Top view of various leguminous with a wooden cookware

Tips for starting a successful vegan diet

Starting any new diet can be a bit daunting at the best of times. If you’ve never been a full-time vegan before, there are a few key tips and tricks which can help to make the transition smoother and allow you to begin reaping the health benefits today with as little stress as possible.

Give yourself extra time to cook

When you first get started on your vegan quest, you’re going to realise a few things quite quickly. One is that you’ll likely have to go back to the drawing board and commit to spending a good deal of extra time, initially, to experimenting and discovering which meals you’d like to base your diet around.

There are calorie and macronutrient goals to meet and endless recipes to test for flavour. Treat this as a new frontier to be explored and enjoy the process of mapping out the new food territory.

Allowing yourself enough time to go through this period of experimentation is vitally important. The more rushed you are, the more likely you are to produce hit-and-miss results in the kitchen and lose motivation for the diet altogether. It’s far harder to relapse into old eating patterns if you’ve constantly got delicious food at hand!

Focus on nutritionally dense meals

Not all plant foods are created equal. While it’s perfectly possible to be well-fed and meet your daily macronutrient requirements as a vegan, it takes a bit of planning.

In the early stages in particular, the temptation to snack can be strong. This can be a problem if you’re not being especially mindful of what you’re snacking on. Eating a giant helping of iceberg lettuce, for example, is just about the same as swallowing a small vitamin capsule. With 14 calories per 100 grams and less than 1 gram of protein, it’s not going to cut it as the base of a meal.

Research your meals and make sure they have enough calories and protein to keep you going. Starchy tubers, potatoes, beans and lentils are a great place to start.

Audit your pantry

Speaking of temptation, just about the worst thing you can do when adopting a new diet is to keep your pantry packed with souvenirs from the past. You may get along fine for the first few days, but sooner or later the day will come when you’re in a rush and that dangerously convenient can of tuna seems very inviting.

Avoid the temptation. On the first day you decide to go vegan, give away everything in your kitchen that doesn’t match your new diet.  Here’s a short list of vegan staples which can serve as the base for your next delicious and filling meal:

  • Lentils – 116 calories per 100g Lentils are an edible legume and have been used in cooking for thousands of years. Lentils have a meaty flavour and can be used equally well in stews or soups, or as a side dish. As well as being a good source of protein, lentils are nutrient dense, containing calcium, zinc, niacin, vitamin K, fibre, folate, and iron.

  • Tofu – 76 calories per 100g Tofu is the vegan base ingredient, whether fried, baked or boiled. It’s simple and quick to prepare, takes on the flavour of whichever ingredients you mix it with, and is a good source of protein. Tofu is a nutrient powerhouse, containing good quantities of iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B1 and eight essential amino acids.

  • Quinoa – 374 calories per 100g Quinoais a filling, starchy seed with the texture and flavour of a cereal grain. It is naturally gluten free, rich in iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fibre, and is considered one of the few “complete protein” plant foods, containing all nine essential amino acids.

  • Oatmeal – 68 calories per 100g Oatmeal is typically eaten as a breakfast porridge. It has a low glycaemic index score, and will give you steady energy over time. Oatmeal is a whole grain and a great source of fibre, known to promote weight loss, and reduce your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.

  • Buckwheat – 343 calories per 100g Buckwheat is a versatile seed which can be used as an alternative to rice or made into a porridge. It is the rich source of magnesium, copper, and fibre.
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