Up until a month and a half ago, I had been a vegetarian for almost ten years. In college, I decided to become vegetarian as an experiment (to see how long I could do it) and after awhile it just became a conscious lifestyle choice.
But the past few years, with having kids and being more of a conscious consumer, I kept feeling a nudge to take it a step further and become vegan. Like most people, I thought, “I can’t be a vegan — what would I eat?” Now that I’m on the other side, I see how silly of a question that is! But if you’re unaware of the way something works, then of course it seems daunting, strange, and unfamiliar, right?
So, what caused the sudden transition to a plant-based lifestyle? I’ll be honest, it wasn’t about saving the animals (though of course that is part of it!) — it was about saving our health, our lives, our children’s lives.
One night we watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives (after almost deciding beforehand not to watch it!) and the information presented in that film really opened our eyes. It gave us scientific evidence as to how damaging animal products are to our bodies. I mean, we knew dairy and meat were bad, but that film just took it to another level for us. My husband even remarked, “Wow, who knew a documentary could turn me into a vegan overnight?”
With this new information, we cut out dairy cold turkey (ha!) within the next couple of days. Being vegetarian already, this wasn’t particularly hard for us as it may be for others who are used to consuming more dairy and animal products. I would suggest (if you decide to make the switch as well) to do it slowly, particularly if you are consuming a lot of animal products and dairy already.
The next steps:
After watching the documentary, we visited the Forks Over Knives website and discovered that they help you to make the transition. You can sign up to be a member where they give you a weekly meal plan with a grocery list of exactly everything you need for your recipes.
Unfortunately, becoming a member was out of our budget, but for the first week, we followed a sample meal plan which was really really helpful. It was wonderful to have all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!) planned out for us. We really enjoyed trying new recipes and substitutes for processed items that we may have purchased in the past. Every meal we made was delicious! After that week, we planned all those meals on our own, using recipes that we really liked that were suggested by FOK, and some that we already made often at home.
What to expect:
Naturally, switching to a plant-based diet does cause some changes.
Firstly, you will go through a natural detox, getting rid of the toxins in your body from the animal products you used to consume. For me, this lasted a couple of weeks as my body was adjusting to the new foods I was eating. It wasn’t a bad detox, but I did feel tired, had headaches, felt bloated, and overall blah. But after the initial detox, I felt much better! I’m not so tired and blah now (which used to be my normal) and I feel a lot healthier.
Secondly, since you will be consuming more fiber and nutrient-dense food, your digestive system will be getting a workout. Be sure to drink lots of water to keep things moving! And yes, more fiber, nutrients, and water means more trips to the bathroom…which is a good thing! 😉
Thirdly, you will need to start taking a vitamin B12 supplement. I didn’t realize how important it was to take this supplement, which I should have been doing as a vegetarian as well, and taking it has really helped my energy levels. Sure, I still get tired because I’m running around with kids all day, but I’m not feeling as sluggish as I had in the past. Additionally, we started taking probiotics as well for healthy gut. For someone who has had previous digestive issues (along with a family history of it), I believe taking probiotics has really helped maintain some balance for me.
Fourthly, because fruits and vegetables are less calories, you will have to eat MORE to feel full. I mean, that’s a huge perk to a vegan diet! Who doesn’t like to eat? You get to eat more AND not worry about gaining weight (unless you’re just eating processed foods, of course) or counting calories or wondering, “Is this good for me?” It’s ALL good and nutritious and beneficial for you. I really like food so the fact that I can eat more of it is a bonus for me 🙂
Okay, so how did the kids react to this transition?
To be completely honest, our three year old has been a champ. In a way, she almost hasn’t noticed a change. However, there have been instances where we have had to deny her request for a non-vegan item and we simply say, “We don’t eat that anymore.” Most of the time, she moves along, but other times, we may have to explain it a little more or give her another, more appropriate option.
Sometimes she doesn’t like certain foods and that’s okay. If she is involved in food preparation, she is more likely to eat her meals. Also, being that meals are more colorful, it’s fun for her to see them together and she gets practice with learning her colors or counting her bites as she takes them. These can be creative ways to help kids adjust to their new way of eating.
The good news is that there are so many vegan options and substitutions out there that you won’t as feel as though you’re going on this journey alone. Truthfully, the vegan items taste just as great (if not better) than non-vegan items. We can still indulge in some of our favorite food items, just in an altered way 🙂
Do we miss dairy? Not. one. bit. In fact, thinking about our previous consumption of dairy or the idea of eating cheese and butter is repulsive. Our bodies crave the colorful, nutrient-dense foods. And when we think about how damaging animals products and dairy are, we realize that we just don’t want to do that to ourselves. We want to feel good; we want to live long and healthy lives. Because of this, and so much more, I am confident that we will continue choosing a plant-based lifestyle, for it has given us so many benefits already in this short amount of time.
Below I’ve listed some resources which informed our decision, helped us to transition, or provided answers, support, recipes, etc. I hope you find them useful as well.
Any questions that I may not have addressed? I am eager to hear if you make the transition – it can be just for a few days or a week or a month! I support you and am here to answer questions!
Resources: [updated January 2019 to include additional resources]
- Food Inc
- In Defense of Food
- Before the Flood
- Food Matters
- OMG GMO
- Last Call at the Oasis
- Forks Over Knives
- What The Health
- EWG (clean 15, dirty dozen)
- Organic Consumers Association
- Forks Over Knives
- Minimalist Baker
- Dr McDougall
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- From My Bowl @frommybowl
- Sweet Simple Vegan @sweetsimplevegan
- Minimalist Baker @minimalistbaker
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell (health)
- Comfortably Unaware by Dr. Richard Oppenlander (health and environment)
P.S. I have created my own plant-based food Instagram account focused on the homemade meals that I prepare for our family. You can find me and follow along with our adventures at @herbivorehaus.