Food

Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

On Sunday 9th October 2016, I watched a video that completely changed the way I think about the meat & animal product industry. It was a video called ‘Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices’ by Dr Melanie Joy. Only 19 minutes long, but it was enough to change everything.

All my life, I’ve eaten meat and animal products. I’ve always considered it ‘the norm’. Almost everyone in my family are meat-eaters and the idea of being vegetarian or vegan was always thought of as being ‘hippie-like’ and unsustainable. I had always been negative towards the idea of veganism and I always tried to convince myself that I had valid reasons for eating meat and animal products. But that video completely opened my eyes. It’s not like I didn’t know what the industry was like – deep down I’ve always known that it’s violent and brutal and unethical. I’ve always known that, but chosen to ignore it. But this video was different to all the previous videos or blog posts I’d seen about eating animals – I didn’t feel talked down to, or shouted at. It stated a theory that made complete sense to me. It pretty much explained exactly how I’d been thinking for all my life. It’s like Dr Melanie Joy was holding up a mirror as she spoke and I could finally see myself and what I was doing.

looking in the mirror
Photo credit: Ron Gilad, designer

That very same evening, when we sat down to dinner to eat our Sunday roast, I couldn’t even touch the chicken on my plate. For the first time in my life, it felt wrong to eat it. The day before, we had been to a BBQ with some friends and I had mentioned to them that I was considering going vegetarian for health reasons (as it has been suggested that there are links between meat/animal products and inflammatory bowel disease). Nevertheless, I still sat there and ate meat, almost like ‘a last blow-out before really considering vegetarianism’. But that was before I had seen this video – now it’s not just about me and my ‘health reasons’ – it’s about the animals too.

cute cow

I had always considered myself to be an ‘animal lover’, yet I was eating a load of them. I used to squeal over cute photos of animals and say how adorable they are, yet I never had that reaction when I saw a photo of a cow or a pig. I told myself they were ‘exceptions’ because they’re just animals people eat… but how is that okay?! Where’s the distinction? Just because some animals are cuter or seem more intelligent than others, does that mean we can pick and choose which animals we befriend and which animals we kill?

So this is why I’ve decided to make a transition to a plant-based and whole foods diet. I’m talking fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes and so on. Slowly but surely, I’m going to phase out animal products (starting with eliminating meat) and gradually introduce more and more whole foods and plant-based meals. It is going to be hard, and I’m sure there will be slip-ups, but in the long-run I know that it will be the right decision.

fruit & veg

“But What About Protein/Iron/Calcium/Omega 3?”

I stumbled across a YouTuber called Bite Size Vegan and I watched a few of her videos which tackled some of the common issues around not getting enough nutrients if you’re only eating plant-based foods and whole foods.

I highly recommend watching her videos in full but, as a very quick overview of some facts she mentions – and I found them quite surprising!

Iron

Did you know that you’d have to eat 1700 cals of sirloin steak (28.3oz) to get 15.2mg iron, but only 100 cals of spinach (2.5 cups) to get 15.5mg iron?

A plant-based diet is high in vitamin C which is great for iron absorption when foods rich in iron (beans, greens, quinoa, oats, raisins, baked potato, mushrooms, lentils, cashews, etc) are eaten together with foods rich in vitamin C (broccoli, bok choy etc)

Reference: Pale, Weak & Vegan? Getting Iron in a Vegan Diet

Protein

There’s a misconception that you are losing out on a huge amount of protein if you don’t eat meat, and that you need a huge amount of protein in your diet. When you consider a growing newborn baby for example, breast milk contains just 6% protein and yet a baby is able to grow & develop. In fact for adults, the daily average requirement of protein the body needs is 0.8g per kg of bodyweight.

Legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, etc), and grains, nuts & seeds are excellent sources of protein. Other sources include dark leafy greens, broccoli, courgettes, quinoa and non-dairy milks.

Reference: Where Do You Get Your PROTEIN On a Vegan Diet?

Calcium

While cow’s milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium, they’re also rich in a lot of unwanted extras, such as saturated fat, antibiotics, growth hormones, blood, faeces and pus (yes, there is pus in cow’s milk! Due to the infections caused by the unnatural treatment of dairy cows, there is about 180 million cells of pus per 8oz.) Dark green, leafy vegetables are a great source of calcium without all that extra gross stuff.

Reference: Got Calcium? Dairy Free Vegan Calcium Sources

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Did you know that fish only get Omega 3 from the algae in the ocean? They don’t actually make it themselves! I never knew that! These essential fats can also be found in flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, dark green leafy vegetables. Also, algae-based foods are ideal, as you’re going straight to the source of the Omega 3.

Reference: How to Get Omega 3 on a Vegan Diet

(Oh, and that perception that humans having canine teeth must mean that we are meant to eat meat? Yeeeah… not so much.)

A Long Road Ahead

Like I said, I am sure there are going to be slip-ups, but I know this is the best decision. I’m going to do this gradually, so that it’s not so much a shock to the system and it will stop me from feeling discouraged. Avoiding meat is pretty easy, especially after that video I watched. But it’s the dairy that’s going to be the hardest for me. One piece of advice that I heard was that it’s best to focus on what things you can add into your diet first, rather than focusing on all the things that you will be removing from your diet. That way, it’s more of a ‘trying new things’ challenge at first, and it’s quite exciting that way. The only beans I’ve ever cooked are baked beans on toast and kidney beans in a mexican dish – it’ll be interesting to see what else I can do with legumes!

I’d appreciate any advice/comments below, as this is completely new territory for me!

– T


Recommended viewing:

YouTube

Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices

 

101 Reasons to Go Vegan

Best Speech You Will Ever Hear

Earthlings

Comebacks as a VEGAN for common questions/Benefits as a Vegan

 

Netflix:

Forks Over Knives
Live and Let Live
Hungry For Change
Food Inc.
Foodmatters
Cowspiracy
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2
The Human Experiment
Fed Up

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