For many, the New Year starts with Veganuary. For those of you who don't know what this is, Veganuary encourages people to try out a vegan diet for the month of January.
Whilst the thought of entirely ditching meat, dairy and eggs might seem impossible, the change to a vegan (or more plant-based) diet doesn't need to happen overnight. In fact, making changes gradually often leads to greater long-term success. To make the transition easier - whether it's just for Veganuary or beyond - here are three of my top tips to eating more plant-based foods.
Tip #1 - Take it step by step
A common reason someone might not take the leap to eating a vegan diet is because they don't want to 'give up' a particular food. Cheese, yoghurt, bacon - take your pick.
This type of thinking could be described as 'all or nothing' thinking. You either go completely vegan or you don't go 'vegan' at all. Instead, why not adopt a vegan diet (or, technically, a plant-based diet) but keep eating the food you just can't live without? Don't forget there's often a middle-ground.
Tip #2 - Always choose fortified dairy alternatives
Despite their popularity, dairy alternatives aren't nutritionally equal to cow's milk. Cow's milk offers a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine.
Most plant-based dairy alternatives aren't great protein sources. The exception is soya milk, which has a relatively similar (but still slightly lower) protein content to cow's milk. Not only this, but not all dairy alternatives are fortified with micronutrients. The micronutrients to look for on the ingredients list or nutritional label include calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D and Iodine.
Tip #3 - Keep your diet similar
In an ideal world, we would all be cooking meals from scratch, each day, from whole foods. However, in a realistic world, this just isn't possible for most of us. When making the switch to a vegan diet, start by keeping your diet as similar as possible. This might mean stocking your fridge with meat alternatives that can be used in place of ham in sandwiches, or buying a vegan ready meal.
Whilst you might be surprised to read a nutritionist recommending a ready meal, if being able to rely on a ready meal on a busy day enables you to still eat - by all means, go for it!
In the initial stages, the more you keep your diet similar, the easier you'll find the transition. However, you could also use this time to start exploring new foods and flavours. The choice is yours!
If you've decided to go vegan this January, making changes to your diet slowly might help ease the transition. That might mean keeping cheese in your diet and ditching the rest. But, it could also mean going all in, but switching meat for meat alternatives. No matter how you approach Veganuary, remember to make it easy for yourself!