Whether you’re just trying to be vegan for just a month now or fully converting to a vegan diet in the new year, you already probably know that there are a ton of benefits to the vegan diet.
Even so, it’s still not always easy going cold turkey (pun intended) on meat and dairy. And meat and dairy are not the only problem foods! If you’re not being conscientious about the diet that you’re keeping, you may end up eating a lot of processed foods, simple carbs, and sweets instead of eating the nutritional foods that you benefit from when you convert to being vegan. Here are some tips to keep, and most importantly enjoy, a healthy vegan diet in the new year.
1. Plan for the week
If there is just one piece of advice you choose to follow from this article, it’s this one. Planning ahead ensures that you have the ingredients and the plan for each meal to create a healthy and balanced diet. If you have enough time each weekend for planning, you should take some time on Friday evening to plan, and spend Saturday and/or Sunday buying ingredients. You can plan for two or three weeks if it’s easier for you. If you know you won’t have as much time to cook or prep on certain days, you should plan to cook meals in advance so that you essentially have homemade microwavable dishes on those days.
What I like to do is to go online and research food blogs and choose five dishes that sound super appetizing and healthy in advance. One thing you can do is choose a vegetable that you enjoy and run a Google search on recipes incorporating that vegetable that are vegan. Examples I like for lunch are usually things like salads and pre-made soups because they’re easy to cook on the go. For dinner, I like choosing veg-forward pasta, grilled cauliflower dishes like sesame or orange that are typically made with chicken, or hearty soups such as coconut corn chowder or tomato bisque.
If I have less time in the week, I’ll make a coconut curry or veggie or lentil soup that I can heat up over the course of the week. In addition to that, I usually keep some arugula or mixed greens and make a batch of tri-color quinoa that I can make into a quick salad for lunch during the week.
If you’re looking for more recommendations on how to form a healthy and appetizing menu, take a look at 5 Ingredients To Incorporate Into A Healthy Vegan Meal for some ideas.
If you’re like me, prep only takes you so far, and sudden hunger and urges hit you as you have to put up with the stress and other demands of the work week. Don’t worry – the rest of these tips will help you along the way.
Relevant Article: Reasons to go Vegan
2. Splurge on your favorite sauces and dips
In reality, things don’t always go according to plan. And when you’re anything like me, you’ll suddenly start feeling hungry between those well-arranged meals you’ve put together for the week. I often have meetings that run through lunch as my colleagues work in different time zones. I then get hungry suddenly and don’t feel like making a full lunch. That’s when I end up snacking, and often on unhealthy things. That’s when this next step kicks in.
Keeping around a really easy snack to eat – as easy to eat as a bag of chips – is super important to stay on your diet. As for me, I really love hummus with celery. So I find It’s worth splurging on a $2 bag of pre-cut, pre-washed celery to make sure that I eat celery instead of junk food when I’m between meetings. Additionally, I make a special trip to the organic store that has the garlic lemon hummus that hits the spot for me every couple of weeks.
Other options are keeping around easy cold soups, like carrot ginger or curried zucchini puree, which can literally be eaten right out of the fridge without heating in the microwave. Does it sound like I’m super lazy for not being able to wait a minute to microwave a soup? I am! I don’t feel guilty at all, and neither should you.
Splurging on your favorite dressing is worth it too. Having a salad dressing and toppings you enjoy makes eating salad all the more appetizing.
I love miso soup too, so I keep all of the ingredients around in case I have a hankering.
Splurging means different things to different people. If you’re on a budget, no worries! I recommend that instead of spending a lot of money on store-bought dips, you spend your time over the weekend making a fresh dip that you can eat over the course of the week. An example is this pinto bean hummus that I recommended when chickpea prices were high.
Now that you’ve done the above, here are some other pieces of advice to help keep you on track.
3. Take pictures of everything you eat… Everything…
Taking photos helps to keep you on track, and helps pinpoint where your diet is not working. For example, you may be eating your planned meals but snacking on processed junk foods which is making you feel sluggish. It’s ok if that’s the case early on. Photos will help you identify the issues and better cope with them. If looking back at your photos leads you to realize that you’re snacking more often than you like, you might want to focus on keeping healthy snacks around for those sudden cravings.
DISCLAIMER – I am advocating taking photos. However, I’m NOT saying that you need to post every picture on social media. Keeping photos of what you have eaten for yourself (and not for anyone else) will help you stay honest with yourself and better keep you on track to improve your health and diet.
If you have a friend or partner that you are trying to maintain the diet, I’d recommend sharing photos with them and them alone so that you can keep each other honest. This isn’t at all meant to shame you, but to help keep you on track to feeling healthier and better!
4. Keep your favorite healthy veggies and snacks around
Related to the above, keeping stuff that you like but that is not unhealthy helps keep you on track. I literally always have carrots and arugula around the house, for example, in addition to the aforementioned pre-cut celery.
I think it’s important to go to your favorite grocery store (or farmer’s market if you can find one) and find appetizing vegetables and fruits to keep in your fridge. Like I mentioned in Tip #1, you can then find inspiration in new recipes that incorporate these ingredients and might find a healthy dish you enjoy as much as anything else! When tomatoes are in season, they’re literally overripe and bursting at my farmer’s market, so I buy a bunch to make freshly made tomato basil soup and sauce to put in a jar.
It’s not just vegetables though. For me, tofu is everything. If I’m at the Japanese store, I’ll buy enough tofu to last me a month. I always have fresh cilantro on hand. Finally, I also keep Morningstar chicken nuggets in my freezer. Is it the healthiest thing in the world? No. But when I come home late, and there’s nothing else to eat, I pop those in the air fryer for 10 minutes and pop open a marinara sauce, and I’m good to go. I’m busy and can’t always be 100% healthy, but there are worse things than a baked chick’n nugget, and I have forgiven myself (you should too!).
5. Know your vices
Why pretend like we don’t all have vices? It’s human. Instead of trying to hide, I think it’s better to acknowledge and address desires head-on. Know your vices and find healthy(er) alternatives to start. Eliminating them outright is much harder and can be unsustainable for many. It’s ok to indulge, as long as you try to start doing so more healthily each time.
For example. I’m not a huge dairy person, but I love rich, hearty creams and soups. They’re super filling in the winter, and help me to stay on my vegan diet. So what I do is 1) always keep cashews, low-fat coconut cream, and nutritional yeast around.
These ingredients make vegan soups taste as rich and filling as non-vegan equivalents with a fraction of the saturated fat and cholesterol. Trader Joe’s has cheap nutritional yeast, so I always buy it when I visit one of their stores. I also 2) keep a wide array of veggie broths around. Vegetable stock is not enough – I keep kombu, shitake, and even yuzu and truffle salt in case I want to mix things up.
Like carbs? Keep sweet and traditional potatoes and other root vegetables like pumpkin, kabocha squash, and parsnips around. These are as filling as other carbs while being packed in fiber and other nutrients that make them more nutritious than simple carbs like pasta. You can even make homemade gnocchi with any of these ingredients!
If you like chips, try making kale chips or apple crisps in the air fryer. Broccoli has also become my go-to for guacamole – I cook broccoli for 3 minutes in boiling water over the weekend and keep it in a container to eat over the course of the week.
If you like sweets, try keeping fresh fruits like blueberries or raspberries in your fridge to assuage your sweet tooth!
6. Follow vegan blogs
Like they say with quitting any bad habits, it’s the company that you keep that keeps you on track and reminds you that *you’re not in this alone*. But if you’re anything like me, not all of your friends are vegan. With social media, that’s not a problem anymore.
An alternative to trying to find and befriend every vegan in town (which can be annoying and a bit hard) is to follow a bunch of vegan blogs and Facebook / Instagram groups to keep you inspired and motivated and give you ideas for future meals. This also normalizes veganism and connects you with a community that makes you realize that there are others following your lifestyle and living the life that you’re looking to live!
Closing thoughts – How to Keep a Healthy Vegan Diet
Here are a few final pieces of advice that will help you flourish as you look forward to being a more healthy and energetic you in the new year:
· Be honest with yourself.
A lot of the advice I’ve provided in this article is from my own experience as a vegan living in the real world. And I speak from experience when saying it’s totally normal to want to snack and cheat on your diet. You’re far from being the only one! Seek support and community from people who are looking to achieve similar outcomes, be kind to yourself, and you’ll see better results.
· Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Something that tends to happen is that you cheat on your diet once, and then feel so guilty that you say forget it, let’s just binge on mozzarella sticks today and go back to the vegan diet tomorrow (or insert other guilty pleasure food here). Everyone slips. Don’t ever think you’re alone. Please always feel free to comment below, and our community will be here to support you!
· Eat what you enjoy. Really.
Yes, it’s possible to enjoy a healthy, vegan diet. And if you just spend every day trying to force food that you hate down your throat, it’s not going to last very long. Try to find “guilty pleasures” that are a step healthier than the foods you usually eat. Maybe you used to eat nachos and chips back in the day, and now you can add broccoli and other vegetables to your guacamole and salsa routine. A fan of pizza? Try switching to a cauliflower crust and artichoke pesto with olive oil, fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, and balsamic reduction on top.
Do what works for you, and you’ll get the best results. Love and be true to yourself!! Thanks as always for reading! Let me know how these tips worked for you in the comments below.
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