Happy New Year! 🎉
If you have been thinking of eating more plants, this post is going to teach you how to avoid the most common mistakes when eating a plant-based diet.
Today’s post is from my dear friend Andrea Bernal. She has a Plant-Based Diet Nutrition Certificate from T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Certification.
Enjoy it! ☕
I've been vegan for over 7 years and have helped thousands of people eat healthier. I've learned a lot from my own experience and others as well.
Since this is a blog focused on food, I'll only talk about the diet portion and not about the other aspects of a plant-based lifestyle.
Let's start with the mistake I made myself when I went vegan over 7 years ago 📝.
1. Assume all vegan food is healthy 🍟
This is a pretty common one, and I made this mistake as well!
When we transition from eating animals to eating a 100% plant-based diet, it's normal to keep buying foods with similar tastes and textures to the foods we usually eat.
In my case, I initially changed my diet because I suffered from gastritis, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and other gastrointestinal problems. I got tired of experiencing pain, so I decided I wanted to give this vegan lifestyle a try.
And I did! I changed overnight, got rid of all animal products in my pantry and fridge.
I didn't know better and went straight to the supermarket and got faux meats of all types, including vegan shrimp, vegan chicken, vegan BBQ ribs. Also bought vegan cheese, oil, and so many other highly processed vegan foods.
Fortunately, after doing a lot of research, I learned that my diet should focus on whole foods, not processed foods.
That means plant foods that are unprocessed or processed as little as possible such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes.
By eating whole foods, you can keep a healthy microbiome and reduce your risk of chronic diseases that are the leading killers globally, such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
2. Not drink enough water 🚰
Did you know that fiber is only found in plants? Animal products don't have any fiber.
Unfortunately, only about 3% of Americans reach the recommended minimum daily intake of fiber.
So, when you go from eating very little fiber to eating foods packed with fiber, but you don't increase your water intake, you start experiencing problems such as constipation, bloating, and gas, among others.
Why? Because fiber absorbs a lot of water, we need extra water, so the bolus can move faster through the digestive tract.
How much more water should we drink a day?
It depends on how much fiber you're eating, your exercise level, ambient temperature, etc.
You can get a glass or stainless steel water bottle and write down how much water you drink every day until you find the right amount of water that works for you.
3. Not eat enough calories 🥗
People who do diets to lose weight tend to focus on the wrong things. They try to eat tiny amounts of food and fight to not starve. Why?
Because the foods they're eating are high in calories; therefore, they need to keep an eye on the quantity and the volume they eat from these foods.
Isn't that what we are all taught to do, though? Portion control, count calories? Yes.
But that doesn't mean it is the right thing to do.
When you transition from eating the standard western diet to a 100% whole food plant-based diet, you think you have to follow that same advice you've been hearing since you were a child.
Count your calories, control how much you eat. However, as you may know, if you've followed diets that focus on limiting how much you eat, doing that is NOT sustainable.
Thankfully, when you eat a whole food plant-based diet, you don't need to count calories. Non-starchy vegetables, fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are the lowest in calories.
Not only that. Foods that are low in calories also tend to provide more satiety, meaning you won't get grumpy (like me when I haven't eaten 😆) because you're starving.
This is one of the most common mistakes I've seen people make. People are terrified of overeating because they believe whole foods are as calorie-dense as animal foods, oil and, processed foods.
But now you know! No need to worry about overeating if you stick to whole-foods!
4. Not take B12 supplements 💊
Vitamin B12 is needed for protein metabolism, red blood cell formation, and the central nervous system's maintenance.
It is made by bacteria, not by animals or plants. Animals raised for human consumption get their B12 from supplementation, so when people eat these animals, they get B12.
However, the Framingham Offspring Study showed that even meat eaters can be B-12 deficient.
People with the highest levels of B12 weren't those who consume lots of animal products but instead, those getting B12 from supplemented fortified foods.
So, regardless of the diet you follow, cut out the middleman (the animals), take B12 supplements, or get B12 shots.
5. Not do meal planning 🍚
You have probably been in these two scenarios:
You're invited to a restaurant, to a party, or just to go out with friends. You go out and find out that there's nothing healthy you can eat, so you end up eating whatever they have at the party, restaurant, or what your friends want to feed you.
Depending on where you live or where you're going, it might be more or less challenging to find healthy, nutritious, and satisfying food.
You're always trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You end up eating unhealthy leftovers from your roommate, partner, family/friends, or you end up ordering the cheapest unhealthy food you can find.
Because by the time you "realize" you don't have any food, it's too late, and you're already too hungry and are craving fatty, salty, unhealthy food.
As you can see, any of these two scenarios can lead you to eat stuff you're not supposed to. What should you do? Simple! Just plan ahead!
Ok ok... it's definitely not that simple. But it's certainly possible. This is coming from someone who loves eating a large amount of healthy food but dislikes cooking very much.
So what do you do? 😟
In scenario #1, you can do the following:
Eat before you go out
Call the restaurant ahead of time or check their website to check which options they have
Take food with you
To avoid scenario #2 from happening, you could explore the idea of meal prepping.
Select which meals you want to eat throughout the week
Make a list of the ingredients you need
Go grocery shopping and buy only the items on your list
Prepare the meals
Portion them and place them in glass containers
Place the glass containers in the freezer
Next time you need to eat, just unfreeze the food, heat it up and enjoy! 😋
When Andrea mentioned that she has helped lots of people start eating plant-based, it’s true. I am one of them!
She was crucial in helping me get started, and I still reach out to her to talk about plant-based stuff.
Now it’s your turn:
Which one of these 5 mistakes have you done? Items 1 and 3 for me 🙈.
Have a wonderful week and see you soon 👋.