There’s no getting away from it, making positive change and creating new habits can be challenging. Sometimes overwhelming. In fact so overwhelming, it’s just seems too hard to start. But if you need to make changes to the way you eat due to a health challenge, overwhelm can’t win.
Research shows that a whole-food plant-based diet can have a huge positive effect on health by preventing, managing and even reversing many chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Plus many other conditions. Which is great news. I use it myself to manage my multiple sclerosis and other health challenges, so I can confidently say it works! Using food as medicine is a super tasty way of feel well. Which is why I called my book Eat Well Live Well.
But when I started it wasn’t easy. So many of the foods I loved (and was addicted to) were the very things that were making me sick. Which was most annoying! But once I started to feel better , it was worth the effort. Especially once I learnt how to make food super tasty using whole plants. I never realised how bad I felt before making the changes.
Because I know just how hard it can be, I wrote a series of blog posts a few years ago to help others starting to make those changes. The focus is how to make easy changes that will help you successfully adopt a whole-food plant-based diet without being overwhelmed.
To save you rummaging around the blog to find them, here’s a summary of each step plus the link to read more if you so desire.
I’m sharing these now at the beginning of the year in case eating more plants is one of your resolutions. But of course, these 7 easy steps can be applied any time of the year as it’s always a good day to start making positive changes and start feeling great!
So here are they are – I hope they help.
Step 1 – Know Your Why.
If you start an undertaking but don’t know why you’re doing it, success is unlikely! This applies to anything, including changing to a plant-based diet. Because having a purpose is important. particularly when the going gets tough.
Your ‘why’ can be deep and meaningful or as shallow as you like – having one is more important than what it actually is. I started to make change to deal with my headaches – and to be able to drink wine again! Then continued when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as I wanted to stay well so that when the time came for me to be a granny (not just yet!), I would be able to pick my grandchild up and play properly. As I love to play.
So before you start your making any changes to the way you eat, take a moment to find your why. And jot it down somewhere to remind you when the cheese board beckons!
If you want to read more about finding your why, here’s the full post to read.
Step 2 – Pace Yourself
Ever declared you’re making a huge change, thrown yourself into it head-long then after a few days realise it’s all too much and have to find ways to save face? If so, you’re not alone. Most New Year’s resolutions go that way. If you’re an all-or-nothing person, this way of making change may work, but for most people, sustained, gradual change works better.
If you feel ready, you may want to go for a fully plant-based diet overnight. But if you’ve been eating a highly processed or high animal food diet, your gut and body may not be able to handle it. Suddenly changing to a high-fibre, low processed sugar diet may have a lot of unwanted side effects and put you off. So taking time to reduce the processed or meat products and increasing whole-foods will pay off in the long run.
Also, others may expect you to make rapid changes, but you may want to go slower. And that is just fine, as long as you make some change! Be honest about it and go with your own flow.
If you want to read more about pacing yourself, you can read the full post here.
Step 3 – Eat More (fruit and veg!)
This is my favourite top tip when people ask me where to start. It’s super easy and very tasty!
There’s many ways to eat more fruit and veg. Like adding fruit to breakfast cereals, or eating 2 extra portions of veg with your main meal. Of course, at the same time, start to reduce the amount of processed or meat products you eat as you increase your fresh produce intake, but you may take a few days or even weeks to do that.
When eating more fruit and veg becomes a habit, you’ll notice a difference, and other changes start to feel more natural, and easier.
If you want to find out more about why fresh fruit and veg are so important, and more ways to add them into your daily diet, read the full post here.
Step 4 – Go Brown
When natural foods are processed, they lose many of the beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. Most ultra-processed foods found in products on the supermarket shelves are calorie dense, not nutrient dense. But whole-foods come with a higher density of nutrients plus lots of gut loving fibre, both of which the body love!
Eating brown rice, pasta and bread along with beans and pulses is a super easy way of giving your body the nutrients it needs and loves. It’s a good habit to get in to.
To find our more about how eating whole (brown) foods makes a difference, you can find the full post here.
Step 5 – Easy Swaps
You don’t have to suddenly come up with a whole new repertoire of dishes when changing to a whole-food plant-based diet, just find ingredients to swap into your favourite recipes. Curries, chilli, pasta, stir fries etc all work brilliantly with whole plant ingredients.
It’s a great opportunity to get creative!
To find out some of my top tips for making easy swaps, check out this post here.
Step 6 – Eat Real
There are many vegan products available in the supermarket these days, which is great news for the animals and environment. But many are highly processed and won’t necessarily help support your body if you’re using food to manage a health challenge.
So when you’re changing to a whole-food plant-based diet, it can be useful to ask yourself – is this a real food? And if processed, just how much has been taken out.
That may sound complicated, but it’s really not. Soya milk is a good example. It’s made from soya beans, a whole food. But it’s lost most of its fibre, therefore processed. But not as processed as hydrolysed soya protein found in many veggie burgers and sausages.
This concentration of a specific element of a food – in this case protein – puts it out of balance with nature, and in turn, can put us out of balance too. It’s much better to eat the soya bean or minimally processed product than and ultra-processed one when it comes to eating a plant-based diet for health.
To find out more about how to eat real foods, read this post here.
Step 7 – Mix It Up!
The saying says variety is the spice of life. And when it comes to food, it’s definitely true. We evolved eating a wide variety of foods, but today eat only 4 main ones. The gut loves a variety of foods, and the body loves a full range of nutrients.
Aim to eat different foods throughout the day, and week. This means if you eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch and even dinner every day, it’s time to mix it up!
To find out more about why eating a range of food is so important and my top tips on how to do it, have a look at this post.
Now you have these easy steps to follow, hopefully you’ll have great success in your journey to eating a whole-food plant-based diet. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!