How do you know someone is vegan? They will tell you about it. While it might have been a fad sevral years ago, several people are now switching to the lifestyle for the health and environmental benefits. In fact, even restaurants are adapting to their consumer’s dietary preferences and introducing specially curated plant-based and vegan menus, and vegan cafes altogether. Vegan food has gone beyond being labeled as boring. Today, everything from pizza to pasta to cookies and cake is vegan and packs a punch with flavours.
Like any other diet, you can’t switch to a vegan one in a day. It’s a change in lifestyle and there’s a process to transition smoothly into it. If you’re someone who is thinking of making the switch to a vegan diet, here’s a beginner’s guide with tips from chefs and experts.
1. A vegan diet can be plant-based but a plant-based diet is not necessarily always vegan
‘Vegan’ and ‘plant-based’ are often used synonymously but it is important to understand the distinction between the two. Raveena Taurani, Head Chef & Founder at Yogisattva shares “People who are on a plant-based diet often choose to add honey to their food especially if it comes in its raw, natural form. And that’s why it’s not always necessarily vegan. However, all plant-based food is generally healthy because they are natural foods that come from nature and that’s what plant-based eating refers to. It can’t be that all vegan food is healthy because a lot of it is packaged and processed vegan meats that are not great for health.”
2. Consult a nutritionist
Just like any other lifestyle, when switching to a plant-based one, you need to be mindful of making sure to keep up with the supplementation you need. “It’s always recommended to get a full body profile done and consult your GP or nutritionist while making a dietary switch so you are well-equipped with any vitamins or supplements you may need via external consumption,” Raveena adds.
3. Don’t forget your vitamins
Vegan diets often lack Vitamin B12 because the vitamin is found naturally in animal products. Founder & Chef, of Seeds Of Life, Mohit Bulchandani explains, “To maintain the nutritional value of the body, it is important to incorporate all the right and rich vegan food options that provide Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, iron and more. These can include all seeds like chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds, which are extremely high in protein, calcium, and omega. Vegetables like kale, spinach, and beetroot are also very high in iron, calcium, and B12.”
4. Explore vegetarianism
Shriya Naheta Wadhwa, Health Coach and Founder of Zama Organics says, “The most typical error that new vegans make is attempting to transition into veganism without first attempting to be vegetarian. Because of the abrupt change, they frequently feel hungry. This is due to a significant shift in our habits. It takes time for the human body to adjust.”
5. An instant shift to a vegan diet can leave you with some digestive woes
A vegan diet is high in fibre as it includes plant-based food. So if you make a significant shift to it, you can encounter some bloating, gas, or an upset stomach. What can you do to ensure a smooth switch, especially if you eat meat regularly? Vegan chef and author of The Modern Tiffin, Priyanka Naik recommends reducing your meat consumption slowly till you exclude it completely. “If you’re eating meat every time, your body needs time to adjust. As you progress in your week, start with 2-3 days without any meat, then 4-5 days, and once you keep increasing the time your body will get used to it. It will get used to the excess vegetable intake and fibrous food, you’ll probably have more carbohydrates in your diet,” she says. “But it’s also important to take pre-biotics and probiotics for maintaining a healthy gut and immune system. If you want a more holistic approach, make sure to incorporate a lot of spices in your food like turmeric, ginger and garlic, which are going to be very good for digestion,” she adds.
6. Vegan alternatives for hardcore meat eaters
“Include alternates like jackfruit and oyster mushrooms in your meals to get the same textural consistency as meat. Stay away from packaged and processed ‘plant-based meats’ which are often filled with excessive preservatives and are not easy on the gut,” Raveena says.
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7. Increase your consumption of seasonal fruits and vegetables
Shriya also recommends making seasonal food your best friends. “Know what is locally available and growing in your country, and consume it as soon as it is harvested,” she says.
8. Stick to familiar cuisines
Just because you’re vegan, you don’t need to completely shift your preferences and flavours. “Choose cuisines you love and swap for vegan alternates – for example, the traditional Indian diet is diverse and offers something for everyone. The daily meals consist of a balanced diet and simple dishes such as a lentil curry (dal), a dry (or with gravy) veggie stir fry, and a carbohydrate of choice – rice or roti. Choose foods that are both satisfying and wholesome,” Shriya adds.