Maintaining a healthy vegan lifestyle

It is no secret that plant-based diets have been climbing to their peak in popularity based on the many offerings currently available for those who choose to indulge, and rightly so. Research has shown that men on a vegetarian diet live an average of 10 years longer than men on a non-vegetarian diet and vegetarian women live an average of 6 years longer than their non-vegetarian counterparts. With the addition of extra years to one’s lifespan, who wouldn’t want to try this healthy eating option? It has also been demonstrated that a plant-based diet reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some mental health illnesses.
As described previously, adopting a plant-based lifestyle involves making plants the focus and the center of a meal rather than meats and processed foods. In other words, focusing on simple, wholesome ingredients. Adopting a vegan lifestyle is transformative. It reshapes your health and well-being completely. Being vegan is not just a diet, it is a way of life! But how do you keep up with a lifestyle that appears to be so unnatural to most and seems to require more effort than you are willing to give. To many, maintaining a plant-based life may seem like an impossible task, too difficult and too time consuming to upkeep. However, it can be so much simpler and rewarding as well. Here are a few key pointers that will help you to maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle.
The first is, plan. Planning will help maintain your focus and stay ahead of the game. With planning, everything will become a little more streamlined and less time consuming. If you start by having a weekly meal plan, then you will be able to have more control over what you eat, curb spontaneous cravings that you may have and cut down the amount of time you will likely spend in the kitchen. You will also reduce your exposure to opportunities of consuming unhealthy food options. Planning your grocery shopping trips and having a specific list, will also reduce your time spent in the store and allow you to make thoughtful decisions about the amount and types of food you will consume. Choose wholesome foods and healthy snacks that are quick and easy to prepare. Surrounding yourself with healthy and wholesome food options at all times reduces unhealthy cravings and the likelihood of reverting back to consuming meat and processed foods. Having meal portions that are satisfying and nutritionally balanced will go a long way in keeping you on track and worry free about the content of your diet.
Making the time to do weekly meal preparation will also help to control and reduce your time spent in the kitchen and expand your creativity. Simplicity is key and served best when thinking through and planning weekly meals. Soups, salads, and quick legume-based stews are good options to consider for the hustle and bustle of the mid-week. They are simple enough that anyone in the family can prepare them and highly nutritious as well. Meal preparation brings several advantages to the table. It creates a healthier relationship with food, prevents overeating, improves the content and quality of one’s diet, allows the control of portion size, lowers weekday stress, reduces food waste, and saves time and money.
Maintaining a home garden is a lifestyle choice that is sure to increase your enthusiasm about food and help you and your family understand and appreciate the reasons why healthy, unprocessed foods are so important and integral to a balanced vegan diet. Gardening helps to keep a variety of wholesome foods in your diet, provides a stock of wholesome foods year-round and reduces the cost of groceries. It also increases your enthusiasm for food and provides a learning platform for children to build character and become more educated about their environment and what they put into their bodies. For the picky eater, gardening will help to pique curiosity and opens the option for more exploration of plant-based foods.
Including the family in all aspects of your journey will also be advantageous in maintaining a plant- based lifestyle. This inclusion ensures that everyone is on the same page and pulls the family closer together as they navigate through the ups and downs of new experiences. There will be more opportunities to bond and talk about likes and dislikes on the journey. And of course, involving the family in the kitchen, for meal planning and preparation, ensures that all have a say in what’s being consumed and are comfortable with the food choices made. After all, a family that eats together grows healthy together.
Also, be intentional about making healthy decisions when eating out. It is always a good practice, when possible, to try to examine restaurant menus ahead of time when eating out, so that you will arrive with a plan of what you are able to eat. Also, don’t be afraid to request substitutions or omissions for your dishes of choice and always ask for the available vegan options. For me, when in doubt, I make a full meal out of appetizers and side dishes on the menu. There is usually a wide variety of veggies and plant-based options to choose from and the bonus is, these dishes are usually smaller servings. So, you can sample 2 or three different things in one sitting without overeating.
Regular exercise to keep the mind, body and soul engaged and balanced is another way to make your vegan lifestyle more sustainable. In addition to the large list of advantages that comes with being physically active, exercising while on a plant-based diet may also have performance-enhancing effects for various types of exercise. This is primarily due to the high carbohydrate levels and the high concentration of antioxidants and phytochemicals found in plant-based diets. It has also been shown that plant-based diets can help to decrease weight which creates a leaner body structure and improves stamina. So being a vegan athlete can definitely have its advantages when it comes to performance.
Before exercising, consider eating foods high in carbohydrates to ensure that there is enough energy to sustain your workout routines. Foods such as oatmeal, cereals, pastas, legumes, fresh fruit juices and sweet potatoes are ideal options to fuel your workout. After workouts, eating foods high in carbohydrate and rich in protein will help with the body’s recovery. Foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, whole grain breads, potatoes and nuts are good options to consider.
And finally, make your experience light and less strict. Be flexible and open to trying new things and expanding your palate. Try new recipes and new ingredients in your everyday meals. Also opting to try new styles of preparing your plant-based meals will enhance your experience. Exploring other ethnic cultures gives you the opportunity to explore different flavor profiles of the same types of food. Different seasonings and spices tend to enhance and define certain flavor notes and undertones. So don’t be afraid to explore!
Indulging in plant-based diets can be so much fun based on the growing options that are currently available and the creative ways that one can now enjoy fruits and vegetables! Maintaining a vegan lifestyle is even more enjoyable given that as a culture we are now more aware of our foods and just how important they are for our well-being. As a culture, we are now in the era of embracing plant-based living. Take advantage of all that this lifestyle has to offer and enjoy!

Previously published on the on July 23, 2023.

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