Choosing to adopt a plant-based diet can be great for your overall health. However, it’s not as simple as just giving up meat and other animal products – there are important steps you should take before going vegan or vegetarian.
Talk to a specialist.
It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before making big lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to your diet. He or she can help you navigate what you eat (and don’t eat) to ensure that you are helping and not hurting your health.
If you are serious about switching to a plant-based diet, consider scheduling an appointment with a lifestyle medicine specialist. Lifestyle medicine is centered on natural, comprehensive methods of care that can help treat, improve or prevent chronic diseases and other conditions through lifestyle modification, one of the main players being your diet.
Choose your foods wisely.
When switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet, it’s also important to realize that you still must make smart food choices. Not all veggie-friendly foods are healthy. For example, eating nothing but pasta can be considered a vegan diet, but that does not make it a healthy diet.
Luckily, there are a lot of easy-to-prepare vegan and vegetarian recipes available online to help you experiment with new foods and how to prepare them. A good rule of thumb is to stick to one-ingredient foods that are minimally processed, such as vegetables, quinoa, beans, or foods that have as few ingredients on the label that you can find.
You should also be wary of “substitute” foods. While it is perfectly okay to satisfy a craving with some fake bacon, don’t make these foods part of your regular diet. Many of these substitute foods are highly processed, and while they might follow your new diet restrictions, they aren’t necessarily healthy options.
Beware of false information about the need to supplement.
There is a lot of wrong information out there about needing to take a variety of supplements when you switch to a plant-based diet. While everyone has their own unique needs, anyone on a vegan diet should be supplementing B12 because there is a high likelihood that you will become B12 deficient if you don’t. This is because B12 is mostly found in animal meat, eggs, and dairy products. Not taking in enough B12 can cause side effects like tiredness, confusion, and feeling unbalanced. Other supplement needs can be reviewed on an individual basis with your doctor.
Understand the health benefits.
While switching to a plant-based diet can seem like a lot of work, when done correctly, it can improve your health and quality of life substantially – especially if you have a chronic disease like obesity or diabetes. After adopting a plant-based diet, some patients can reduce their reliance on medication and reduce their risk of diseases.
If you’ve made the decision to adopt a plant-based diet, let your doctor know so that they can evaluate your individual needs.