top of page

Need help getting started with plant-based eating?

If you’re here, then you’re probably vegcurious. Or maybe you’ve already started your journey to being plant-based and you’ve hit a few little pebbles in the road. It happens to everyone! Becoming plant-based is rarely a light-switch moment (although it could be). For most people it’s a journey along a winding road with peaks, valleys and more than a few stumbles and setbacks. That’s how it was for me. It took a full five years for me to transition to being vegan (most of the time…I still slip up!). So don’t worry if your journey takes some time. Be patient with yourself and don’t sweat the stumbles. You’ll get there…even if “there” for you isn’t 100% plant based. Remember, it’s not about being perfect!

 

To help you on your journey, I’ve invited Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD to provide some tips for navigating one particular bump in the road to being plant-based. Matt is a Registered Dietitian with over 20 years of experience as a nutrition professional and a vegan. He’s also an online moderator and amazing resource for people who are participating in the 10 Weeks to Vegan program. This program is free and provides a gentle and accessible way to transition to plant-based eating over 10 weeks.

 

Well…I’ve kept him waiting long enough! Here’s Matt…


“Hello everyone! It’s been a goal of mine as a Registered Dietitian, to help people transition to a plant-base diet in a way that’s healthy, works with different dietary needs, and is based on sound nutritional guidance and science. For example, you may have heard that when you transition to a plant-based diet, you might experience some stomach upset. This does happen to some people, but the good news is that it can easily be managed. In this post I'm going to address stomach discomfort and offer some tips to help you keep going in your journey to plant-based eating.

 "When you start to transition to a plant-based diet, it’s really easy for your fibre intake to increase quite significantly"

Fibre up!

The sad truth is that for most people, getting enough fibre in your diet is a challenge. The average American gets about 13 grams of fiber a day -Canadians get ~14 grams*, while the recommendations are 25-38 g/day. But…vegans get more than 3x those averages**! When you start to transition to a plant-based diet, it’s really easy for your fibre intake to increase quite significantly and this can have some physical side effects. For some, bloating, gas, and minor stomach pain can occur when you start eating more plant-based foods. This is common. Why? Simply put, most plant-based foods contain good amounts of fibre. Since fiber isn't fully digested, it's going to impact your entire digestive system as it adjusts. But don't worry, it will!

 

Meanwhile, if you find this is happening to you, here are a few easy things you can try:

 

  • Chew your food thoroughly! Aim for 10 seconds per mouthful. It'll feel strange at first, but it's crucially important as the digestion process starts in your mouth.

  • Eat slowly. Try waiting 5 seconds before your next bite. This is harder than the first tip, but once you incorporate this into your meals and snacks, you'll realize how fast you've been eating.

  • Cooked veggies are easier to digest than raw. Even if you are having a salad, consider lightly steaming the vegetables and, if you’re having a kale salad, don’t forget to give it a little massage first!  

  • Start with smaller legumes like lentils and split peas. They are easier to digest and faster to cook. From there go to black beans, lima beans, and chickpeas. Consider mashing them if it works in the recipe or meal.

  • Eat smaller portions.

  • Don't hesitate to use more so-called processed foods. Sure, brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread are better, but this is a lifelong journey, and you don’t have to change everything all at once. You can start with more beans and veggies now and swap out the white rice and white bread later.

  • Be mindful of seitan (aka wheat meat or gluten) when you are starting out. It can be difficult to digest for some. Try eating smaller pieces, and again, chew thoroughly!

"Be kind to yourself and understand that you cannot, and will not, be perfect along this journey."

Live…and learn!

Think of eating plant based as learning a new skill. Start with the basics, like finding recipes for the meals you love but made with plant-based ingredients. Like any new skill, it will take time to learn what to look for when shopping or scouting the internet for recipes. Be kind to yourself and understand that you cannot, and will not, be perfect along this journey. And that’s OK! There are going to be mistakes! You’ll make meals you don't like, try products you don’t like, and you’ll definitely slip up and more than once. But that's always going to happen when you make big changes in your life. What's important is you keep improving and figure out what works for you. Also, it’s important to not get too hung up on the small stuff. For health and veganism, what matters most is what you do most of the time.

"For health and veganism, what matters most is what you do most of the time."

Find your people

You don’t have to do this alone. You’re going to have questions and you’re going to want advice and encouragement. That’s where a group like 10-Week to Vegan can help. Joining is free and you’ll have access to an online community of people who are starting their journey to plant-based eating just like you. Plus, in this community, you’ll also find people who have been vegan for years, or decades, who can help, and you'll find me, a Registered Dietitian, who can answer any specific questions you have about health concerns or general questions about nutrition and plant-based foods.”

 

There you have it! Great advice from a healthcare professional.

 

References

 ______________________________________________________________________________________

I hope this blog has helped you find your way to plant-based eating. Remember…the goal is not to be perfect. Do the best you can and enjoy the journey! Sign up for the vegcurious monthly blog at vegcurious.ca 


Note: It is strongly recommended that you consult with your primary care physician before making any changes to your diet. This blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to recommend or endorse any particular product, diet or eating plan.

Comments


bottom of page