in the soil or eating unwashed root veggies, you are probably not getting enough B12. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and unless you get enough exposure to sunlight (sometimes even with enough exposure) you are deficient.
- Watch this video to understand more about iron and calcium.
- Make sure you get enough healthy fats in your diet. Plant based food is mostly carbs unless you consciously include fat sources. Take in nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocados etc to make sure you are getting enough.
- Protein is really not a major concern but try and consume atleast one portion of protein per meal. Lentils, beans, pulses, green leafy veggies are all great sources.
5) Be brave to try dairy/ meal alternatives!
Now when you switch from a vegetarian to a vegan diet, mock meat such as vegan fish/ chicken might not sound all that appetising. But give it a try and who knows you might end up falling in love with it!
Tofu is a great alternative for anything paneer and it took me months before actually trying it. Stupidest decision ever. I know a friend who actually buys his tofu and asks his favourite restaurant to cook chilly panner, except with his tofu instead of paneer. I though it was genius! If you get fresh and good quality soft tofu, you cannot even differentiate between the taste of the dairy version.
Meat also has no flavour to it. It takes up the flavour of whatever you marinate and cook it in. So might as well use the spices and herbs to get the flavour of whatever your favourite non- vegan dish is.
Tempeh and seitan is not very common in India, but when you get an opportunity, experiment with these dishes and you will find a whole new culinary love!
6) No need to go all fancy:
So you have decided to go vegan and follow a bunch of famous vegan celebs/ influencers. But when they cook and make their pinterest perfect dishes, you see the ingredients and recognise one out of the twelve mentioned there. This could be over- whelming and even confusing. You could make an effort to find these items online but nutritional yeast or quinoa could get expensive!
But there really is not need to go all fancy. Sure get fancy if you would like, but indian cooked food is more than enough to stay healthy and fit! A good idea would also be to follow some indian vegan influencers who upload food cooked with desi ingredients. Few of my favourite are Nidhi Kamal , Vegan Richa, and me maybe 😉
Experiment with what’s in your kitchen. Get inspired by the fancy smoothie bowls you see online, but trust me you can make similar once with whatever is available in your kitchen.
7) Get help:
I was not even aware of vegan communities and groups online for six months till I went vegan. If you live in India, trust me your city has a vegan group. In fact, I was not even aware that vegan people exist around me till months after going vegan. I thought I was the only one (In Russell Peters accent 😉 ) It was thrilling to go for my first vegan potluck and meet other Vegan’s. Explore the community and you will learn so much.
Plus you have someone to reach out to when you need help figuring stuff out. Having a vegan mentor is even better. Get online and make a post on the group Vegans In India and more than enough people will be happy to help. Don’t be too shy, no one will judge you for not getting everything right the very first time. No matter what part of the world you live in, there are vegan’s everywhere!
8) Find an alternative instead of ‘giving up’:
Ok so just because you chose to go on a plant- based diet, you do not have to give up on cheese, milk, ice creams or cakes! Once you connect with the vegan community around your location, you will be exposed to so many dairy alternatives and where to find them.
It is also really simple to make plant- based curds, mylk and cheese at home. Watch this video for a couple of ideas! Experiment with cooking or explore options available in super markets. White Cub makes excellent vegan ice creams available in most metro cities in india. Veganarke is currently local to bangalore but growing for milk/ curds alternatives in India. Unived is great for vegan supplements/ protein powders. Almost all major cities have countless home bakers, business owners that run all vegan businesses.
Giving up on something might lead to temptations and maybe even lead to you falling of the wagon. You want to find enough alternative options at least in the first year of going on a plant- based diet to make sure your you stick to it for long.
9) Eat enough!
Plant- based food is high in fibre so will fill you up fast. You might be eating high in terms of volume but not necessary calorically dense. Thus, people who switch to a plant- based diet might start losing weight instantly and fast. Eat apricots, dry fruits, avocados, dairy alternatives, dates, banana’s etc. All of these are high in calories and not as dense as having to eat the same calories worth of salads or soups.
If your goal is fat loss, great! get to your desired goal and then consciously work towards building muscle mass to maintain your weight. But if your goal is muscle gain, work with a nutritionist who understands or (even better) practices a plant- based diet to make sure you are getting enough calories in and in the right macros!
People too often switch back too soon thinking they will fall sick by not getting enough nutrients in on a plant- based diet. But darling its not as much about the nutrients (and trust me you are getting plenty of that!), but about just getting in enough calories.
10) Don’t expect everyone to understand you:
Especially in India where we worship cow and have been sold the dairy story from very early in our lives, people will not always understand you. In fact they will question your choices and decisions more often than ever.
Avoid getting into social media arguments with people trying to prove you are point. Trust me, a lot of the times the response simply is ‘you need to try it to know it’. In my seminars I have had people make statements such as ‘iv been drinking milk all my life and my health is absolutely fine’. Well that’s exactly how I felt before going vegan. Going on a plant- based diet and performing at my peak level now, I have a new best to compare it with. Sometimes, there is really no response to stupid arguments such as ‘plant’s have feelings too’. So do not waste your time and mental peace on stupid arguments.
I truly hope some of these tips do help you out! Remember to take your time and make the switch at a pace you are comfortable. There is no point in rushing too fast and then falling of the wagon. If you go on a plant- based diet but still cannot leave your cheese pizza, its still better than not taking any steps at all!
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