"What The Health": How to Transition to a Plant-Based Diet

Labels tend to freak people out. Perhaps it's a fear of commitment, but whether we like them or not, here they are, and here they'll remain. Many people follow a vegetarian diet without trying or even thinking about it. For those of you who want to make it official and start calling it as it is, here are a few tips. Vegetarianism is tricky as the category itself is quite broad. According to Ryan Andrews, "the average American eats approximately 222 pounds of meat per year. This does not include seafood." So it's no wonder that vegetarianism is on the rise.

Here's the breakdown: There are pescatarians-- vegetarians who also eat fish and seafood. Then you have the lacto-ovo vegetarians who also eat dairy and eggs. Consequently, you have those who are strictly lacto or just ovo vegetarians. And finally, you have the commitment-phobes: the flexitarians who basically do whatever is convenient or easier at the time. No judgment here! (well, maybe a little towards the flexitarians, but no matter! Do you boo!)

Many people have been talking and making major life changes after watching the documentary "What The Health" on Netflix. We're here to break it down for you just a bit more and give you some useful tips on how to transition into a healthy, plan-based diet! 

WhY do people go vegetarian?

Religion

Some faiths and religions adhere to vegetarian diets and see the deliberate and mindful self-control as another means for worship. Other religions adhere to a vegetarian diet so as not to cause harm to the environment or animals.

Animal Rights

In the United States, the conditions under which most animals live are completely deplorable and more than anything, unsanitary. Our hunger for meat has grown faster than evolution itself, and farmers simply cannot keep up with the demand. What happens as a result? We use chemicals and hormones to make chickens plumper and juicier. We create genetically mutated fruits and vegetables. Because who has time for seasons? I want strawberries all damn year! And lots of waste, as our obsession with beauty, is more than skin-deep. There's a dent on this apple! To the bin, I say! Why those blueberries simply aren't blue enough! Off with their heads! (You get the idea.)

Sustainability 

There's also the case of the environment! The farming of animals puts a great strain on natural resources. "The total production of excrement by the U.S. population is 12,000 pounds per second. The total production of excrement by U.S. livestock is 250,000 pounds per second, which would be greatly reduced if humans ate a more plant-based diet and had little or no need for domesticated livestock. Less livestock would also greatly reduce Earth’s trapped greenhouse gasses." Love of the planet causes many people to eliminate meat from their diet. 

Health 

Vegetarians and vegans tend to have lower rates of heart disease, hypertension and much more. It's also been proven to promote weight loss when part of a balanced, healthy diet. According to the Vegetarian society: "A well-balanced vegetarian diet is known to bestow a wide range of health benefits. Research has shown vegetarians to suffer less heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, various cancers, diverticular disease, bowel disorders, gallstones, kidney stones, and osteoporosis." That should be reason enough! 

No matter your reasons, if you're interested in modifying your diet to be less meat dependent, here are 7 things to keep in mind! 

 

Eat Colorfully 

Technically, you could eat cheese pizza and chocolate donuts and be vegetarian, but that's not that the move! The more colorful your plate, the better. That is the key to balance. Instead of simply having pasta, try adding fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach to add some nutrients to the carbohydrates. 

 

Don't Drink Your Calories

Coke and sugar-heavy juices and smoothies are dangerous because of the high amounts of refined sugar and in turn calories, and eventually fat. If you're vegetarian but have noticed that you're not losing, or even gaining weight, that might be the reason. 

 

Fresh > Processed 

It'll take some time to create a new routine when it comes to this drastic diet change. You may be tempted to rely more heavily on pre-made meals or even frozen dishes, but with that convenience comes preservatives and yucky things that you could most certainly do without. 

 

Don't Carb Overload

Since meat is very literally heavier than vegetables, you may be feeling hungrier than usual. Try to make sure that you're not eating empty carbs and search more for healthy proteins that are filling, but also good for you. 

 

Be Open to Experimentation

No one says that you have only to stick with your standard veggies and fruits like apples and broccoli. Don't be afraid to expand your palate to include more obscure vegetables and fruits. Each and every fruit and vegetable contains minerals and vitamins, so no matter which way you go, your body will thank you! 

 

Spices, Not Sauces 

Sauces, as delicious as they are, contains loads of calories and lots of sugars. If you're not used to eating vegetables, your first instinct may be to douse everything in bbq sauce or soy but don't. This is the perfect time to start experimenting with different spices and herbs. Try adding aromatic herbs like thyme or rosemary instead of reaching for the canned or jar sauce. 

 

Go Easy on Soy

Meat substitutes are delicious, but also very expensive. If you want your vegetarian diet to be sustainable in the long term, you'll have to budget accordingly. You can do this by going easy on the soy based products. Try other meat substitutes like seitan, tempeh or textured vegetable protein. 

These 7 tips on how to be a healthy vegetarian should get you started down a path that's both healthy and fulfilling. 

Have any tips you'd like to share? Leave them below in the comments section! 


Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.